Word for My Mother

“Metroplex” might have been necessary a generation ago, but the time has come to change it.

With all due respect to the lovely Cary Catherine Eaves, who clinched the Miss Metroplex crown in February with a stunning rendition of “The Jewel Song” from Faust, the name “Metroplex” is hideous. This magazine has fought for years to kill it. The great David Bauer (now at Sports Illustrated) bravely led us into battle with a polemic he penned against “Metroplex” in our January 1975 issue. So we’ve been losing the fight for more than 33 years.

Aha! But now the battle has turned. Help has arrived from the most unexpected of allies: the North Texas Commission, the very people who first inflicted us with the M word.

In the early ’70s, the NTC went looking to attract corporate relocations from those snowy, depressing parts of the country to sunshiny Dallas and its neighbors. The NTC folks had themselves a slogan: “North Texas—The Good Life.” But those prospective corporate relocators, bundled in their overcoats, covered with soot, thought “North Texas” referred to the Panhandle. Ew.

To remedy the problem, the NTC hired the firm of TracyLocke, where the assignment landed on the desk of an adman by the name of Harvie Chapman. It was he who grafted the word “complex” onto “metropolitan” to create “Metroplex.” Harvie congratulated himself with a belt of cheap bourbon before he returned to juggling kittens and harassing the babes in the typing pool. At least that’s the way I imagine Harvie.

Today, one can hardly listen to local radio or watch television news without suffering a thousand pricks a day, references to “cold fronts moving into the Metroplex” and “traffic snarls across the Metroplex.”

But here’s the insidious thing about the word “Metroplex”: while many in these parts have eagerly hiked up their skirts and dropped their britches to accept the brand so that they might more easily be identified by outsiders, people abroad appear to have no clue as to what the heck a Metroplex is.

I’ll give you an example. As I’m writing this, the U.S. Bowling Congress is considering whether it should relocate its 200 employees from Milwaukee (dreary) to Arlington (totally awesome). The potential move triggered national media coverage. But in the USA Today story, there was no mention of Metroplex. Nor did the mighty Frank Deford employ the word in his commentary for National Public Radio, merely referring to the suitor of the bowling overlords as “Texas.” And Deford knows the word. I asked him. He said he hears “Metroplex” every time he visits our fair city—but he’s never encountered it outside of Dallas.

“That’s probably because it is a hideous, plastic word, and no one with any taste would say it unless they were forced to,” Deford said in an e-mail. “Or perhaps it suggests that people in Dallas are more lacking in taste and an appreciation of the English language as opposed to those otherwise situated.”

Which brings us back to the NTC. We are now the fourth-largest population center in the country, comprising 12 counties according to the 2000 census. The 2010 census might add to that number. An NTC official tells me they are anticipating this growth and “starting a dialog” to see if it’s time for a new phrase.

Once more unto the breach, dear friends: the time for a new phrase came long ago. Shortly after Harvie Chapman invented “Metroplex,” someone should have said it. I will say it now. North Texas Commissioners, look no further than your own solid, commonsensical moniker. The time for “North Texas” is now!

Or Dallopolis. That works, too.

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