There’s a little triangle of land in South Ottawa surrounded by roads and housing, with enough grass and trees to attract an occasional errant deer. A small, green oasis.
But, as in the old Joni Mitchell song “Big Yellow Taxi”, they’re going to cut down all the trees, bulldoze the grass, and build more houses. Boxes with manicured lawns and cutesy lawn ornaments. Maybe even a plastic deer or two.
And then they’re going to name it-- you guessed-- “Deerfield”.
We’re so funny when we pick names. “Mountainview Terrace” is neither a terrace nor does it have a view of a mountain. “Madison Heights” will have the dubious distinction of being the only area in town to flood. “Harborview Estates” lies at least a thousand kilometers from any navigable body of water, and is composed mostly of tightly-packed rowhousing-- so much for estates.
And then there are all the renaming projects now underway in our urgency to prove our social sensitivity as we discover, to our consternation, that most historical figures failed to live up to our twenty-first century standards of holiness. I can only imagine the flurry of name changes in store when, in fifteen or twenty years, with much of our planet uninhabitable, we scrub our landscape of the names of today’s politicians who dilly-dallied on climate change. Well, maybe not the ones which will be underwater.
And our kids! Who can explain naming trends and conventions? In my first class as a young teacher, five of the thirty-odd were Debbie. Someone with my name, Norman, is almost certainly at least seventy years of age, and Jewish (I’m the exception on one of the two). Going by your middle name is character-building, but really sucks when it comes to filling out forms.
Every parent agonizes over the name for a newborn, trying to honour the family’s roots and traditions, or choosing something unique as in “A Boy Named Sue”, destined to bless or curse, as the case may be.
Cars? Either we give them hopeful rocketship names, or call them after a forgotten inventor such as Nikola Tesla, the “second Edison”. And how long before somebody twigs to the fact that Volkswagen was Hitler’s pet project?
Every name has a story, and from all those stories the thread of life is spun. Even in Deerfield.
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