what’s in a name, ypsilanti?

Someone told me last night that when the Ypsi Marriott changed their name to the Ann Arbor Marriott that their business increased by 30% in one year’s time. Another person at the table, who I know to be a lover of Ypsilanti, then suggested that we change the name of the town to Woodruff’s Grove, which was the name of the small community that developed over time into what was incorporated in 1823 as Ypsilanti. Another person with us then suggested, I think jokingly, that we change the name of the city to East Ann Arbor.

And it got me thinking about my love for this little town, and question how much of it, if any, was due to the distinctive name. “Would it matter to me,” I thought, “if this town were called something else?” If I were to hear someone seriously suggest it, I think my initial instinct would be to become furious, but is that response justified? It is, after all, just a name, right? And, it’s a name that, like it or not, carries along with it a lot of not so positive connotations in the area.

Just think of how property prices would jump in the wake of changing the name to East Annarbour, or whatever. I don’t know if it’s been studied, but I suspect such a move would have a real, measurable impact. At least I imagine it must have done something to property values in East Detroit when they changed their name to Eastpointe. And, if there are real numbers to support this notion that the name of a place predicts its success, why haven’t our cold, heartless local real estate moguls and business leaders already tried it?

I doubt they’d be successful, but maybe it would be a good thing for the community if someone tried. Maybe it would make us come together and realize what it is that we love about this quirky little rustbelt town of ours.

[This post was brought to you on behalf of the MM.com January special at the Corner Brewery… You still have a few days to drink and save.]

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31 Comments

  1. Posted January 26, 2009 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

    Better yet, get bids on corporate naming rights to our town. Like, we could be Mastercard, Michigan or even Taco Bell, Michigan. Or how about Walmart, Michigan!

  2. Brackache
    Posted January 27, 2009 at 12:16 am | Permalink

    Ypsi fits. You can’t tattoo East Ann Arbor on your knuckles.

  3. mark
    Posted January 27, 2009 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    Good point, Brackache. I’ve also found that the phrase “Welcome To YPSI” has a certain poetic ring to it when you say it while punching someone in their gut.

    And if we choose to sell the naming rights, why not do it every few weeks, as new movies and consumer products are launched. Right now we could be Marley And Me, Michigan, for instance.

  4. tommy
    Posted January 27, 2009 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    Help me out here as my recollection is a bit fuzzy. A number of years back, Ypsi Township threw around the idea of changing its name. I think they actually paid a group (I may be wrong) to study a proper name. The two names that were deemed the best were Ford Lake Heights and Woodruff’s Grove (Ford Lake Heights was chosen). I think we actually voted and decided that no name change was needed. To me both names were cool, but so was Ypsilanti. I believe there was an underlying desire to somehow unlink the township from the city in name in order to remove the negative ‘stigma’ that Ypsi had (has). Remember, Auburn Hills used to be Pontiac Township. I like the idea of coming up with a name that fits the times – how about F.U.B.A.R.D.

  5. Rob
    Posted January 27, 2009 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    Oh god no! Not East Ann Arbor– A poster child for failure, as there already was such a creature, of which members of my extended family played a part in it’s quick rise and fall– sometime in the late ’50’s or early 60’s…. Scheffler ( my grandmother’s maiden name) park on Platt Rd. is what remains, for our family at any rate, of those dark days…..

  6. Curt Waugh
    Posted January 27, 2009 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    Wasn’t “Liberty Township” or some such thing on the list, too? Somebody always has to throw in a generic patriotic name into everything. And yes, the name change went down to resounding defeat, if I remember correctly.

  7. Rob
    Posted January 27, 2009 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    You remember correctly, Curt! Along with generic “Liberty TWP” idea also kicked around was “Liberator Township” — Which the history buff in me likes, being named for the B-24 bomber plant at Willow Run. That would have been “cooler” IMHO.

  8. tommy
    Posted January 27, 2009 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    You’re right, Liberty Township was one of the names. I also recall the Township Administration (not sure if it was ‘good old boys who then became state representatives’ group or the ‘good old girls who then became state representatives’ group) seemed to be concerned about the cost of letterhead and signage being a key reason for a ‘no’ vote. The people, meanwhile, said ‘Ypsi’ is cool – let’s keep it around for a while.

  9. swoop
    Posted January 27, 2009 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    No,

    if ypsi changes it’s name (especially to east annarbour) that will be the same day that I start packing my shit to leave town. 180 years of it has made the name pretty solid and if people don’t like it they dont have to go-more ypsi for me. Besides even if we changed the name with the economy sliding downhill inevitably it would get its own bad rap within a decade or so. At that point ann arbor would sue us for damaging their reputation and we would feel about as dignified as your average harmony house ho.

  10. ol' e cross
    Posted January 27, 2009 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    I think the perfect way to give a meaningful nod to history while creating a new image for the town would use an anagram of Ypsilanti.

    How about: Nail Tipsy, MI?

    or, even better: Palin Sty, MI?

    (Yah, I had to lose and I for that last one but I think she’s worth it.)

  11. Paw
    Posted January 27, 2009 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    I like the ring of Beer City.

    And we’d sell a ton of t-shirts and other merchandise.

    Or how about Spider Pig, Michigan?

    Rickrollton?

    Goatse?

    Bush Sucks Balls, Michigan?

    Lots of possibilities.

  12. Paw
    Posted January 27, 2009 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    I meant to say “Goatse on the Huron”. It sounds English.

  13. grapevine
    Posted January 27, 2009 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    a manager for the hotel said they changed the name to improve search engine results… they realized a lot more people were looking for “ann arbor” when searching for local hotels. makes sense and while it stings a little, you can’t fault them for wanting to increase revenues. and on the bright side, they are reinvesting in their property… for those of you who haven’t been by recently, they have made significant renovations to the hotel.

  14. Brackache
    Posted January 27, 2009 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    How bout “Ypsilanti Fucks Ann Arbor’s Mom,” so we’ll show up on the Ann Arbor search.

  15. Posted January 27, 2009 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

    The nascent grumpy old man in me is fine with changing Ypsilanti’s name to something else, because then I can stubbornly refuse to call it anything other than Ypsilanti, and mutter about back in the day and whatnot.

    Okay, I kinda like the name Ypsilanti. And changing the name to do … something sounds like all the goofy marketing plans that do nothing but eat up consultant fees.

    Let me be the first to say oh hell no to “East Ann Arbor”. By all rights, they really should be “West Ypsilanti”…. We’re named after a Greek Hero of Independence, and they’re a couple ladies named “Ann” and some trees they had. Feh, I say. Feh!

  16. ol' e cross
    Posted January 27, 2009 at 11:44 pm | Permalink

    I have to agree with Thomas, we were here first, after all. But it got me thinking. For some reason, East sides often seem a bit more gritty than West sides, nationwide. (Presumably because of our nation’s constant movement west?)

    So maybe we subdivide into East Ypsilanti and West Ypsilanti. The river seems like a natural point of departure. Downtown, which could surely use the help, could become West Ypsilanti. Then, when Ann Arbor and other area folks considered where to set up business or shop, WY folks could be like, “Oh, West Ypsi is fine, just don’t go to the East side…”

    That such a change would automatically turn Mark into a soft gripped upper cruster and me into a bare-knuckled buster is just an added bonus.

    Eeeeeast side is the beeeeast side!

  17. Oliva
    Posted January 27, 2009 at 11:50 pm | Permalink

    Now that’s some brilliance, OEC.

  18. ol' e cross
    Posted January 27, 2009 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

    I realize this could be awkward for EMU, but I’ve thought it through. Eastern could become Western, Western could become Kalamazoo College, Kalamazoo College could become Liberty University, and Liberty University could become Tinky Winky U.

  19. Candy Man
    Posted January 28, 2009 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    Until Ypsilanti actually changes, it doesn’t matter what the name is. Call it Diamond City. Won’t matter. The place is still a cess pool of poverty, shitty schools, no economic development, crime, and just general yuck.

  20. melissa's mom
    Posted January 28, 2009 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    I live in Eastpointe and all the name change accomplished was to raise taxes. And for some reason I don’t remember, they didn’t change the high school or post office, they are both East Detroit. So it just costs us more money to live a half mile outside of Detroit and our property values have crashed just like everyone else’s.

  21. John D.
    Posted January 28, 2009 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

    Well, I grew up in “East Ann Arbor.” There used to be an East Ann Arbor Hardware store at Platt and Washtenaw. That was back in the early sixties, before Arborland and U.S 23. The idea of splitting Ypsilanti into ‘east’ and ‘west’ has historical precedence as it actually happened in 1860. If the City Income Tax had been successful, there was talk of forming a committee to secede the east side into a separate city or into the township, but alas…

    Changing the name is an old corporate trick. Used to give the illusion of progress. Hydra-matic to Powertrain is a fine example. Nothing new, except that the mammoth neon sign was removed from the roof.

    …and a note to Candy Man: You see what you want to see. Mr. Steinbeck’s opening paragraph of ‘Cannery Row’ says it best. So you can dis on Ypsi all you like, I don’t mind. I know wonderful people and see beauty everywhere, human made and nature made. I, for one, choose not to look into gutters and sewers.

  22. ol' e cross
    Posted January 28, 2009 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

    If the City Income Tax had been successful, there was talk of forming a committee to secede the east side into a separate city or into the township, but alas…

    I just threw up on myself a bit.

  23. EOS
    Posted January 29, 2009 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Township officials discussed the name change and Liberty Township was a favorite. Got nixed when they realized there was already a Liberty Township in the State. The citizens weren’t involved in the discussions nor did they vote.

    I like Liberator Township. Anything other than Ypsilanti would be an improvement and help differentiate the two vastly different communities.

  24. Posted January 29, 2009 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    Wasn’t it bad enough that they changed the Hurons to the absolutely lame “Eagles”???? Why ruin a good thing?

  25. EOS
    Posted January 29, 2009 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    Ypsilanti is a good name for the city – I wasn’t advocating changing the city name. But I would like to see a different name for the township so as to avoid a lot of confusion.

  26. Posted January 29, 2009 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    “…and a note to Candy Man: You see what you want to see. Mr. Steinbeck’s opening paragraph of ‘Cannery Row’ says it best. So you can dis on Ypsi all you like, I don’t mind. I know wonderful people and see beauty everywhere, human made and nature made. I, for one, choose not to look into gutters and sewers.”

    Amen, John D.

  27. John D.
    Posted January 29, 2009 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    Sorry ’bout that ol’ e. cross. I hope you were wearing crappy clothes.

  28. Old Goat' Wife
    Posted January 29, 2009 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    After a meandering spring trip through civil war battlefields and historic small towns in Pennsylvania, Maryland & Virginia, we returned home and walked down the hill to depot town in the gathering twilight. The lights had just come on and the moon was rising and I remember feeling the beauty, remarking to Old Goat, Ypsilanti, as good as anywhere.

  29. Brackache
    Posted January 29, 2009 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    Plus it’s not full of thousands of cranky civil war ghosts.

  30. Old Goat
    Posted January 29, 2009 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

    …and can they ever be cranky!

  31. ol' e cross
    Posted January 29, 2009 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the concern John D. No damage done. I just had on the old flesh tuxedo. It’s wash and wear.

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