What’s in a Name?

As housing subdivisions proliferate, developers are faced with the problem of street naming; coming up with names which are not duplicative and yet fit the persona of the community they are trying to develop. Some are up to the challenge and create communities with street names that reflect the ambience of the community being created. Other developers fall back on specific interests ranging from the familial through literature and music to elements of rustic charm. Still others seem to choose names for no other reason than the alliterative charm.

Street names of by-gone eras often reflected geographic features, such as Canyon Road, while others denoted a landmark such as a mill or a crossing. Family names, such as Smith Road are common. Other roads were known by various names, depending on the perspective of the individual using it. The road from town to the lake where I grew up was known alternately as either the North Road, used by those living at the lake; the Clear Lake Road, used by people in town; or the Ray Road, used, not surprisingly, by the residents of the small hamlet of Ray even though the road did not actually pass through Ray but ran a mile south it.

The North Road was the only direct road to Clear Lake and it was a secondary road. The main east-west road through town was State Road 120 and it ran about a mile to the south of the lake, hence the reason, I suppose behind calling the secondary road the North Road. State Road 120 had another name, the Vistula Trail, which dated back to colonial times. The Vistula Trail was said to follow an Indian trail which ran roughly from the Pittsburgh area to west of Chicago. The American Indian, not conversant with Polish or anything Polish, obviously did not name the trail. Their name for it is lost in the mists of time as is the reason it was dubbed the Vistula Trail in the first place. I have not checked recently and so am not certain how many remember that State Road 120 was once called the Vistula Trail. Echoes of the name persist, however, in the name of the Fremont, Indiana high school yearbook, The Vistula, and in the name of a town park.

Musing over place names and their origin brings one back to modern practice. Subdivisions these days get street names which are made out of whole cloth. A subdivision within a 20 minute drive of this writer has streets named after various classical composers, challenging the spelling skills of some writers I am sure. Another is named Hobbit’s Glen and its streets are named after the characters of that book. Another developer I am aware of named the streets in his development after family members; acceptable, as I noted above, and one way to grant those individuals a dubious immortality. Other naming criteria are more obscure: Rivers Edge Road when there is no river in sight, or Darting Minnow Lane (really) which runs through an area which hasn’t seen a minnow since the Deluge. Obviously the developer was going for the melodic and was hoping people would be attracted to the area on the strength of the rustic charm promised.

In that vein, developers night want to consider some of the following names for future developments which I offer here, free for the taking, without any thought of recognition or recompense. I have always thought Divorce Court might be appropriate to the American suburb as are such names as Road Kill Lane, Farting Fawn Circle and Copulating Couple Way, although that might rub some people the wrong way. Other names that come to mind (some suggested by a kind friend) include Dead Duck Road, Rabid Raccoon Lane, Mouse Droppings Avenue, Lois Lane, Crash Landing, Long Drive (probably already in use somewhere as a family name derivative), Della Street and Happy Trails (possibly also in use). Those developers seeking names of a higher tone might consider Faux Pass or Seedy Allee. Then too, I have always thought that Wistful Vista, the street where Fibber McGee and Molly lived, would be a nice place to live.

The list of possibilities, of course, is endless and I am sure that, with just a little thought, you, dear reader can come up with some just as good, or even better. If so, send them along if you are of so a mind.

2 thoughts on “What’s in a Name?”

  1. When very young, I lived north of Harding’s Corners, when going to Fremont we went on the Vistula Road to Snow Lake where we turned on a narrow road south to the Fremont road then east to Fremont. I attended the Collins School and remember when the Vistula was a narrow dirt road that did not follow #120 completely as some people believe.In Clear Lake Twp. , at the Brown School house, the Vistula veered north a few hundred feet, and then west again. At the west edge of Fremont , the Vistula veered north, past the Follett farm , then west again past the Dewey School house, across #27 and met at what is now # 120 on the Snow Lake curve.The Vistula continues west of Howe In. where it veers north, connecting with the Chicago Pike , U.S. 12.

  2. Thanks so much for your comment. I know some of the landmarks you mention, but really only in passing as some of our neighbors, life-long residents of Steuben County, used to refer to them. We were relative newcomers to the area, our family moving there from Detroit in early 1947. By that time, Collins School, I believe, had been closed. Our township, Clear lake Township, paid tuition to Fremont and that is where I went for all 12 grades. As a matter of fact, we are coming back in June to attend out 50th class reunion. I am still interested in the history of the area and would like to contact you, with your permission, on occasion to check on some facts. My incomplete knowledge of the Vistula Road stems from what I learned at Fremont and it was the story usually related when explaining the name of the yearbook, The Vistula. Again, thanks for the information.


Comments are closed.