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Saturday, April 30, 2005

Tomato, CAN

I have an undergraduate major in history and a minor in geography. Which is to say that I have a certain number of university credits (not enough to be a major) in the two main branches of this discipline: physical and human geography. I have studied everything from climate patterns, map making, rocks and soil, socio-economic conditions of sugar-cane plantations to the latest advances in computational Geographic Information Systems. Blah, blah, blah. However, I am stymied as to when Toronto, Ontario has simply been known as the 'Tdot' or 'T Dot' or 'tdot'. This interests me in a Seinfeldian sort of way.

When did this abbreviated labeling start? Surely the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) would have something to say about this co-opting of its name? I remember when I first started hearing "T.O." in conversation about 25 years ago. This is when most of my elementary school friends and their families started to move there. My brother has been living there for close to 18 years now. But when talking to him I tell him I will be visiting 'Toronto' for a few days... How provincial of me to refer to his city in such a formal manner. I am familiar about Toronto's other sobriquets," Hogtown" and the "Big Smoke", more recently in conversations. But it has only been in the last year or so that I have heard about the T Dot.

Is this a derivative of the 'T' in Toronto and the dot (period) that follows? Is it cooler to say 'T Dot' now? Are people from Toronto not longer Torontonians? Are they to be called T-Dotans now? Have we become even more lazier now in our speech? Someone help me out because I do not want to look uncool when I refer to that wonderful city once known as Tomato, CAN. Oh yes, Tomato Can. I believe the Canadian author,Morley Callaghan (living in Toronto) once received a letter from one of his literary expat peers (probably Hemingway) delivered to Tomato, CAN from Paris, France. The letter duely arrived at his address with no problems or corrections from Canada Post. Everyone laughed about it. Tomato Can, get it? HA! HA! Toronto, Canada looks so much like Tomato, Can! After all, it is so funny and insulting at the same time. Funny 'cause it's true (said in a Homer Simpson kind of way).

I guess it could always be worse, like being from the gaseous Bean Town (Boston) or the lustful Sin City (Las Vegas). Admittedly, Ottawa doesn't have an exciting or cool name. The city is attempting to rebrand itself currently in order to market itself more to the waning tourists. Tourists can't even seem to get it right when they refer to the Bayward (sic) Market in Ottawa. It's Byward, as in By, "Lieutenant-Colonel John By (1779-1836) of the Royal Engineers [who] was the British officer sent into the wilderness in 1826 with orders to build a canal to link the Ottawa River to Lake Ontario. He also founded Bytown, now called Ottawa." Makes you want to get out your history books and read more about it, doesn't it?

Even "The Big Easy" (New Orleans) is no longer the main point of reference to this cool turn of phrase. The Big Easy is no longer a place as much as a person now. If you were a follower of professional golf (I am not) you would know the golfer Ernie Els goes by that name now for the last couple of years. What's even funnier is that Els is not even from New Orleans--he's from South Africa. Well, at least the sacred Big Apple is still the Big Apple, and I don't have to tell anyone what city that refers to do I?


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