East Wash? Not cool

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Frank Schultz
Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sometimes, we journalists trip over ourselves as we try to show how folksy we are. For example, we use the word “folks” too much when “people” will do just fine. And we get slangy when we should stick to the proper names of things.

Slang is fine for daily speech at the grocery store, coffee shop or tavern, but journalists should be more formal in most cases. We are, after all, what someone once called “the first rough draft of history.”

Case in point: TV newscasters in Madison who like to talk about “East Wash” or “West Wash.” It sounds as though they are trying to sound cool, and as we all know, trying to sound cool is the opposite of cool.

Washington Avenue is a major arterial in Madison, and most who have lived there know the broad boulevard and often refer to it as “East Wash” or “West Wash.”

But what about visitors to Their Fair City? What are they to make of “East Wash”? Better to stick with “East Washington Avenue.” It’s more formal, but it’s more understandable to more people.

I feel a momentary urge to throw something at the TV when I hear a newscaster say “East Wash,” but it goes away, and life goes on.

Then on the police scanner today, I believe I heard someone referring to Janesville’s Washington Street as “Wash.” Time to draw the line. It’s Washington Street, people. Named after one of the top 10 presidents on most people’s lists.

I wonder what George would have thought about his name being truncated in this way. Maybe his drinking buddies called him GW, but I can’t imagine anyone referring to the father of his country as “President Wash" or the capital city as "Wash, D.C."

I have found one perfect use for “East Wash.” An innovative business person in Madison came up with it: East Wash Laundry, at 2620 E Washington Ave. Now, that’s cool.

Last updated: 8:25 am Monday, July 29, 2013

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