The Slice: Hoping the ‘Empire’ strikes back

Paul Turner, Spokesman-Review columnist. (The Spokesman-Review)
Paul Turner, Spokesman-Review columnist. (The Spokesman-Review)

Sometimes readers turn the tables and ask me questions.

“When we moved here in 1991, we moved to the Inland Empire,” wrote Peter Yocom. “We thought that was really neat because we had never lived in an empire before. At some point over the years, however, Empire morphed into Northwest which we find not nearly as neat. We want the Empire back. Where did it go? And why?”

Peter, that transition was already underway when I moved here just a few years before you did. I think the switch was driven, at least in part, by three themes.

• Local desire to benefit from the cultural cachet of the word “Northwest.”

Twenty-five years ago, much of the nation viewed this corner of the Lower 48 as a burgeoning utopia.

• A wish to avoid confusion with the more-populous “Inland Empire” east of Los Angeles.

• A sense in some quarters that, as a regional nickname, the old label sounded like silly boosterism and had a whiff of snake-oil about it.

I suspect West Siders’ fondness for “Ingrown Empire” also played a small role.

Moving on. Here is part of a note from Myron Molnau.

“My question may have been debated previously but, since I am new, I hope you will cut me some slack. As I read your paper, there are repeated references to North Idaho and Eastern Washington. For consistency, shouldn’t this be Northern Idaho and Eastern Washington or, more correctly, northern Idaho and eastern Washington?”

Myron, let me address the “North Idaho” aspect of this.

As I understand it, this goes back to pre-statehood days and stems at least in part from a separatist sentiment embraced by some Panhandle residents. I am not an expert on regional history, but I read somewhere back around the time of the state’s centennial that attitudes about Mormons played some role. Not exactly a West Virginia/Virginia scenario, but still reflective of a desire to maintain a distinct identity.

I assume habit/tradition is the modern rationale. And maybe a dollop of not trusting Boise.

If you have alternative explanations, drop me a line.

Today’s Slice question: What would you have been named if your gender had been different?

Write The Slice at P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210; call (509) 459-5470; email pault@spokesman.com. Naming your water heater can be a mistake.

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