Monday, April 13, 2009

What's in a name?

I ran into an old acquaintance the other day. She was married when I first met her and her name hasn't changed so I assumed she was still bound by the ties of matrimony. She set me straight in short order.

"You're last name is King, you'll never see any need to change it,"she said. I admitted the idea has never entered my mind. She continued, "Imagine going through the first half of your life as Jennifer Tukus? When I got married I clung to my new last name like a life raft. The best thing my ex-husband gave me, the only good thing he ever gave me aside from our daughter, is my new name. Until something better comes along, I'm going to keep calling myself Jennifer Winner." She had a winning point.

Why is Dorchester called Dorchester, besides the usual accidents of history? What does Dorchester, Mass., a part of Boston, have to do with Dorchester, England? Very little if anything at all anymore. Savin Hill, Neponset, Lower Mills, Codman Square...all these neighborhoods have an organic reason for their designations, but Dorchester? Why? Because Englishmen from British Dorchester settled here four centuries ago? I can walk down every street in the Dot swinging a broom and I won't hit one limey.

I'm not in favor of changing Dorchester's nom-de-guerre for marketing reasons. I'm not in favor of Shadyvale or Pleasantville. Quite the contrary. If Dorchester elects a new name, I think it should reflect the facts on the ground. Palookaville springs to mind. So does Affordabletown, Work Acres, Hope Flats, or Meltingpot. If we want to keep the ties to history, just Dot works fine.

As we have pointed out again and again, Dot is not an disparaging name and the label puts a pointillist focus on a self-contained orb that spins according to rules of its own making. Dorchester is a bull's eye to be aimed at. On Boston's canvas, it is like a spatter of paint that didn't get laid on a Jackson Pollack canvas, one that held all the creator's intended meaning but will never be seen because it's on a potato barn floor somewhere out of sight. It is on the edge of the main show, forgotten and neglected. Only the artist saw its worth but once the paint had dried it was too late to change the picture. The final picture sold for a trillion bucks at auction decades after completion. Dorchester is a work in progress.

I guess it doesn't matter what you call yourself. Dorchester is Dorchester when the day is done. It is full of palookas and hope and affordable rents and the hurly-burly, hurdy-gurdy, sing-song grunt and weft and sweat and chance and happenstance that close company breeds. Dorchester is a Dot, but a name means little on the streets. What is the moon except the thing you see in the sky? Is there a man there looking down? Wave hello. That is the Dorchester way.

2 comments:

Adam Pieniazek said...

How about MeltingDot?

Or just plain Dot. I'm in favor of either.

Whalehead King said...

I'm all for "The Dot" because I think it needs a bit of superlative swagger to set it off from all the other dots in the world. This is a special place.

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