Monday, January 21, 2008

Name game

I just read the piece in The New Yorker (January 21, 2008) about the 13-year-old who committed suicide after her neighbors made up a phony MySpace identity with which to harass her. It’s a truly horrifying story, and I hope I’m in no way belittling the tragedy when I confess that one of the things that sticks in my mind is the families lived on Waterford Crystal Drive. A residential street named after a product. Is this yet another trend that has completely passed me by? While I live in places with numbered streets or names such as Prospect, Grove, and Elm, are there people out there living the high life on Gucci Bag Place while their poorer neighbors stick it out in Ben-Gay Alley? Could be—after all, were we paying attention when our stadiums and arenas, which used to bear the names of notables and presidents, assumed corporate monikers? That was around the time the word “consumer” replaced “citizen” in the parlance and “patients” became “clients”—which should have told us something. (“Sleet” also became “ice pellets” in official weather jargon, and I’m not sure how this plays into the corporate scheme of things except that “ice pellets” sounds a lot scarier, and being frightened of the weather supposedly generates business for the news industry.) This street-naming trend, however, could have advantages for people who presently have less than attractive addresses, like my friend who lives on Cronk Road, a name that real estate brokers see as a deficit. There are a lot of dogs on Cronk Road, so maybe they could get it changed—with, no doubt, a subsidy for repaving—to, say, Purina Parkway. That has a certain ring, don’t you think?

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