Name Game

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned slipping on the ice and wrecking my clutch operating leg. As a result I was unable to drive and started using public transportation, which turned out to be easy and fun, mostly.

Then there was the day I went to the wrong stop one block south of where I was supposed to be, missed my connection and had to wait an extra hour for the next bus to come along. That was my mistake – a consequence of thinking I knew the system when, in fact, I didn’t.

Creating a logical and memorable network is one of the challenges transit planners face. Things that are easy to use get used more often. It becomes complicated when there are jumble of options for riders to de-code – regular busses, express busses, light rail and BRT, (Bus Rapid Transit), in which busses mimic the feel of rail and operate on a completely separate or somewhat exclusive right-of-way.

LRT and BRT are being developed as a system within the system, offering “enhanced” service along “transitways” that are clearly defined. The Hiawatha Avenue light rail line is fairly obvious, and completely tearing up and rebuilding University Avenue over the next few years for the Central Corridor LRT will make the path of that line indelible.

The zoomy looking transit station plopped down in the middle of I-35W at 46th Street in South Minneapolis is a new landmark. When I first saw it, I knew I wanted to go someplace from there. The problem was – where?

Back when there were no roads to speak of, people got around on the rivers, literally paddling their own canoes. That’s why I was tickled to see this – a cartographer named Daniel Huffman who teaches at UW-Madison re-drew the Mississippi River basin as a transit map.

It’s a fun piece of artwork that gets me thinking about the river in a different way, but I’m guessing the Native Americans who used the rivers as transit corridors before the Europeans showed up didn’t need this kind of help to get around. The Mississippi, Ohio and Missouri were perfectly legible without “branding”.

But the new system could use marketing help, and the Metro Council is asking for some. Here’s an excerpt from a press release that invites naming suggestions for the developing LRT/BRT component of the Twin Cities public transit network:

“We’re anxious to see what creative ideas the public has for this exciting new element of our transit system,” said Arlene McCarthy, director of Metropolitan Transportation Services for the Council. We’ll be looking for name ideas that identify this service as a distinct part of our system, while incorporating aspects of the character of the Twin Cities region.”

Intriguing challenge, but how do you collapse all of that into a couple of memorable, useful, descriptive words? What is the character of the Twin Cities region? Yow.
If you have ideas, you can send them one of these ways:

By mail to the Regional Data Center at 390 Robert St. N., St. Paul, MN 55101
By e-mail
Record your idea at 651-602-1500 (TTY 651-291-0904)
By Fax 651-602-1464
Or just use the online form.

Again, we see the tricky problem of navigating multiple modes of transport. In this case, which path to choose for conveying your brilliant ideas?

Are you good at naming things?

87 thoughts on “Name Game”

  1. Rise and Shine Baboons:

    Nope. Naming things is not a big talent for me. For example, when it came to naming our Baboons on the blog, I don’t think I even came up with a thought, and Blevins was never on my radar, despite the fine connotations.

    However, since Blevins works for the blog maybe it could work as a transit system name too?


  2. a gracious good morning to You All
    i’m pretty good at naming goats. nothing else. we didn’t have children but i fear i would have been paralyzed with fear naming a child. (i think we’ve had a blog topic on this)
    when we named the farm, i had a horrible time making up my mind. my visiting brother said “look out the window – what do you call that?” i said “a meadow” – he said “and it’s wild, right?” “yes” “Name it Wild Meadow – No – name it MeadowWild – all one word.” he’s a decisive type of guy – i’m a Pisces and have a horrible time with decisions.
    will be fun reading today, i bet.


  3. Hmmm, our Twixiecat came to us already named, and the lead stuffed animal at our house is a pig named, “Piggy” (as opposed to my stuffed animals who were never named at all)-so perhaps not.

    On the other hand, our little 40′ lot has The Estate, The Grounds and The Back 40, so maybe I am better with geographical creativity than personal nomenclature.

    Still, don’t most parts of the Twin Cities already have names? Frogtown, Highland Park, Mac-Groveland, Crocus Hill in St Paul to name a few-say those names, and most folks who live here know what you are talking about. DCs transit system mostly uses landmarks or street names for their Metro stops (Pentagon, Dupont Circle, Foggy Bottom)-same in Chicago. Why on earth does the transit want to add another set of names to add to the confusion????


    1. Mig, I think what they’re looking for is a name to put on the transit lines and not necessarily the locations where the lines stop. So … the whole system is called “Metro Transit” but within that network are several distinct, high traffic pathways. They’ve already said they want these routes to be color coded (Red Line, Blue Line, etc.) but the feeling is that they need some additional identity to indicate how they are different (more frequent service, limited stops) from the rest of the system.
      How do you get to the airport? Take the Blue Canoe! (kidding)


      1. to distinguish if you get on the (say) blue line to go to the airport in a hurry or on the blue line to piddle around and shop awhile before you go to the airport, right?
        “Blue Flyer” for the quick one or “Blue AeroXpress”
        “Blue neighborhood” or “Blue local” or “Blue Cozy” for the one that stops at all the place-named stops and serves you warm goats’ milk on a cold day.


      2. So, will there be a Blue Express as well as a Blue Local, both of which travel the samw routes, but make fewer or more stops respectively? I still opt for simple and easy for anyone to understand as opposed to clever and cute (and confusing).

        Also, are these the same people who decided we could no longer have Lindberg and Humphrey teminals at the airport? or are those 2 distinct groups that don’t speak to each other, neither do they read each other’s press releases?

        I do like TGitH’s request for a catchier name for the whole system-the “L” and The Tube are so iconic-I think that is what we need for the Twin Cities. I would thoroughly enjoy taking the T-CART to downtown Minneapolis, but fear that would be the end of no eating or drinking on the train.


    2. What about for the classic railroads of Minnesota: The Red Jacket Line (here in Mankato), The D.M & I. R., the Great Northern, etc.
      But aren’t they missing the obvious–to sell the naming rights: the Target Line, the Best Buy Route, the Schwartz, Brown, and Braun Law Office?


      1. Just as they were about to turn the GNR HQ into townhomes, they had an open house with one base unit done and the rest of the building open for self tour. Went in with black/white and my old, trust Nikon FG. Got some GREAT shots.


  4. A friend named his dog “Fido.” Well, actually, he was creative enough to use the French spelling: “Phydeaux.” When I expressed surprise at the name, Bill said, “How much creativity would you expect from a fellow who named his only son ‘Guy’?”

    Friends who are mushers have a special need for names, for it is common among those with large dog lots to have six to eight litters each spring, each littering averaging about eight puppies, all needing names. As I might have blogged once before, the answer is to pick a theme for each litter. My outdoors buddy named one litter after Russian leaders (Gorby, Yeltsin, etc) and another for country singers (Willie, Waylon, Dolly, etc).

    The Met Council’s need to develop distinctive, memorable station names is a bit different. I join MIG in thinking those stations already have names. My notion would be that they should amplify the sense of identity of Twin Cities neighborhoods with a campaign that would include cartoon icons for each neighborhood and maybe a few fun historical facts to help make each area seem as unique as it is.


      1. I’ve had Zippy the Wondercar (blue Toyota beater), Civetta (Italian for “flirt” – red Honda) and the current car is Ivy the Ion.


      2. Just got a 96 Honda Del Sol with only 60K miles on it in great shape. Haven’t decided on a good name for it besides, “Cool.”


  5. I’m not so good at names either…though have had some moments of inspiration…my late departed Jacques Brel (is alive and well and living in Mahtowa) was rescued from the Duluth animal shelter. His registered name was J K plus the name of the French farm where he was born which I forget…I was unsatisfied with J K so started playing with the sounds…which led to Jackie which reminded me of the song by Jacques Brel which..why not just name him Jacques Brel?? so I did. in spite of his very harsh, high pitched bark.
    The cats on the other hand I fall back on a long ago heard Viet Namese folk tale about naming cats…the perfect name for a cat being “Cat”
    Have had fun naming goats, but my ex was better at it than I…naming a pair of twins Chicago (she had white socks) and Scandal (who had black socks).

    Metro transit lines?…way out of my league.


  6. Let’s rethink that dull term Metro Transit.
    BART for Bay Area Rapid Transit is such an arresting name. “I’m taking the BART.” How about Twin Cities Area Rapid Transit–the T-CART.


    1. LOL! You’d have to watch out for the marzipanhandlers.

      How about Twin Urban Renewal Navigation-Inspired Plan for Commuter Area Rapid Transit…or TURNIP CART?


      1. If you named the easternmost lines Green Pekoe, Orange Pekoe, and Black Pekoe, you could say that it’s the best transport ‘West of the Pekoes.’

        Take that, Zane Grey!


  7. The cleverest names I’ve heard came from a PHC broadcast. While reading the greetings, GK mentioned someone who had three lambs named Shirley, Goodness and Mercy.

    Okay . . . which baboon will get the prize for being wide awake this AM?


    1. Shall follow me all the days of my life….

      I don’t think awake is a problem, given our discussion of sleep at night. However, paying attention, or putting it together may be a big issue!


    2. I know of a depression era Methodist Bishop who named his three daughters “Faith, Hope and Charity.” So when you do that, how do you know you will have three daughters at the end of the scripture? Or your reproductive life?


  8. I’ve had lots of practice naming things: stuffed animals, pets, cars, computers (heavily into anthropomorphizing, here). Usually the right name just pops into my head, but I had a horrible time naming my first kitten. Nothing seemed to stick, so I ended up calling the tortoiseshell cat “Polychrome.” Polly for short, or Her Majesty as she is now known in her loud and petulant dotage. My car is “Kuro-auto-sama” as a fairly obscure anime joke (the cat in Trigun is nicknamed Kuronekosama, or Lord Black Cat), and one of my Asian ball-jointed dolls is a 70-centimeter horned and hooved demon named Khrysanthos…or, in English, “Buttercup.”


    1. Like CG, I am a stuffed animal namer extra-ordinaire. I spend way too much time on it and am pretty nerdy as well. Then, of course, when the stuffed animal gets chewed on by a dog, then you feel even worse because naming the toy gave it more life than it had to start with! Current dogs are named Rhiannon (Welsh goddess) and Thorin (King of the Dwarves in The Hobbit). Stuffed animals – way too many to list here!


      1. There are currently 50 stuffed animals in residence in “the Loft”-they all have names and occupations in their production company (which operates out of our attic, with the cooperation of the Monsters that live up there).

        s&h has a spread sheet of names, occupations, favorite foods, etc-maybe I should get him to do my library book spreadsheet 😉


  9. For all of you that think you wouldn’t be good at this marketing/naming things activity, please remember that the National Pork Board just replaced their classic slogan, “Pork, the other white meat,” with their new whatever-this-is, “Pork: Be Inspired.”

    How hard can it be do to better than that?

    Let’s also not forget that the US Forest Service just downgraded “Only YOU can prevent forest fires” to their sub-slogan (in very tiny type) and replaced it with “Get your Smokey on.”

    Oh yeah, I’m down with that ‘G’…which is an abbreviation for “Good Lord, what a stupid slogan!”


  10. We had a child christened “Frost” in our church recently. I was told it had something to do with the grandfathers’ names, but I think the winter is getting to people and they are becoming more irrational than usual.


    1. Know a woman name Spring because she was born ion 3/21. Such a simple piece of poetry with nice meaning in MN.


      1. She could have been “Vernal”. I know a man who was born on 3/21 and was eternally grateful that his mother did not name him Robin. She named him Farrell.


  11. Good morning to all:

    I have done some naming including naming some new species of nematodes when I was a graduate student. There are rules for giving scientific names and I had a guide book for making up latin names which are usually used. I made a mistake with one of the names and no one noticed so it is still not right. Don’t tell anyone.

    The names for some of the seeds I have in my collection were unknown, so I just made up names for them that can be used to identify them until some one discovers their real names. I think a bean I have is Kentucky Wonder, but the family that gave it to me had been saving the seed for many years and didn’t know it’s name. I called it Dunn, after the family that gave it to me.

    From my experience with seed names, I have discovered short colorful names are best. I have a pepper that I call Donkey Ears which is one of the seeds most requested by other seed savers. Those transportion routes should also have short colorful names like Silver Streak or the Zip Line.


  12. Amtrak has wonderful names for its lines, like the Empire Builder, Kansas City Chief, Coast Starlight, California Zephyr… some of which have some history to them. I still like mig’s neighborhood names — maybe they could be the 2 neighborhoods that encompass the line?.. though that could get bulky.

    Not all that creative at naming things, except for Slushball (the siamese who was born Snowball but darkened later)… A roommate had named her cat Obi, short for “Oh be quiet.”My dad named our ’53 Chevy The Blue Dart – there’s a possible name for a transit line. May think of more later…


  13. We have dolls in the house with imaginative names like “Purple Dolly” and “Princess Dolly.” Our dog came pre-named (Barney – it fit). One cat was named to sort of match a prior dog (Norma was the dog – cat is Tosca…and you can play “Name that Opera Composer” of if you like – though Tosca is sometimes No Not There). The other cat is a tabby and a talker, so he is Oliver Wendell Holmes (or just Ollie or No Bad Cat). I do not think we are exceptional at naming at our house.

    Perhaps the new system should be Twincities Area Rapid Transit or TART. Then all the lines could be either things like the Pie, Cookies, Donut (for the 494/694 loop that is bound to get added eventually) – what fun to say something like “meet me on the Quiche line” or “I’ll take the Cake…”


    1. Good, Anna, but you have to remember that an obsession with sugary bakery products seems sex-linked, being stronger in appeal to women than men. Men might remember the TART line if named for hot starlets like “meet me on Lindsay Lohan” or “I’ll ride Paris Hilton.” It is probably better to find a name system that doesn’t have a gender bias.


      1. I guess it is sort of gender biased…I had visions in my head of the drivers/conductors dressed like Lutheran Church Basement Ladies with pill box hats and organza aprons (color coded by line, of course). The could even offer Hot Dish (again with the Lindsay Lohan double reference, I guess) or Coffee on the commuter/rush hour lines…


  14. I noticed recently that we have lots of musical names in our small town. We have Schuberts, Chornes (Pronounced Czerny) Dvoraks, Hondls, Tschaekofskes, Schumanns, and Nielsons.



    I am feeling incredibly free right now… we’ll see how I feel tonight when she’s driving around in the dark.


    1. My daughter will be 16 in April and hasn’t tried for her license since best friend across the street can drive, and why bother to get a license when she can go with her friend? She has talked about taking drivers ed this summer with another 16 year old friend. I am somewhat conflicted about the whole issue, since I will actually have to let her drive when she is licensed. I am a champion worrier, and so that will increase my stress. On the other hand, I am tired of having to leave work to take her places. That also increases my stress. Nothing seems easy with teenagers. You can get your license in ND at 14. There has been a strange reluctance on the part of the legislature to introduce a graduated licensing system, although there may be an initial attempt at it this session.


    2. Congratulations on this great leap forward, VS and Teenager.
      I remember acting very cool when I got my license, but behind the wheel I had moments of terror – Good God! I’m driving the car!
      It seemed impossible.


  16. names is a great mind bender. the neighbor hood with a historical twist is a good idea. stops like mid town and catherdral hill are so obvious you wonder how else they could go but maybe coming up with sone cute names for the 952 er and the 763er vs the 612 and 651 urbanites would be good. the zepher toward the cloud for the one heading zimmerman way (miss you joanne) and the space age zoomer to the airport are all distinctive in their way but i would live to see the neighborhood names for groupings. the bus rioutes tied to the lrt in grouips like parrish grouping in new orleans. we all kinda know them but put them on a cvolor map with a legand that steers you through lands of the burbs to destinations of wonder where you didn’t before know what was between the starting point and the destination. the ariel view doesnt come to a lot of folks and this would enable that.


  17. Nope. Definitely not good at naming things. I think Pippin is well-named. He took to his name instantly, as if to say, “Yep, that’s me!” Naming a band is an entirely different thing. People will know you for years by this name. I’ve been unhappy about our band name for several years and there’s really no changing it. I was brainstorming on themes and was going through lists of fish species: I liked the Stonerollers and the Tadpole Madtoms. There are three people in our band and two of them liked/like Flathead Cats. Oh well.

    OT: Holly in Northfield, please see my reply to your post about Rock Bend Folk Festival on yesterday’s blog – near the end.


    1. When I was trying to learn more about your band, Krista, I got mildly hung up on the issue of whether it was “flathead” of “flat-head” catfish. Little things like that can make it harder for a name to function as it should.


  18. Indulge me in a long post – I’ve been re-reading Mark Twain’s Diary of Adam and Eve and this stood out:

    Extract from Eve’s Diary

    During the last day or two I have taken all the work of naming things
    off his hands, and this has been a great relief to him, for he has no
    gift in that line, and is evidently very grateful. He can’t think of a
    rational name to save him, but I do not let him see that I am aware of
    his defect. Whenever a new creature comes along I name it before he has
    time to expose himself by an awkward silence. In this way I have saved
    him many embarrassments. I have no defect like this. The minute I set
    eyes on an animal I know what it is. I don’t have to reflect a moment;
    the right name comes out instantly, just as if it were an inspiration,
    as no doubt it is, for I am sure it wasn’t in me half a minute before.
    I seem to know just by the shape of the creature and the way it acts
    what animal it is.

    When the dodo came along he thought it was a wildcat–I saw it in his
    eye. But I saved him. And I was careful not to do it in a way that
    could hurt his pride. I just spoke up in a quite natural way of
    pleasing surprise, and not as if I was dreaming of conveying
    information, and said, “Well, I do declare, if there isn’t the dodo!” I
    explained–without seeming to be explaining–how I know it for a dodo,
    and although I thought maybe he was a little piqued that I knew the
    creature when he didn’t, it was quite evident that he admired me. That
    was very agreeable, and I thought of it more than once with
    gratification before I slept. How little a thing can make us happy when
    we feel that we have earned it!

    Extract from Adam’s Diary


    Been examining the great waterfall. It is the finest thing on the
    estate, I think. The new creature calls it Niagara Falls–why,
    I am sure I do not know. Says it looks like Niagara Falls. That
    is not a reason; it is mere waywardness and imbecility. I get no
    chance to name anything myself. The new creature names everything
    that comes along, before I can get in a protest. And always that
    same pretext is offered–it looks like the thing. There is the
    dodo, for instance. Says the moment one looks at it one sees at
    a glance that it “looks like a dodo.” It will have to keep that
    name, no doubt. It wearies me to fret about it, and it does no
    good, anyway. Dodo! It looks no more like a dodo than I do.


    The naming goes recklessly on, in spite of anything I can do. I
    had a very good name for the estate, and it was musical and pretty
    –GARDEN-OF-EDEN. Privately, I continue to call it that, but not
    any longer publicly. The new creature says it is all woods and
    rocks and scenery, and therefore has no resemblance to a garden.
    Says it looks like a park, and does not look like anything but a
    park. Consequently, without consulting me, it has been new-named
    –NIAGARA FALLS PARK. This is sufficiently high-handed, it seems to
    me. And already there is a sign up:


    My life is not as happy as it was.



  19. That’s terrific, Linda! What an appropriate quote to bring in here.

    Pardon me for this, but that dialog between Adam and Eve reminds me of something I tried to say in the first version of my wolf book. At some point, talking of historical attitudes toward wolves, I wrote that the first conflict in the Garden of Eden was about wolves, not apples. I explained that Adam mentioned to Eve that he had been trapping wolves in the northwestern corner of the Garden because “they are eating all of my deer.” Eve is shocked and offended at that. “He says wolves are eating HIS deer. Oooh, isn’t that JUST like a man?”

    That line made me giggle, but the editor caught it and red-lined it out!


  20. My past & present felines have been Franny, Georgia, Isabel, Jomo, Jory, and Sammy. I named them using more or less the same methodology that Eve used.


  21. Smiley face.

    (I tried to type one, but got this message Duplicate comment detected; it looks as though you’ve already said that! because I’d already done one of those today! The duplication police are here.


    1. WordPress is much like a very very particular (to the point of anal retentive) toddler…you have to be very specific about where you want to put the toys, certain toys can only go into certain boxes and it gets cranky when it needs a nap (or thinks you need one).


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