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Saturday, August 23, 2008

A New Name for Hoboken

August 23, 2008

Betty and I were having a wee drinkie at the Elysian last week, talking about what we liked and didn't like about Hoboken. She had done a little research on the Internet about the history, and I had too, a year ago, before I made the move here from Lower Alabama.

We admire the city's elegant old neighborhoods, and its gritty soul beneath. We're students of the days when it was a rough waterfront town, and its beginnings in the 18th century as a resort for the wealthy of Manhattan. We like the openness of its people, and we enjoy learning about its happier days. We admire its ability to withstand the changes of the 21st century with its raffish underpinnings unscathed. It harbors the paradox of its age contrasted to the youthful hormones walking its streets. It has survived corruption, graft and desolation; yet it is hardy, hopeful and always interesting.

There is so much going for Hoboken that the one thing we felt was working against it was its very name: Ho-Bo-Ken. It could be native American, referring to the peace pipe; it could mean an early manufacturer of pipes in the area. The original name was apparently Hoboke, which the Dutch settlers thought sounded funny. They added the "n" which really didn't improve matters, not to our midcentury American ears. Does it refer to hoboes? There is some evidence that the word "hobo" was coined to describe the guys living under the viaduct some 100 years ago.

Who knows? One thing is for sure, the name "Hoboken" is bound to get a laugh from those who have never experienced the city.

Betty and I tossed around names that might fit. We didn't see any reason to come up with a totally unknown new name like Elegance, New Jersey, but something that might have some meaning here. I remembered that the Stevens family, founders of Hoboken, chose the best spot in town to build their castle--an overlook with the best views of the river and of the Manhattan skyline. The castle has long since been demolished for a more utilitarian building at Stevens College.

However, their name for the spot on the grounds considered the high point of Hoboken remains, and I hereby put it forth for consideration for a more appropriate name for the town itself.

Castle Point, New Jersey. What do you think?

14 comments:

slezak said...

Hoboken is a good name. It kept out all the upper class rich that would have spoiled the city...the name scared them away...until now.

Some call Hoboken the 6th borough of New York. Msnhatten don't sound bad. The Bronx sounds like a shoe style. Brooklyn--that name would win no prizes either. Staten Island actually is in New Jersey waters. I guess New York needed a dumping ground for there garbage. Queens, well that name sounds like it's for the gays.

The Germans once thought to name Hoboken New Bremen, a sister city to Bremen, Germany. The Dutch wanted it to be New Amsterdam, since New York did not want it. So the eary settlers chose "Hoboken," a fine choice.

The name I call it is HOME. (Bada bing). Don't sound bad either.

Fug-get about it...let's keep it Hoboken. STAY WELL.

Mary Lois said...

Bobby, I just knew you'd say that! How about "The City Formerly Known as Hoboken"? as a slogan? Does that make it work for you?

downtown chick said...

NHD (never happen dude).......
I saw a cute rag doll and his name was Hobo Ken.

Nan said...

I'm kinda fond of the name, Hoboken myself! Place names for children are in, and maybe someday there will be a baby named Hoboken. :<) I just read a "Brooklyn" in the paper, and some have been around a while like Sierra and Dakota. There are two local kids named after two local towns. I wonder how they like their names.

Mary Lois said...

How about naming a child "Castle Point"?

Hoboken could be a girl's name or a boy's name...Hobie for short.

My mother's cousin Bessie's real name was Bessemer, after Bessemer, Alabama. And one of the children of the founders of Fairhope was named Arthur Fairhope Gaston.

There probably are some Hobokens out there.

old philosopher said...

Only a fanatic or a nut
Fiddles to fix what ain't broken,
Worries a bone like a wobegone dog
To change an oldtime name like Hoboken.

slezak said...

Changing the name of Hoboken would be a crime, BUT if push came to shove, and it had to be changed, PALOOKAVILLE, formerly hoboken, would be my choice. I would open a restaurant and call it HOBO-KENS, fine food and booze, good name, downtown chic. (The menu would be SINATRA PASTA, ABLE'S soft ice cream, UMLAND'S triple deckers, JAC-O-DINE'S cheerleaders
special fries with a free cherry coke, JANETTE'S burgers, and big BIGGIES clams on the half shell. The special drink of the house would be a MANHATTAN...buy one get one FREE, and music by Jimmy Roselli, played all day..and some Yum Yum ice for the kiddies. (And smoking and cardgames in the back room.) TELL the waiter FAST FRANKIE SENT YA...no sneakers allowed.

steve said...

downtown chick said...

NHD (never happen dude).......

Kind of reminds me of a Suzie Wong saying...."Never happen, Robert."

Anonymous said...

Not sure if you know this but Steven's dosen't have a Hoboken adress They are Castle Point on the Hudson Love the blog!

Mary Lois said...

Castle Point on the Hudson! I did not know this, as Johnny Carson used to say.

It's a lovely, descriptive name, with historic significance, and Hoboken deserves it.

Ah well. Ya can't win 'em all.

Panaderos said...

Hi. This is my first time to comment here. I love Hoboken and I love your Hoboken blog. :)

I fell in love with the city back in 1995 when a friend invited me over for dinner at one of the restaurants that line Washington Street. I liked the place so much that I finally bought a two-bedroom condo near 7th and Willow last year. I'm still discovering the place and I'm glad to have found your blog.

Thanks for sharing a lot of things about this great town. Take care.

Mary Lois said...

Panaderos, I'm about to become a neighbor of yours! Will move to the 900 block of Willow Ave. on 9/12.

I like your blog too, and will link it here. In the meantime, readers can click on your name and get there.

Panaderos said...

Great! Welcome to the neighborhood. I love our section of the town. Quite peaceful.

I'll link to your blog too because I'm definitely coming back here. Take care. :)

Anonymous said...

I agree that the name Hoboken often draws a derisive laugh and worked against the city for decades. In fact an aquaintance from Texas told me that, until meeting me, she never knew Hoboken was a real place! But I think that's finally changing as the city becomes more upscale and better known. However I agree: Castle Point is the perfect name for our city (and yes, the post office does use it somewhat for the area around the 2nd ward).