Can a typo change the name of your neighborhood? Google it

by | Sep 6, 2018 | Blog

Technology has changed the way we communicate and entertain and how we move from place to place. And now it even affects the way we name our neighborhoods, thanks to Google Maps.

“With the decisions made by a few cartographers, the identity of a city, town, or neighborhood can be reshaped, illustrating the outsize influence that Silicon Valley increasingly has on the real world,” notes a New York Times article.

The Times reports that in San Francisco, the district south of downtown and along San Francisco Bay has long been known as Rincon Hill, South Beach or South of Market. Enter Google Maps, which added yet another choice, calling it The East Cut.

Much to the dismay of many—in one unofficial survey, 90% said they disliked the name—the label took hold. “The peculiar moniker immediately spread digitally, from hotel sites to dating apps to Uber, which all use Google’s map data. The name soon spilled over into the physical world, too,” notes the Times. “Real estate listings beckoned prospective tenants to the East Cut. And news organizations referred to the vicinity by that term.”

Meanwhile, a Detroit neighborhood previously known as Fiskhorn suddenly transposed consonants, becoming Fishkorn;  in New York City, Vinegar Hill Heights, Midtown South Central became NoMad; and the area “Right Around the Manhattan Bridge Overpass” sometimes shows up on Google Maps in the same way Sylvester Stallone appears in movies—as Rambo.

The Times writes that Google’s map labeling system is “mysterious.”  “The company declined to detail how some place names came about, though some appear to have resulted from mistakes by researchers, rebrandings by real estate agents—or just outright fiction.”

And sometimes a simple typo (Fiskhorn to Fishkorn) becomes engraved in stone. Er, or should we say, on iPad tablets?

 

Photography Copyright: Stanley Dai/Unsplash.com

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