Illustration by Bob Scott
Ridiculous House Names
A rant against treacly, trite and just plain ridiculous house names
I’m going to go out on a limb of an apple tree, so to speak, and assume the first people to name their place of residence were Adam and Eve. Like most mortals who name their homes, they got a little carried away — or banished, strictly speaking. The Garden of Eden was just a tad pretentious for a name. It’s well known that Adam and Eve had a little too much pride in their lay of the land, yet some people still never learn. Which explains both Pair-a-Dice and Lost Bearadise. Sort of.
I understand house pride as much as anybody, but except for names attached to old, historic homes generations ago, I’m anti-house-naming. If you have the wherewithal to build or buy a home like Monticello, Agecroft or Westover, a little ostentation goes with the territory, so I wouldn’t encourage you to sandblast the name off those entrances. Such homes have the gravitas to carry a name. But it’s the rare second home at the beach, lake or mountains that can dignify the treacly and trite phrases people bestow upon them in fits of over-enthusiasm and over-sentimentality. I’m afraid it’s only a matter of time before someone buys Mount Vernon for their river house and renames it Good Ole Daze.
Let me get Straight to the Point. I’m in the mood to go full-on judge-y about this. Enough with thoughtful parsing and seeing intricacies and accepting attitudes and allowing different strokes for different folks. I’ve got a column to write! I’m well beyond NIMBY on this issue. When it comes to house names: NIMLOVWIOV— Not in My Line of Vision When I’m on Vacation. Numbers and street names still work, people, even on holiday.
Second homes bring out the Poetry in Ocean* that the subdivision in the suburbs doesn’t. It’s A Shore Thing that driving a beachside road will soon induce cringing and moaning in between a chuckle or two. Maybe it’s the writer in me that pays attention to words too closely. There’s the alliteration crowd, and though I’ve been known to groove to verbal variations, I can’t utter Heavenly Haven, Beyond Bliss, Shell Seeker, Sunset Serenade or Scenic Serenity without an accompanying eye-roll. I don’t want a house — even one I’m just renting — to conjure up a shabby soap opera. Show; don’t tell. Let me come upon the heavenly bliss and the shells and sunset and serenity on my own. Don’t announce them.
Jokesters and punsters Seas the Day at the beach or in the mountains on their Daze Off. And then there are names that are too cute by half or too long by a mile: Orange U Glad is too twee even in Florida, and Anythings Pawwsible gives fair warning that too many pet photos and fleas are quite plausible in that rental, so that’s helpful. Four-Sea-Sons, Nautical and Nice and What’s Up Duck don’t warrant explication. Perhaps the rental companies encourage this sort of thing. How else to explain Logxurious?
It’s not surprising to see German and Swiss references in mountain house names, but on my last trip to Florida, I was surprised to see culture clashes at the beach. Haus Bayou and Zurich by the Sea sound clunky and out of place to me. The latter makes me hot and cold all over. It didn’t help that it was an ugly hulk. I’m just too literal for this name game. Just no. Or Non. Or Nein. Though Casa sin Nombre actually worked for me, perhaps because I don’t speak Spanish.
Of all the signs I made note of at the end of driveways, my favorite are the kiss-my-ass variety: Aloha Baby, Dream On, Million Dollar View. Somehow it’s socially acceptable to flaunt that, whereas “No Trespassing” gives off a different vibe. This nouveau riche category is the equivalent of the beautiful babe in a convertible with the license plate UWISH. Pretty sure I saw her pull into Keep Out*.
Italicized: Actual names of actual houses
*I made these up, but I’m sure there are houses out there with those names.