JWR Schticks and groans

Jewish World Review July 11, 2001 / 20 Tamuz, 5761

The Name Game

By Jill R. Jacobs

http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- WHEN you think of North Dakota, do you picture cold, flat, barren, treeless prairies?

The Greater North Dakota Association, the state's chamber of commerce fears that you may, and has proposed to change the name to simply, "Dakota."

According to former Governor Ed Schafer, "People have such an instant thing about how North Dakota is cold and snowy and flat."

I know I may be stating the obvious, but isn't North Dakota cold, snowy and flat? A name change won't precipitate a climate change. Let's face it, North Dakota isn't exactly "The Sunshine State."

Bismarck travel agency owner, Katherine Satrom, and advocate of the change, called the plan "a serious economic development initiative, which could have far-ranging benefits to our state's future."

Where would a name change leave South Dakota? Perhaps they can change their name to The State Formerly South of North Dakota."

If North Dakota succeeds in changing its name, what happens if other states follow their lead and decide to change their names too?

On a purely selfish note, geography isn't one of my strong suits. Having to learn new state names for those rectangular Midwestern states that look alike could put me and other geographically challenged Americans over the edge. Have some compassion North Dakota!

The name North Dakota isn't nearly as bad as some of the more unusual names designated for some of our nations towns. How would you like to reside in Toadsuck, Arkansas, Peculiar, Missouri or Intercourse, Pennsylvania? It's hard to feel sorry for North Dakota, when Idiotville, Oregon and Heck, Michigan have been the brunt of jokes for years. How about Eight-Four, Pennsylvania? (Did they run out of names and just pick a number out of thin air?) Can you imagine what it may have been like to grow up in Embarrass, Minnesota or Monkey's Eyebrow, Kentucky? Considering the alternatives, North Dakota has it pretty good.

Marketers of food items have also been known to make name changes in the hopes of making food products more desirable. The prune recently experienced a 10 million dollar make-over and was renamed the "dried plum." Supporters of the change hope the new name will attract younger consumers who have been turned off by the prune's reputation for possessing laxative effects and appealing to senior citizens.

Celebrities are also notorious for name changes. Kirk Douglas was born Issur Danielovich Demsky and Walter Matthau was easier to remember and pronounce than birth name, Walter Matuschanskayasky.

Sean Combs, aka, "Puff Daddy," recently announced his name change to "P. Diddy," in an effort to create some distance from the infamous gun yielding incident at a New York City Night Club two years ago that almost landed him an involuntary title change, "Inmate 11256." Rumor has it that he recently changed his name back to "Puff Daddy," in an effort to be recognized by his fans who couldn't figure out who "P. Diddy" was.

Gordon Mathew Sumner joins the select few known only by one name, "Sting," Marshall Mathers gets more respect as Rap Star "Eminem" and "Eldrick Woods" doesn't sound as cool as "Tiger Woods."

The king of name changes, Prince Rodgers Nelson, was first known to the public as "Prince," then changed his name to "The Artist Formerly Known As Prince," then to an unrecognizable symbol, and recently back to "Prince." He is due for a name change next year and unconfirmed reports suggest that he may go with the obvious, "The Artist Formerly Known As The Artist Formerly Known As Prince."

And then of course, there was my roommate, Elizabeth. "It's ElizaBETH, with the accent on the fourth syllable," she'd say, every time I mispronounced her name. Although her parents refused to concede to her syllable change request, she thought having a different sounding name made her stand out in the crowd and may prove to be facilitative in meeting her dream of becoming an MTV VJ. Every time I meet someone named Elizabeth, I still cringe.

So what's in a name? A lot. And when all is said and done, a prune is still a prune and by any other name, will still be, well, a dry, wrinkled plum with positive digestive properties.

And a name change won't change who you are, what you are, or where are. Because the truth is, North Dakota is practically in Canada. And that's pretty north.

Jill Rachel Jacobs is a Manhattan-based writer and singer. Send your comments by clicking here.


05/18/01: Hold the pickle
04/27/01: Forever a "Rules Girl"?

©2001, Jill Rachel Jacobs