This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California

A fascination with what people call things in Phoenix

Ever since I was a kid, I've had a fascination with the names of things. Yeah, I know a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but I like learning names. And also like learning what people call things, which can be different from their "official" names. I'll see if I can explain.

I noticed it recently when a friend of mine from California visited. On the freeway, as I gave directions, I used the term "HOV Lane". I could tell he knew what I meant, but I also sensed a bit of hesitation. That made me wonder what people call it in California? The Diamond Lane? The Car Pool Lane?  Something else? Do people in Arizona call it something else? Am I just weird? And really, I have no preference other than good communication, so I like to know what people call stuff.

Of course, some people point me to a textbook, or Google, or something like that. And there I can find out the "official names" but I can rarely find out what people call stuff. It's something that I just listen for in casual conversation.

I live in Glendale, and I refuse to call the football stadium "the University of Phoenix Stadium". I just call it the Cardinals stadium. I suppose on a map that could get confusing, but it's what I call it. And there are a lot of names for the freeways that I use, such as the Red Mountain Freeway, or the Agua Fria Freeway, and more names that I don't recall, but I just call the freeways by their numbers, like the 101, or the 10.

So I listen to people. When I lived in California, if someone said that you belonged in Camarillo, I knew that it meant the same as in Phoenix when someone says you belong at 24th and Van Buren. It meant the the State Mental Hospital. If someone in Glendale says they'll see you at Chicken Park, it's the Bonsall Park (I had to go Google that one - if you Google "Chicken Park", it directs you to Bonsall Park).

People can get very defensive about the names of things. I remember when Piestewa Peak was called Squaw Peak, and that subject can get people throwing chairs at you real quick, whatever you call it. And my research on old Phoenix shows that while most street names in adjoining cities, like Glendale, had to change to match up with Phoenix, some didn't, like Dunlap/Olive. And in the very early years of Phoenix, the north-south streets weren't numbered, they were named after Indian Tribes. I'm sure the old-timers just hated saying "2nd Street" instead of Maricopa. But after a while people start using the new names, and the old-timers just sit there, getting angry.

A long time ago, someone said to me that to begin learning about something, start with learning what it's called. I like doing that, and I'm always learning.

Image at the top of this post: Cardinal's Stadium. That's what I call it, although it's officially the University of Phoenix Stadium. Glendale at the 101 Freeway (the Agua Fria Freeway), Glendale, Arizona.

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