Thursday, August 11, 2005

I say New School, you say The New School

One of the city's institutions of higher education is rebranding itself. Just look at the redesigned website. What's its new name? Well, it's very much like the old one: The New School (a university). Previous iterations include New School University and the New School of Social Research.

According to this Times article, the powers that be were bothered by the fact that people persisted in calling it "the New School." I say it's much ado about nothing. The two main words of the title have always been there; why worry that people will shorten it, no matter what other words you add? It all seems a bit silly, but branding is very serious business these days, and college is very much a business. Even stranger is the university's renaming of its colleges (a.k.a. academic divisions) to match the new/old brand. Like: "Parsons The New School for Design." (Shouldn't there be a comma or something in there? Talk about weird grammar.) Or: "Mannes College The New School of Music."

The rest of the Times article elaborates on schools that have made more substantive changes to their names like Trenton State College becoming The College of New Jersey (gotta capitalize that letter T so you get TCNJ right) and Beaver College becoming Arcadia University.

Growing up near Beaver, outside Philly, I never laughed at the name until about the time they were going to change the identity. To me, it was the place I took that computer class once (back in the stone age of computers) and where we used to go to see the festival of Christmas trees, but never the punchline of a mildly dirty joke.

It's sort of like how it feels strange to break down the name of this city into its component parts -- New + York -- because the original or old or other communities of York seem so removed from here, such as York in south-central Pennsylvania, or Yorkshire's York in England. I just don't think of the name that way on a regular basis.

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