14 September 2011

Choose Your Own Property Name

Some* would say that the best part about our soaring metropoles is the creeping suburban sprawl snaking out from their centers like burst capillaries in a bloodshot eye.

That's true.

Furthermore, the best part about suburban sprawl (which if you're keeping track makes it the best of the best or "Top Gun" of human civilization) is the strip mall. You may know it as a shopping center or "centre" if you're fancy.

The shopping center is the cornerstone of any unremarkable neighborhood. If we lacked a central place to shop -- a shopping center -- then where would we get our clothes dry-cleaned? Where would we buy our comic books or our pool cleaning supplies?

We wouldn't. We'd be driven into the city like feral dogs and we would die in the street. Spawn of the Sprawl are not equipped to handle buildings taller than two stories, one way streets or homeless people.

We would fruitlessly search for a tailor until the blood in our veins thickened and we died, thirsty and insensate. Now dead, no one will be there to hose down our boats when we return from boating or fret over HOA fees. Humanity must make way for the new apex predator (land sharks? bears?) because it has failed to get its shirts taken in and its pants hemmed.

Rather than permitting this doomsday scenario we turn to the strip mall. Strip malls are constructed in a modular fashion like prison cells; each storefront is purpose-built offsite and lowered into place by a crane. This makes it easy to mix and match the needs of the developer and quickly fill their acreage.

If no type is specified, storefronts are left empty with a "FOR LEASE" sign stuck to the inside of the front door. This accounts for at least half of the units produced.

The rest of the shops are often the "dry cleaner", "nail salon" or "DONUT" models. Like a game of chess, you get a free space in the middle of the board with no numbers on it. This free space is often a restaurant or some kind of out-of-date, overly specific retailer.

I love chess.

Often you'll find a VCR repair shop inexplicably still in business, a doll hospital or a catheter supply store in this free space.

When the cranes are done dropping stores into place you can stand back and admire your work. You've created something here. You've drawn order from chaos. You're a god.

Something is still missing and it gnaws at you.

The very thing that distinguishes shopping centres from each other is also the thing that makes them all hopelessly identical: the name.

Someone, somewhere, is selling square footage to an entrepeneur with a really great frozen yogurt store and they need to tell them something besides:

"It's the one by the gas station on the corner. With the nail salon."


"Yeah, the other one."

Strip malls need to sound like they're something substantial and important. So, people like to give them fancy names.

These names are often nonsense and basically interchangeable. Let me come up with a few off the top of my head:

"Towne Centre Crossing"

"Creekbridge Plaza at Magnolia"

"Plaza Creek Bridgecross on Magnolia Center"

You'll notice the third one basically just combined elements of the first two. Wonderful for you to have noticed that and please remember it. You'll need it a little further down. There's only a few rules that you need to make your strip mall sound plausible. After that, all bets are off.

It must contain a metaphor or grandiose adjective for what it is. It's not just a strip mall. It's a destination. With that in mind, you must include one of the following (or a variant) as the foundation. This will serve as the axle to which we'll attach the many spokes of the shopping centre wheel:

  • Corner
  • Plaza
  • Centre (extra points for British English)
  • Crossing
  • Shoppes
  • Market
  • Square
  • Circle

Now unless you were a very, very pretentious real estate developer and you simply wanted to call your place "Centre" (also, you're an asshole) then you'll need one to two more pieces. The first acts like an adverb. Make up something full of artifice that sounds vaguely geographical and old money and you'll be on the right track:

  • Twin Rivers
  • Meadowbrookview
  • Mesa Flats
  • Hilltowne
  • Riverham
  • Fieldholme
  • Dry Creek
  • Foxhunt
  • Any fucking word you want. Really.  

Okay so now we have enough words to mash together and create a new shopping center: 

"Twin Rivers Corner"

That's so fucking easy. You just finished "Naming Conventions 301" (it's a three-day a week class plus lab, sucks) and you're ready to wrap things up after you get the rest of your Gen Ed out of the way.

You can optionally precede the name with "The".  This is important because it can make it sound like the only place the consumer can go to get a sandwich from Subway. Let's pick the next two names on the lists and add the all important article to the front:

"The Meadowbrookview Plaza"

That's pretty good! I would definitely take my shoes there to be re-soled.

All that's left to really class things up is to give your strip mall that Shakespearean, Stratford-Upon-Avon vibe. That is, you need a preposition (at or in are fine) and a name of some kind. A city's usually good but in a pinch you can go with a street name or an intersection. Moving down the list we get two more:

"The Mesa Flats Centre at Stoneybrook"
"Hilltowne Crossing on Main St."

I want to buy discount cigarettes and/or lottery tickets at both of those places very badly. 

With these foundations laid you can riff on shopping center names all day long and irritate your friends.  If you do it long enough, anything sounds like it could be a name. Let me do two with things I see:

"Beer Bottle Scissors at Paperweight Globe"
"Razor Blade Camera on Eraser Skull"

Actually, now that I hear fake names totally stripped of context they kind of have a pleasant rhythm to them. Like naming a show dog.

This dog's name is Fireside's Spontaneous Combustion and it wishes it was one of those dogs that got hoarded instead.. 

PROTIP: If you're lazy you can substitute your street name or intersection for the adjectival portion of the name. So, "The Levee Square on Main St." can just be "Main Street Square". As I said, that's only if you're lazy and/or you suck.

I could do this all fucking day, at the expense of my health and sanity. I challenge you to do the same.


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