This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California. This blog is not supported by advertising, it's supported by the generosity of my patrons on Patreon. Thank you!

A fascination with the names of things in Phoenix


I have a fascination for the names of things, especially in my favorite city, Phoenix, Arizona. I've been this way since I was a kid, and it looks like I'll never outgrow it. I just want to know the reason behind names. It's kind of an itch with me. I know that most people can use things and never give a thought to it, but it bothers me, and I work very hard at finding out.

I'm also very distrustful about what would seem an easy, and logical, reason for a name. The example that I give is the day I decided to get in my car and drive up north to see some snow, in my early 20s. I looked at a map, and chose a town called "Snowflake". Yeah, you Arizona place names experts out there are shaking your head, you know where this is going. There was no snow. But it's the kind of mistake that everyone makes. The town was named after two men, one named Snow, and one named Flake. It has nothing to do with snow.

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I've also done my genealogy, which made me even more cynical about names (if that were possible). Those of you who have done your genealogy know that you have to wait and see if the person you just found in the census is the correct one for you. There are a LOT of people with the same name, first and last, and sometimes even middle. And not just common names. Can you see why I don't believe something until I see some good documentation?

So that's what I do. If something has a name, I'm not inclined to agree with someone who tells the reason for the name because they heard it from someone. I want documentation. For me, the best thing is something that was printed when the name was new, like that newspaper article at the top of this post. Of course, there's no guarantee that that will be correct, so I gather up even more documentation.

One of my favorite examples here is Greenway Road. You might think that it was named because there was a lot of green along that way. But it was named after a person named John Greenway. Of course, they could just plant a whole bunch of green trees there, and around the High School of the same name, just to be funny.

Shakespeare once said that  "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet", and really names aren't that important, I know. But it's a fascination of mine, and everyone once in a while when someone asks me why I need to know, I'm inclined to ask, "how can you NOT want to know?"

My fascination with the names of things will continue, I know. And I love how finding out the meaning behind the name of things leads me to other stuff, like the connection between John Greenway and Teddy Roosevelt. It opens a whole can of worms, which I just love!

Thanks for helping me with my fascination with names.