Sir: I am writing to protest appallingly slipshod work by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names. The secretary (it does not specify which secretary, but it may have been Reginald in the typing pool) has issued an order, and the Board claims to have complied with it. Yet I shall produce evidence that compliance has not been achieved. I hope you will excuse some offensive language, but it is necessary to make my point.

I quote from the front page of the BGN Web site:

In accordance with Secretary’s Order 3404 the BGN has approved replacement names for all official features that included the word “Sq___” in their name. The Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) has been updated to reflect these changes.

You will notice that the text is in bold, indicating that this is an important initiative. Yet it has not been carried out uniformly, if indeed it has been carried out at all. I was just downtown today having lunch on the Diamond, and do you know what the street signs still say? I will tell you what they still say, though I caution readers with delicate sensibilities: they still say “Market Square.”

Is this not exactly the sort of offensive terminology that Reginald, or whichever secretary it was, intended to replace? No true Pittsburgher can walk by those signs without a feeling of shame and loathing. Every native Yinzer knows that the proper name for the square in the center of a city is “diamond,” and this attempt to mold us into prissy monocle-wearing Boston Brahmins by changing the name to “Market Square” is deeply offensive to everyone whose blood runs black and gold. Yet the BGN has left this work undone. One knows not whether to attribute it to deliberate insult, or mere lazy callousness ’n’at.

Nor is the Diamond the only example of unfinished business around here. I don’t care how much of the center of old Allegheny was blown to bits in the urban-renewal area: there is no such street as Allegheny Square. It is Diamond Street, because there was a diamond on the North Side, too. To be specific, it is East Diamond Street, the only remaining segment of the streets that were once called North Diamond Street East, North Diamond Street West, East Diamond Street, South Diamond Street East, South Diamond Street West, and West Diamond Street. Surely that is not too much to sort out. Well, it is, but anyway all the others are gone, so this one can just be Diamond Street, and not Allegheny Square.

And there is a whole neighborhood in the East End marked “Regent Square,” and you can’t tell me that’s a real place. It’s cobbled together from pieces of four different jurisdictions.

So I should like to draw the attention of the secretary, whichever one it is, to the fact that there are gaping holes in the implementation of this order. I should not like to see my federal government getting into the habit of sloppy work. Who knows where that sort of thing might lead?

Arbuthnot Squint III
Squatters Run


  1. Belfry Bat says:

    But surely squatters DON’T run, and isn’t that half the trouble? Let Squatters run for county clerk, and maybe then Simmering might Get Done… mumble grumble fumble…

  2. Slightly B. Fuddled says:

    Okay, I give up. Just what is “Sq “? I suspicion that it is one more recently rerpurposed noun which has made the unhappy trip from a thing to a naughty meme having to do with sex or gender or choice, but, my antique “Dictionary of American Slang” doesn’t seem to go much past “Get a Horse.”

    Please, a definition. Or at least a URL should the word itself be too obnoxious to grace these pages.

    • Dr. Boli says:

      It is the word “squaw,” which has long been considered a derogatory term for American Indian women, but which white settlers used everywhere for any feature they associated with Indian females.

      • David Tisdale says:

        Thank you. All I could think of was Squanto (actually Squantum) which seemed a bit unreasonable.
        David Tisdale

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