Why must we change the name of Tysons Corner to Tysons? It is as if Tysons Partnership, a nonprofit group representing the bustling area of stores and offices in Northern Virginia, has gone mad on marketing and wants to dump a key part of the region down the memory hole.
Whom are we trying to impress?
After all Virginia has plenty of unique names that have survived for decades, if not centuries, without some Mad Men making a hash of them.
Consider “Elizabeth Furnace,” near Harpers Ferry. It is so named because in the early to mid 19th century there was a small and rudimentary blast furnace there that used local iron ore. As any hiker in the region knows, there are plenty of “furnaces” up and down the Blue Ridge and Alleghenies.
Ditto another historic throwback: Virginia has plenty of “Taverns” because during stage coach days, a little burg with that name meant there was a restaurant offering food and beverage, usually alcoholic. Another name for such a place, showing the Colonial English influence, is “Ordinary,” which doesn’t mean merely average, but “Tavern.”
A restaurant near Maidens west of Richmond, for instance, is called the “Tanglewood Ordinary” (“Tavern.”) True to form, it serves up old-style Southern comfort food such as fried chicken, greens, corn, boiled beef and ham, all washed down with sweet ice tea.
Not terribly far away is the town with the named “Bumpass.” No, it does not mean what you think it means. It was actually named for Capt. John Thomas Bumpass Sr., a member of the Virginia State Militia who used to offer troops food and drink as they came and went from battle on the Chesapeake & Ohio railroad during the Civil War. “Bumpass” is derived from the French word “Bon Pas,” translating to “good passage.”
Some years back, the cities of Southeastern Virginia were referred to colloquially as “Tidewater.” Then the memo went out from some advertising agency. The area was to be called “Hampton Roads.” Why? Because they said so.
One town name I pray the marketing types keep their mitts off of is “Frog Level.” I’m not sure what it means, but there are towns of that name in Tazewell and Caroline counties. At one point, the fire department in the latter town had a green frog sitting on a carpenter’s level as an emblem on its rescue equipment. Go figure.