Whoever named Washington should be shot

My, my. That certainly is a lovely piece of… art? – but why am I sharing it with you? Good question. We’ll get to that. But first, please excuse a brief digression:

For those who don’t know (for one, pay better attention! and for two), I live in Seattle. Or, as I explained in an introductory email* to my hall the summer before freshman year (we all did one):

I’m a sixth-generation Seattleite. For those among you who are New Yorkers, Seattle’s in Washington.


Anecdote: Two students from New York took a bus down to DC for a weekend rally. A few weeks later, their teacher happened to show them Washington State on a map of the United States. One remarked on how just a three-hour bus ride had taken them clear across the US. The other replied, ‘The world is round! We went the other way.’

Makes sense:

While that anecdote is thankfully not first-hand, I’ve experienced the mixup on my own. My favorite involves a friend – I won’t use his name, but figuring out who it is won’t make you Nancy Drew – who earned himself an interview for a summer internship with Microsoft. Microsoft, you may know, is headquartered in Redmond, Washington, a suburb of Seattle. This friend – despite having once shared a room with me for a year (OK, nine months) – called up his friends who live in DC to tell them he’d be down for a visit. Having likely dealt with this before, they were able to point him in my direction.

What does this have to do with Tribute to the Concussed Skier (see above)? Well, this article, for one:

You see, for all the shit I’ve given people for confusing my state with Washington, DC, I made the very same mistake: until I saw the location (OLYMPIA, WASH – ), I assumed the ‘Washington gallery’ in question was in our nation’s capitol. Granted, contextual clues pointed toward that likelihood: ‘Washington gallery’ conjures up Smithsonian, or if you want to get technical (because Smithsonians, as I understand it, are Museums or Institutes), the National Gallery, or the Corcoran. But as a native Washingtonian, it’s not a mixup I’m proud of.

In any event, this incident underlined for me something I’ve been saying for years: if (/when) I have any degree of power, my first order of business (since the Sonics will already be back in Seattle by that time) will be to change the name of the state I call home.

Because, Washington? Seriously? First of all, the guy never bothered to show up for a visit. Granted, Peter Rainier never visited either (and fought for the crown – that is, against the colonies), and he got the mountain named after him – so, OK yes – changing that name might be second order of business. But Washington? We already had a Washington.

Want to hear the dumbest, most unbelievable story ever? Good. Keep reading:

One proposed name for the state to be created out of Washington Territory was ‘Columbia’. Yes, like the University, and like the District – but most importantly, like the river. It’s really not so crazy – there would have been an American Columbia to match the British Columbia (except without having to qualify our Columbia-ness, because this is America). Long story short, the idea was rejected. I’m not going to get hung up on the specific name; Columbia would have worked, and so would have a host of other names: Tacoma; Pacifica; Ecotopia; Puyallup; Skykomish; hell, Geoduck** would have been alright.

Here’s what I am going to get hung up on: try to imagine why Congress decided against Columbia and in favor of Washington. I’ll give you a moment to think about it before I tell.

Hope that was enough time. Here’s why Congress declined to name Washington ‘Columbia’: so people wouldn’t confuse the state with the District of Columbia.

Really? You didn’t want to confuse the state with the capitol city of our nation so you went with WASHINGTON? There’s a part of me that really hopes this story is made up. There’s a bigger part of me that really hopes it isn’t.

At the end of the day, it all could have been worse. The original name for Seattle? New York Alki***. Glad that one didn’t stick. Can you imagine anyone rooting for the New York Alki Seltzers? I propose saving any future names involving ‘New York’ for our colony on Mars (third order of business, assuming Newt Gingrich isn’t elected President).

As for Tribute to the Concussed Skier – if it wasn’t clear above – it was one of the two pieces stolen from the Washington gallery. I mention it specifically because of this excerpt from the article:

The thieves apparently broke a skylight on the roof and then shimmied down to the gallery below, taking off with two large artworks: a piece that is 50 inches in diameter and valued at $800, and a piece that is 56 inches by 40 inches and valued at $600, according to gallery owner Jo Gallaugher.

Gallaugher said she believes at least one of the pieces, which features skiing, was targeted.

“I have far more expensive pieces in the gallery,” she said told The Tribune. “The pieces they chose are the pieces that are most often admired by men in their 20s.”



*Possibly the most Mordechai email of all time. All time.

**Anyone from outside the state who can pronounce that correctly wins.

***Alki is a Chinook word meaning ‘by and by’ or ‘eventually’.


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