What’s in a Name?

Many years ago my wife and I were square dancing at the Faulk Elementary School.  It was easy to find—right on Foulk Road.  Spelling variants of old Dutch and Swedish names are taken in stride by Delaware residents.  The town of Christiana was named after the Christina River.  Christiana High School is in the Christina School District.  Makes sense to us.  The names all go back to Queen Christina (or Christiana) of Sweden.  Take your pick—we prize individuality in Delaware.

When we first moved to Delaware, it took a while to understand most Delawareans do not live in any town or borough.  In Pennsylvania, we all lived somewhere.  Cross over from Lansdowne and you may be in Upper Darby, Darby, or East Lansdowne, but definitely somewhere.

Not so in Delaware.  Our mailing address is Wilmington, but that is only the post office.  We don’t live in Wilmington.  In fact, all of Wilmington could crack off and float down the Delaware River and I might not miss it for years.  The county is the local government for most of us.

We identify our homes by our housing development.  We tell people we live in Sharpley and everyone knows right where that is.  Call the police and either a county or state cop shows up.  (No one knows how they decide who to send.)  Sharpley, like many other development names, derives from the family who owned the farm on which it was built.  The original Sharpley farm house still exists on the edge of the development. 

The problem began as later developers pumped their enterprises by giving them names that suggested a deep history and the life-style of a country squire, both ludicrous.  When we first moved to the area, I categorically rejected any house in Holliday Hills.  I could not bring myself to tell anyone I lived in a place with such a name.  I once asked someone living in Twin Oaks where those two noteworthy trees were since there were no trees of any kind I could see, but I just got a puzzled response.

I see in the real estate section of our local paper that naming developments has gotten totally out of hand.  A quick glance shows these actual examples (I could not make these up.):

The Legends  (What legends?  The ones about early buyers tarring and feathering the builder?)

Jester’s Crossing (Who was Jester and what did he cross that was so important?)

Sunnyside Village (Remind you of thatched-roof farm houses in the English Cotswolds?   Not if you saw these tacky boxes.)

Sugar Loaf Farms (What’s a sugar loaf?  A whimsical name for a cow plop, perhaps?)

Village of Fox Meadow  (Don’t expect to see a meadow or a fox.  “Village of…” is very popular.) 

Estates at Cornwall ( “Estates at…” is another popular affectation.)

Radnor Hunt (The only thing you’ll hunt for is the builder hiding in Costa Rica.)

Trolley Square (This makes sense.  It was once where Wilmington’s old trolleys were parked for the night, except no one then admitted living there.)

St. George’s Crossing  (I thought St. George killed a dragon.  What was he doing in Delaware?)

The Residences at Christina Landing  (The Christina River that far up is barely a creek, so how could there ever been a landing?  Maybe the developer jumped across and “landed” on his side.  Or is “landing” a verb form meaning the process of developing a piece of land, such as, “I expect to make a fortune landing this old farm.”)

Village of Windhover Apartments  (How can an apartment building be a village?)

Carlton Southgate  (Is there a north gate?  But this sounds so classy, I think I will use it as a nom-de-plume when making a restaurant reservation.  “I am Carlton Southgate.  I have a reservation for 6:00.”  It’s simpler than my usual  “I am E. Carlton Abbott.” )

White Clay Knoll (Would you really want to live on a giant lump of clay?)

Almost every day I risk my life by sprinting across busy Concord Pike.  Maybe someday I will be immortalized by “Roger’s Crossing,” or perhaps “Roger’s Run.”  Maybe even “Roger’s Hunt” as they hunt for pieces of my mangled body.

Roger Walck, RWalck@Verizon.net

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About Roger Walck

My reasons for writing this blog are spelled out in the posting of 10/1/2012, Montaigne's Essays. They are probably not what you think.
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