Saturday, May 17, 2014

Still Life With Robin: All the Presidents' Names

by Peggy Robin

Photo by Thomas S. Mann
Here we go again. There’s a bipartisan proposal --very likely to be the one piece of legislation that gets fast-tracked through an otherwise gridlocked Congress-- to rename Union Station in honor of Harry S. Truman. We long-time Washingtonians, who still haven’t accommodated ourselves to the renaming of our closest airport as Ronald Reagan National Airport, are likely to protest this move, undoubtedly in vain. It will happen, and there will be nothing to do about it except learn to say that semi-tongue-twister, “Harry S Truman Union Station.” Say it three times fast and it comes out more like, “Harry S Truman Umiom Station.”

While resistance may be futile to this particular Congressional name-change, I’m thinking it might be possible to pre-empt any future move toward slapping some president’s name on a monumental structure somewhere in town. What we should do, I propose, is get the jump on them. Let’s pick a few bridges and load them up with the names of ALL the presidents. That would cover all the bases and leave no one un-honored.

Here’s how it would work. We can start with Memorial Bridge and front-load it with the names (actually, just a representative snippet of each name) of the first fifteen presidents. That result of that would be The WAJeMMonJoQuinAJackVanBHarTyPoTayFillPierBu Memorial Bridge. It does come out looking like one of those long, unpronounce-able Welsh words, but then if you break it down into its components, you find you can say it quickly: Wajemmon Jo-Quinna-Jack VanB’Har Typotay-Fill Pierbew. See, that wasn’t hard at all. And the plaque with the name would become a tourist attraction in itself. In no time, everyone will want a selfie with the WAJeMMonJoQuinAJackVanBHarTyPoTayFillPierBu Memorial Bridge name coming out their ears.

Next, we’ll take the initials (or first sounds) of presidents #16 through #27 and add their names to a fine old bridge already bearing the name of President William Howard Taft. So now it becomes:
The LinJoGranHaGarArClHarClMcKinRoTaft Bridge. To say that one, sound it out this way:  Linjo Gran Hagar Arkle-Harkle McKinRo Taft.

The next eleven presidents’ names can be added to the bridge already named for Woodrow Wilson, giving us The WilHardCoolHooRoosTruEisKenJohnNixoFord Bridge. This one’s cool: Wilhard Cool-hoo-roos Tru-Eyes-Ken John Nixoford.

And the bridge to the present president could give a new and far more interesting name to the now boring Chain Bridge: The CarReaBuCliBuO Bridge, pronounced, CarRay Boo-Cli-Boo Oh!

As we add more presidents, perhaps every quarter- to half-century, we will have a new, sufficiently long string of names to merit the renaming of a some previously-blandly-named bridge in the presidential name-a-palooza fashion. The American Legion Bridge and the Cabin John Bridge stand poised for this purpose at the right time in the future.  But we may well be in for The Cli-Bu-Cli-Bu-Cli-Bu Bridge!


Still Life With Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

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