What’s in a Name?

We Oregonians do love our dotted lines. But how do we act in situations where they don’t apply? Public safety agencies negotiate mutual aid agreements with their nearby neighbors — when a calamity reaches a certain level, dotted lines are ignored and everybody works together.

“We’re all in this together” is seldom disputed when discussing a host of regional issues. But who exactly is “we”? Media and business will decide.

I grew up outside Chicago, but we all grew up Chicagoans. We called it “Chicagoland” — an amorphous but legitimate term describing Chicago and all the communities related to it. The name was coined first by the daily newspaper (so goes the lore), but popularized by carpet-cleaners, car dealers, and pizza delivery chains. It stuck.

We need a name for our region. People can’t care about something they can’t talk about. And people can’t talk about something they have no name for. If we want to be told we “play well with others,” we must name the sandbox we’re all playing inside.

State Senator and former Springfield mayor Bill Morrisette has occasionally floated the idea of merging Eugene and Springfield into “Emerald City,” but we needn’t erase dotted lines to agree sometimes they don’t apply. What do we call ourselves?

“Eugene Area” (the option chosen by this organization) tempts users to drop the second half. “Greater Eugene-Springfield Metropolitan Area” is a mouthful and GESMA is too obscure. “Lane County” only substitutes a different dotted line. “Lower Cascadia Declension Zone” has a certain permanent-transient ring to it, but it’s clunky in its subversion. Eugenia? Keseyland? The Emerald Valley?

“Chicagoland” stuck because somebody didn’t want to spend valuable TV-advertising seconds with a mouthful like “17 locations throughout the greater Chicago metropolitan area and its contiguous communities.”