Washington Is the Only State That Can't Name Its Own Places

Time to panic, everyone. Knute Berger at Crosscut says that a board you'd never heard of no longer exists: The Washington Board on Geographic Names was an Olympia budget cut victim, even though the body had already been working on a volunteer basis for months, essentially meaning it cost nothing to run.

Why does this matter? Because Washington just became the only state in the country to dismiss the people responsible for naming its stuff. Meaning we are now "in the naming Wild West." Thus: chaos.

There is no state law prohibiting anyone from applying their own name to anything. This could be a boon for developers, planners, or corporations who want to reshape what we call, and the way we think about, landscapes or physical features. The problem isn't bad names necessarily but the discrepancies that creep in over time between what the map says and what locals say: You call it Mount Rainier, I say Mount Tahoma, local Indians might call it "Ti'Swaq."
It's hard to know exactly how these developers and planners could "reshape" the way we think about Mt. Rainier. It's not like its naming rights are for sale. And how much sense would it make for our favorite local insurance company to print its own set of maps in an attempt to get Seattle to call that big hunk of rock Mt. Safeco?

(Or, as Twitter follower @alisonst suggested, "Mt. Actually A Deadly Volcano Which Will Inevitably Kill Us All.")

Then again, as Berger (a former editor of the Weekly) points out, "I guess we'll get to see if deregulation works for modern maps like it's worked for banks and Wall Street." Uh-oh.

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