Sure, Shakespeare’s Juliet claims “that which we call a rose/ by any other name would smell as sweet” (2.2.43-44) and seems to indicate that the names of things/persons do not affect their true nature. As an English major, translator, and dabbler in creative writing, I know of the power and importance of connotations and have thus found this quote always confusing – yes, the name does not change the item/person but the name changes our view of the item/person, and does not it matter to us more how we view something than what it truly is? For example, the name “death tax” makes the required payment sound a lot more ludicrous than the term “estate tax” – who wants to pay taxes to die when an estate tax sounds like it would affect only the super rich?
So yes, I do pay attention to what something is called, and paying attention to names can be entertaining as I have mentioned before in my recent posting on the town Rescue in California. A nearby town in El Dorado County has an even cooler name – it is Cool, CA, a small community of about 4,000 people on the historic Highway 49. I love the potential of entertaining store and facilities’ names for the area, and there are Rosie’s Cool Taqueria, Cool Beerwerks, Cool Community Church, and Cool Christian School. Surprisingly, very few places actually make use of the great name of Cool and I just see lost advertising potential (maybe the name stops being that cool if one is around it every day).
I wondered whether the place got its name because of its laid-back atmosphere or its relatively cool temperatures or possibly even its especially hot weather (maybe irony was in the mix). However, the origin of the name is rather boring and traditional: The place used to be called Cave Valley because of the large limestone caverns, but was named Cool after Reverend Cool, a circuit-riding preacher in this area in the 19th century. The collection of houses, an inn, a blacksmith, and later on a post office (1885) were on the direct path of miners and merchants during the Gold Rush. So the history of the name is not as exciting or entertaining as I hoped for, but I was amused that not a historical society but actually a pizza place in Cool provided background on the name’s history (and the pizza parlor and grill is not even called Cool Pizza but American River Pizza). And even though Cool is a nice enough place, it would not really be that memorable without its name.