Guest Opinion: Correct me if I'm wrong

Streets were named for people, things about which little was known, but that doesn't mean they should be renamed

To: The Palo Alto City Council

From: The Committee On Revisioning and Renaming Embarrassing City Things (CORRECT)

Dear members of the council:

The CORRECT has met numerous times and, pursuant to the first part of its mandate, has reviewed city street names. Following are our preliminary findings and recommendations related to select city streets.

'El Camino Real'

This means "the royal road." CORRECT wants to know: the "royal road" to what? Sunnyvale? San Bruno? If that's the case, we're with that pop singer who said, "We'll never be royals."

And who wants to take the royal road? Loafers! A dictionary defines royal road as "an auspicious or easy way or means to achieve something." This is a street that runs right by one of our two high schools. What is that teaching our children? That all they have to do is walk out onto the street and they're on their way?

The guy who was king of Spain at the time the road was started, Charles III, was all right as kings go -- an "enlightened despot" -- but still, he was a king. This is America! A despot is a despot -- out you go!

And while we're at it, CORRECT recommends going the "full Robespierre" and axing Kings Lane as well.

Rename: "The People's Highway"; for Kings Lane, simply remove the "s," add "ML" before King and "Jr." after.


CORRECT is confused by this one. He? She? It? In Spanish, alma means "soul." In principle, we believe streets should not be named after abstract concepts.

It's true that rush-hour traffic on Alma can make you feel as though you are in an endless purgatory, and so the name has a poetic justice, but this is a very slippery slope. Before you know it, citizens will be asking to name their local roundabout "Dante's Circle" or the "Circle of Life."

Rename: To honor the seeming original intent of "alma," but somewhat concretize and monetize it, we recommend selling the street-naming rights to Soul Cycle and putting a bike lane down the middle of the street, lined by scented candles and speakers every 25 yards exhorting bicyclists to push harder.


This street has a serious perception problem. Our poll shows that 88 percent of Palo Altans millennial age and younger think it is named for Homer Simpson -- Doh! The same group believes BART is named for his son.

In actuality, it matters little whether the street was named for the ancient Greek poet. In the eyes of many on CORRECT, the poet idealized war and an antiquated model of masculinity that is ready for the dustbin.

Rename: "Simpsons Street," to align reality with popular perception.

'Oregon Expressway'

The Stanford Cardinal football team has asked us to take a hard look at this name -- One for the Ducks? Really? And such a big one? Do you think they have a Leland Stanford Junior Street anywhere in Eugene? No!

CORRECT has pointed out that at least the expressway ends abruptly (at "the royal road"), serving as a metaphor for stopping the Ducks, but the Cardinal don't buy it.

Rename: "Phil Nike Thruway" or "Swoosh Boulevard," to align reality with reality.


This short, obscure avenue in south Palo Alto did not escape CORRECT's attention. We're unsure just who or what the avenue was named for, but it may well be for one Finis Jennings Dake, an early twentieth-century American minister known for his writings on "premillennial dispensationalism."

This alone is enough to indict him in the court of common sense, but the Reverend Dake exhibited further lack of common sense when he transported a 16-year-old girl across a state line and was convicted under the Mann Act.

Rename: The much more felicitous "Danke," for the German "thank you," reflecting the gratitude to CORRECT that present and future residents of the avenue will no doubt feel.


"Never never never give up," said Winston Churchill. Most people believe this was about defending Britain in the war, but he was more likely defending his malodorous cigar smoking and gin drinking.

Churchill's personal habits were not his only "warts." He urged the crushing of "Gandhi-ism and everything it stands for" and the abandonment of universal suffrage. He called Mussolini "the greatest lawgiver among men" and believed that Bolsheviks and Jews were linked in a "world-wide conspiracy for the overthrow of civilization."

Rename: "Ghandi Street," for historical irony.

As the council can see, revisioning and renaming is no easy task. We assign no blame -- streets were named for people or things about which little was known, or because of beliefs or values that at the time of naming were the "norm." But that doesn't mean the renaming shouldn't be done.

The names of public things are not meaningless or arbitrary; they are not Shakespeare's rose, having an essential reality apart from their name. Yes, they have name-neutral functions, but we accord their names with nearly the same significance that we give to our own. A public thing's name is twisted into its identity and into our collective identity.

This concludes CORRECT's preliminary work. We will soon move on to parks and public art. However, one name has come to our immediate attention: the city's. Named for a tree? How low-tech can you get?

Rename: We recommend "Palantirlo," to align the city's present with its future.

Scott Carlson is a freelance writer living in the Community Center neighborhood. His email is

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2 people like this
Posted by Jean
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 25, 2016 at 2:28 pm

Churchill should be remembered for his leadership in W.W.2. However, his actions while Secretary of the Navy in W.W.1 were despicable. It was his idea to send thousands of troops into Gallipoli in the Crimea, many of them New Zealanders and they were slaughtered. As a result New Zealand lost more personnel than any other country per capita. You don't see other countries naming their streets Churchill.

3 people like this
Posted by Evelyn Jacobsen
a resident of another community
on Jun 25, 2016 at 3:07 pm

Let's see, Scott. I guess you must be from Scotland, except someone in their wisdom added another "t" so you would be different. That must have been during the popular phase of that name, so you might be in your forties, or so. Then there is "Carlson." That would be derived from Carl's son" in Norway or perhaps Sweden. Are you Carl's son? Maybe, maybe not. It's really important to understand a name, isn't it?

4 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 25, 2016 at 3:10 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

Jean, not only do many countries name streets after Winston Churchill, they even name cities after him, like Churchill, Australia.

3 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 25, 2016 at 4:27 pm

Scott St.

This pint-sized fragment of the Florence/Gilman/South Court dot-dash string of streets bears consideration. Given its dimunitive size--I've seen longer driveways in this town--the CORRECT thing is to simply erase its name and save the cost of signage. I'm sure neither its inhabitants nor Mr. Carlson will mind the anonymity.

33 people like this
Posted by Reader
a resident of another community
on Jun 25, 2016 at 4:42 pm

I think streets should be named after numbers, letters of the alphabet or inanimate objects.

42nd Street? Sure. B Street? Okay. How about naming streets after food? Pineapple Way? Durian Road (where the sewage treatment plant is located). Farro Drive.

As for renaming the city, I suggest "Shallow Alto," a moniker already used by some.


9 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 25, 2016 at 5:00 pm

I believe Churchill Road (or Street or whatever it is) is named for the poet Charles Churchill. All the streets in this area are named for poets and this is why this area is sometimes called poets corner. Coleridge, Tennyson, Churchill, etc. all poets. Another area is named after colleges, Cambridge, Stanford, etc.

4 people like this
Posted by Sharrow Alto
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 25, 2016 at 5:03 pm

Is what most think the moniker used by some is.

14 people like this
Posted by Nobody You Know
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 25, 2016 at 7:49 pm

Nobody You Know is a registered user.

Trigger warning:

This comment should not be read by people who object to trigger warnings.

I have no choice but to leave this comment, since I'm under attack here.

I hold the "Weekly" and Mr. Carlson responsible, for not providing a trigger warning to precede his guest opinion.

I started reading and I just kept reading until by then it was too late.

Clearly, Mr. Carlson's piece is aimed at those of us who, at great risk to ourselves, have raised objections to public buildings or streets or other edifices named after the likes of David Starr Jordan or Junipero Serra.

I feel mocked by Mr. Carlson. I feel made fun of and marginalized. Most of all I feel blindsided, in that I was given no warning that he was about to do these things to me.

When my wife, Mathilda, on the other hand, is about to marginalize me, she says, "Frank, sit down for a moment, we need to talk."

Thus I stand warned that she is about to tell me how little I do to make her life a fulfilling one, how I fail to anticipate her needs, how I invited Barney over the other night to have a beer without giving her a trigger warning that a big, loud neighbor was about to drop by for the evening and take up a lot of space in the TV room, thus marginalizing her and causing her to go into the kitchen and read "The Poisoner's Handbook."

Thus I am alerted by my wife in advance (as Mr. Collins and the "Weekly" failed to do) that, having sat down and adjusted my face into a listening attitude, if during the ensuing scolding I reply by comparing her to anyone at all it had better not be Donald Trump, because Mathilda's hair is not nearly the disaster that his is.

(In focusing on Mathilda's hair, here, I realize I'm going to alienate the fairer sex out there--I mean, in touching upon on Mathilda's outward appearance rather than her more intrinsic qualities of character (meanness, spitefulness, rudeness); but if so, all I ask is that all the good and fine feminists out there just give me a basic, solid trigger-warning before they drive up with their baseball bats.

In sum, since Homer Street is named after Homer, and Alma after Mahler's wife (who was unfaithful to him, but I'd never mention that here), and Trump Tower and Trump Steaks and Trump Water are all named after you know who, well, what I'm going to do is just propose a moratorium on any of us putting our names on anything, because it's just bound to lead to arguments and confusions, and so (trigger warning) I'm not signing my name here.


Nobody You'd Care to Know

P.S. Thank you, Mr. Carlson. :-)

6 people like this
Posted by Nobody You'd Care to Know
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 25, 2016 at 7:56 pm

Nobody You'd Care to Know is a registered user.

P.P.S. Frank is not my real name. I've told Mathilda that many times.

8 people like this
Posted by Cassandra
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 26, 2016 at 7:57 am

Why not name streets "Rhino"and "Elephant" and "sustainable breathable atmosphere" and all the other things that will be gone if we humans don't stop being so complacent.

6 people like this
Posted by Go Ducks
a resident of another community
on Jun 26, 2016 at 2:06 pm

You're wrong about Oregon Expressway -- it doesn't end at the King's Road. It ends at the railroad tracks. The road west of the tracks is Page Mill Road. That's why the businesses along there have Page Mill Road addresses.

Not that it's going to slow the Ducks down. They'll just fly over the stopped traffic in what is a royal traffic jam.

4 people like this
Posted by Mutti
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 27, 2016 at 10:45 am

I haven't laughed so hard in a long time. Thank you!

5 people like this
Posted by StillLaughing
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 27, 2016 at 3:34 pm

Let's hear it for the author and for anonymous 'Frank'.
What wonderful writing - perhaps the best I have seen in the Weekly.
BRAVO, I say!

5 people like this
Posted by Laughed All Weekend
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 27, 2016 at 3:39 pm

I think "Frank" should start writing professionally!

1 person likes this
Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 28, 2016 at 9:18 pm

I'm impressed that this hard hitting satire of the effort to rename Jordan Middle School is coming out only 6 months or so since the effort started. This kind of incisive hilarity could not have been easy.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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