Sometimes a game isn’t just a game, like when it involves the championship of a beloved sport. My recent "Whole Other Country" observations created more spinoff story opportunities than I would have imagined. For instance, it led me to Buffalo, Texas, a town named for large bovine that still roamed the plains when a railroad came through in 1872. Those creatures were actually bison although I promised to ignore that issue and let it slide. Thus the settlement in Texas came to be known as Buffalo.
What I didn’t mention was that Buffalo also changed its name temporarily in the late 20th Century not once, not twice, but three times due to championship games in two different sports. It reminded me a little of the time that Ismay, Montana became Joe, Montana for awhile in honor of an American Football quarterback. I noted the situation simply to stress that people took this stuff seriously. Sports fandom(¹) can lead to odd behaviors in its extreme forms.
Buffalo (aka Blue Star, Green Star), TX
Twelve Mile Circle felt compelled to examine the situation from an historical perspective, although not going back as far as usual this time. This story began in January 1993 with Super Bowl XXVII, the American Football championship between the Dallas Cowboys and the Buffalo Bills. There was a problem. Buffalo, Texas, barely a hundred miles south of Dallas and certainly within the strong pull of Cowboys country, shared a name with its Super Bowl rival. The Bills even featured a buffalo (bison, whatever) on their helmets as a visual connection to their home. The name of the city in New York, by the way, had a disputed etymology although I didn’t want to get into that today. There were never grazing herds of wild bovine near the eastern edge of Lake Erie in post-Columbian times however let’s not confuse the story any further. Rabid Cowboys fans from Buffalo, TX couldn’t stand to share a name with their opponents vying for a Super Bowl title.
Buffalo, the one in Texas, changed temporarily to Blue Star to reflect a key feature of the Cowboys logo. The Cowboys beat the Bills 52–17 in Super Bowl XXVII. Consequently, I guess the town felt emboldened or compelled to do it again the very next year when the Cowboys met the Bills in Super Bowl XXVIII for a rematch. Buffalo, TX switched to Blue Star for a couple of weeks and once again Dallas claimed the Super Bowl championship, this time 30–13.
Dallas and Buffalo haven’t met in a Super Bowl since then. However, the municipal sports rivalry continued. The Dallas Stars opposed the Buffalo Sabres in the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup championship series in 1999. Texas doesn’t come to mind immediately when I think of a stereotypical place where ice hockey might dominate the local sports culture. Am I right, Canadian 12MC audience? Buffalo, TX probably wouldn’t have blinked had Dallas fought for the Stanley Cup before those two Super Bowl titles. Dallas didn’t even have an NHL major league hockey team until 1993. Nonetheless, Buffalo, TX renamed itself Green Star this time (Texas does love its Lone Star, regardless of color), and the Dallas Stars won the Stanley Cup series four games to two.
They Weren’t the Only Ones
Washington (aka Steeler), PA
I stumbled upon a similar situation as I continued to research Buffalo further. This one happened a little more recently in Super Bowl XL, February 2006. The Pittsburgh Steelers went up against the Seattle (Washington) Seahawks. As described by the Seattle Times,
The result? The Steelers won 21-10. Apparently towns should change their names temporarily if they wish to guarantee a home team victory (ignoring the issue of small sample size). Genius! Why haven’t more places tried this? Well, for the Super Bowl at least, there were surprisingly few opportunities to do that. I went back through the list and didn’t find much. These would have been some of the more promising opportunities:
I’m sure similar analyses could be conducted for other major sports. I did take a quick glance at the ("other" or "real" depending on one’s point of view) football, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup™. The problem here involved the multitude of languages. Nonetheless, examples might include Uruguay vs. Argentina (1930), with a border area of Argentina called Uruguay (map); or England vs. West Germany (1966), with a small hamlet labelled as England (at least according to Google Maps) in what was then part of West Germany.
Then I got bored with the whole concept and gave up.
(¹) Portmanteau alert! Fandom = FANatic + kingDOM; a subculture of particularly devoted followers.
If visitors to the Twelve Mile Circle come from a town with an odd name they’re automatically fodder for an article. I’ll dig until I find something memorable just on principle. Additionally, I’ll note that a single letter, the scant difference between Fire and Fir in this instance, could alter meanings considerably.
Maybe I should start at the beginning. I reviewed the visitor logs recently – as I like to do — and I noticed that someone dropped onto 12MC from somewhere called Feura Bush. Maybe a few readers already knew about that town? Maybe one of you lives there? I’d never heard of it.
Feura Bush, New York
It wasn’t too difficult to learn some basic Feura Bush facts even considering its diminutive size. It’s a hamlet south of Albany, New York, within New Scotland township. The Feura Bush postal area (ZIP Code™ 12067), which is actually larger than Feura Bush the town, had a population of only 1,500 according to the latest census. Honestly, Feura Bush wasn’t much larger than a crossroads near Conrail’s Selkirk rail yard and an Owens Corning plant that manufactured fiberglass building insulation.
However, none of that explained the etymology of Feura Bush.
Jerusalem Reformed Church, Feura Bush, NY
Feura Bush wasn’t even its original name. "New Scotland Township" published by the New Scotland Historical Association in 2000 explained that the area was once known "as Moaksville and later Jerusalem." Moaks was the surname of an early family that settled the area. Jerusalem was named for the Jerusalem Reformed Church which dated to 1791 (with the current structure built in 1825).
The town had to ditch the Jerusalem moniker for the usual reason: another Jerusalem already existed in New York when the town grew large enough to justify its own post office. The Postal Service required a unique name, and I guess the residents didn’t want to go back to Moaksville.
feura bush library by pollyalida, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license
Feura Bush also had an old single-room schoolhouse dating to 1885. It was converted to the The Feura Bush Neighborhood Library in modern times. That had nothing to do with the story, so feel free to ignore this section. I just liked the building.
I’m getting to an explanation. Bear with me. First, however, enjoy the fingers.
I applaud Google’s efforts to digitize books in a bold effort to place public domain documents online and available worldwide. There were bound to be a few mistakes with a project so grand. One of the books I consulted demonstrated that dramatically. Whoever was responsible for scanning pages that day must have been out drinking the night before because his fingers and hands appeared on random pages throughout the book. This one was my favorite. I loved the little finger stockings. Here’s another good one.
So, Fire or Fir?
Two distinct theories purporting to explain the Feura Bush etymology.
FIRE. The first one, favored by the previously-mentioned New Scotland Township book stated, "The name of Feura Bush, meaning ‘fire bush’ was chosen because sunlight reflecting off the pine trees made the hills appear to be on fire." The Feura Bush Neighborhood Association also favored that explanation and took it a step further, attributing the term to "an old native word."
An old native word? Probably not. Astute members of the 12MC audience may have already considered that this was once part of New Netherland. Feura Bush could have been a corruption of something Dutch, and indeed, several sources traced the etymology to vurenbosch (pronounced vürebosch). Drop that into Google Translate and vurenbosch became forest fires. Hold that thought for a moment.
FIR. An older source, the University of the State of New York Bulletin, 1914, claimed that vurenbosch was Dutch for "fir bush, or woods." I checked the Dutch Wikipedia page for Vuren (hout) which said "Het Nederlandse woord vuren is de genormeerde naam voor het hout van de fijnspar" translated, "The Dutch word vuren is the standardized name for the wood of spruce." An image search on "vuren" produced lots of pictures of pine lumber, and nothing related to fire. Either way, Feura Bush likely related to local conifers.
Are there any native Dutch speakers in the 12MC audience who can nail down the true meaning one way or the other?
Previous 12MC articles delved into creative and sometimes bizarre pairings of street names with suffixes. Those were explored in posts such as Order in the Court, He Went Thata Way and No Way! Way!. Enough with the Courts and Ways (curds and whey?). It’s time to drive.
Line Drive, Manchester, NH, USA
Readers from international areas devoid of baseball might wonder why Line Drive would be an odd street name choice. It’s an intuitive term to those of us who grew up with the sport, and similarly difficult to translate to outsiders. No doubt, someone trying to describe a Cricket term to me would have the same problem in reverse. Instead I’ll steal the dictionary definition: "a ball that is hit by the batter and goes in a nearly straight line not far above the ground." It can be dangerous to players on the field at the receiving end of a line drive and can also lead to spectacular plays when handled properly.
Consequently I found several Line Drives at municipal ball parks and baseball diamonds including two at professional minor league stadiums.
Disk Drive, Madison, AL, USA
I suppose at one time maybe 15 years ago Disk Drive would have sounded like a clever street name for an industrial park hoping to attract information technology companies. At least the occurrence in Madison, Alabama had an honest-to-goodness linkage to the IT industry. Intergraph Corporation, a software development and services company, maintains an office there albeit with a street address other than Disk Drive.
Scenic Drive, Hamilton, ON, Canada
There were often several examples of each name. I tried to select ones that were the most representative.
The Best (or Worst)
Doctor Dr., Virginia Beach, VA, USA
I held a special fondness for Doctor Drive, located in a number of places nationwide. The answer might not appear all that obvious until converted to its logical abbreviations. Doctor Drive shortened to Dr. Dr.
The example I highlighted from Virginia Beach would be noteworthy from a couple of perspectives. First, it intersected with Hospital Drive so that implied maybe at one time it could have been appropriately named for its circumstances. Second it offered additional opportunities for abbreviated mischief. Thus, the Get Reel Lure Co. (caution – annoying website background music) could potentially shorten its address to: 204 Dr. Dr., VA Beach, VA!