On April 2, 2004, the Poughkeepsie Journal published a letter to the editor, reproduced below. In response, Mark S. Meritt responded with his own. It turned out to be one of more than two dozen responses, of which the Journal published a handful, including an abridged version of Mark’s letter, reproduced here in full.
I was reading the Journal today and was appalled by the ignorance a letter writer showed for the names of many local places.
Wallkill, Beaverkill, Spackenkill, Fishkill, Casperkill, Plattekill, Peekskill, Catskill: all based on the Dutch word “kill” which means “creek.” I was very disappointed that the writer had to ignore the etymology of all those words.
And how can you enforce anti-smoking laws in a town called Marlboro or Kent? The same way you do in any town. And why hold the names of countless towns, institutions, families and even honored fictional characters like Clark Kent against cigarette companies?
Or how does a child feel when he gets to high school or college and has to tell people he went to Gayhead Elementary? No worse than anybody who isn’t homophobic.
The Town of Red Hook is named after a bend in the Hudson River which was beautifully colored with autumnal red leaves.
Who wants to raise children on a street called Hooker Avenue? Anyone who doesn’t mind their street being named for a word with many meanings, including one who sews, and a type of ship. How could her husband ever feel comfortable living on Balding Avenue? He might if he wasn’t so obsessed with what other people think of his looks. How could her son ever grow up on Weed Street? The same way he would on any other street that surely has no more than an average amount of marijuana or unwanted plants.
If she is so concerned about names, she ought to change her own, because Leah means “weary,” and how can anyone go through life saddled with such a depressing name?
If this person was really raising her children free of shame, then none of these names would be a problem for her. Her concern over these names is evidence that she is raising her children full of, not free from, shame.
This person will eventually promote more dangerous ignorance, by foolishly imagining that place names will promote dangerous and illegal activity. A movement should sweep the world to better understand language, history, and the true causes of dangerous and illegal activity so those of us raising our sons and daughters free of ignorance can read any newspaper and not be subject to these idiotic thoughts. Our children will thank us later.
I was traveling through Dutchess County with my son last week and was appalled by all the kill, kill, killing going on there. I was so very disturbed at the names of towns we passed, I had to try to divert my son’s attention as we drove.
Wallkill, Beaverkill, Spackenkill, Fishkill, Casperkill, Plattekill, Peekskill, Catskill: I was very disappointed that my son had to see all those words along the roadside.
And how can you enforce anti-smoking laws in a town called Marlboro or Kent?
Or how does a child feel when he gets to high school or college and has to tell people he went to Gayhead Elementary?
The Town of Red Hook logo reminded us of a bloody fish hook.
Some of the streets should be renamed as well. Who wants to raise children on a street called Hooker Avenue? Or how could my husband ever feel comfortable living on Balding Avenue? Or how could my son ever grow up on Weed Street?
These names all will eventually promote more dangerous and illegal activity. A committee should be assembled to think up new names so those of us raising our sons and daughters free of shame can ride down any street and not be subjected to these dangerous words and signs. Our children will thank us later.
Leah M. Thompson, Fulton