Written by Judy Epstein Friday, 22 March 2013 00:00
When I first moved to Long Island and started driving the expressways of Queens, I became seriously confused. No matter which one I wanted, be it the Clearview or the Cross Island, I somehow always ended up on the other one. My husband thinks this means something negative about my map-reading skills, but of course he is wrong.
Finally, I figured out the problem. I was expecting things to be logical, when they were anything but. To be specific: the highway with a clear view of the water in lovely Little Neck Bay? That was the Cross Island. The name “Clearview” was reserved for the road crossing the island without a view of anything lovelier than the truck in front of you. Once I mastered that piece of backwardness, I was fine.
Closer to home, our water-side expressway is called West Shore Road, while the one just like it, in the exact same part of the next peninsula over, is East Shore Road. Add to that the fact that West Shore Road is east of East Shore Road, and you can join me in telling my husband that the problem isn’t me.
Eventually, I realized that there was something more than sheer cussedness going on. When some politicians tried to put up a building in the middle of town, they kept calling it Harbor View. But here’s the thing – they were putting it in the middle of a landlocked valley, where it had neither Harbor nor View.
That’s when it clicked, for me. When the names are THAT wrong, you can be sure that a real estate or PR professional has had a hand in the naming process.
New York has no monopoly on this kind of nonsense. I grew up several states away, in a development near a street called Knollcrest. And what was the single most distinctive thing about that street? I bet you’ve already guessed: that street—with a name composed of two different words meaning “hill-top”—circled the very bottom of the hill. In fact, it was the lowest place in the entire development.
Nor is this sort of pretzel logic anything new. Once we started looking for examples, we found them everywhere— even back in time. My son found a classic case from the late 1900s. When Eric the Red’s son Leif wanted people to leave their homes and sail west with him, he talked up the beauties of Greenland. Naturally, Greenland turned out to be almost entirely covered in ice, and much colder than the place they had started from: Iceland.
As the PR folks take over more and more of the world, we had all better take care when choosing our destinations. I’m going to stick with the kinds of names no one could “spin” — names like Sugar Tom’s Lane. Chicken Valley. Or my personal favorite of all time: Skunk’s Misery Road! With a name like that, it’s got to be real.