The Best and Worst Names for The 51st State of DC


The latest crafty strategy for acquiring statehood for DC is to put the finishing touches on the state constitution first, and then go to Congress, which is sort of like when you tried to railroad your mom into letting you stay over at your friend’s house by being like, “hey, Zach’s parents already said I could stay over and his mom put extra pizza rolls in the oven for me like fifteen minutes ago, what do you say?”  The only catch is that when you write a state constitution, the state’s got to have, like, a name.

So the Council, after a last minute scramble, ditched the unforgivably bad “New Columbia” and replaced it with the somehow-just-as-bad “State of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth.”  They also included some of the other names they considered, listed below along with some of the better suggestions from elsewhere.  First, because it’s just more fun to be a hater, let’s look at the bad.

This one is just all kinds of meh.  First, there’s no old Columbia.  There’s an original York, an original Jersey, an original Orleans – see how that has to work?  Secondly, you may not know (as I didn’t, until I looked it up) who “Columbia” is supposed to commemorate – it’s named after Christopher Columbus.  Yeesh.  No matter how you may feel about the man (personally, I think he was the beneficiary of dumb luck and did much more harm than good), it’s undeniable that his public reputation is losing value faster than AOL stock in 2004. (Also relevant: the guy never set foot or laid eyes on the United States.  Look it up.)   Naming our fresh new state after him is just courting controversy, and not the good kind.  It’s wise they ditched this name.

This name is a weird combination of extreme “dude, we won’t even have to order new stationary!” laziness, and frantic 3AM surfing of the Wikipedia page for “American historical figures with names that begin with D.”  Frederick Douglass was no doubt a great man and should have statues, monuments, et cetera, erected for him, but he’s not from DC and he didn’t spend that much time here.  (He was buried in Rochester, NY, which is the city where he spent the most years of his life.)  Plus, just tacking “Commonwealth” onto the end there is like when a business owner spells “shop” as “Shoppe” to convey sophistication.  You ain’t impressing anyone, man.

Wow.  This one has to be ironic, right?  No one is this literal.  This is like naming your baby “Female” or your dog “Golden Retriever.”  When I read this name I feel like I might be living in an episode of “Seinfeld.”  “See, it’s a state, but it’s also the capital, get it?”

Again, are we sure the Council isn’t trolling us?  Utopia means, like, a perfect society.  I’m paying almost two grand for a basement apartment, 14th Street on a Saturday night is like a time capsule of the hottest fashions of the year 2012, and the best Ethiopian restaurant in the city is closing this week.  We’re a long long LONG way from a perfect society, my friends.

Okay, this one, from a WaPo poll in June, isn’t perfect, not least because there’s already a Piscataway, New Jersey, and following in New Jersey’s footsteps is never a good idea.  But I like the idea of naming the new state after one of the area’s native tribes.  Along those lines …

This one is from the Council report, and is one of my favorites.  In keeping with the idea of a Native American-influenced name, it’s an Anglicization of a Nacochtank word, and Anacostia itself actually predates the District.  And you have to admit, it rolls off the tongue nicely.  Also of interest: one of Anacostia’s old names was “Uniontown,” which if you think about it, could be a decent candidate.  Sure, it’s a little folksy and outdated, with the “-town” suffix, but you know everyone would get behind the “Union” part.  Union City?  Unionopolis?  Unitedtown?  Sorry, I’ll stop now.

This one’s also from the WaPo poll.  Pretty good on the level of pure language; it has a sibilance and sophistication that would surprise foreign diplomats who probably expect us to go with “Flavortown” or “Wal-Martia” or something like that.  Still, it’s just a little too French (think how smug we’d be if France renamed their capital “Garth Brooks”), and besides, we fired the guy and then refused to pay him.  It’d be like giving “Employee of the Month” to the guy you canned last week for embezzling.

Okay, I made that one up.  It’s literally a made-up name.  But I think this is the direction we should go.  All these lukewarm candidates are the result of being too literal, too indebted to history.  In 2016, brands are either focus-grouped nonsense words (“Dasani”) or existing words that have nothing to do with the product but sound kind of cool (Uber, Apple).  Why not get some top-notch marketing people in here to come up with some meaningless but catchy name for our city?  “Welcome to Orphybania!”  Come on, it beats frickin’ “Capital State.”

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