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A poem dedicated to the United States Board on Geographic Names. Members of the Coast and Geodetic Survey and NOAA have served on this board since its beginnings in the late Nineteenth Century; and, since 1960, on its Advisory Committee for Undersea Features (ACUF) . It is responsible for all of the official names of features that go on maps, charts, and atlases published by the United States Government. Lewis Heck was the Coast and Geodetic Survey representative to the U.S.B.G.N. during the 1940's.

By Lewis Heck

What’s in a name?
There’s many a town or village
throughout the nation
With one name for the general
Another for the mail,
And, to complete the tale,
A third quite different for
the railway station.

The C&GS has its charts
The Army Engineers their
quadrangles tactical,
The USGS issues maps
When differences occur,
Or mappers err,
The Board must make its
solutions practical.

Aye, there’s the rub,
For oft its difficult to
make a wise selection
From all the names submitted
for inspection.
And local residents object
To what the Board tries to
And carry on with the old names
long held in affection.

The board thus has a heavy
For while all Federal maps
Should follow its decisions
They often fail to get
required revisions
Or local folks can be quite
Thus failing often to follow
And show the Board they have
no use for its provisions.

The net result is like all
human effort,
Mixed good and bad, better
prevailing over worse,
In spite of poverty,
But with authority,
The Board fulfils its functions
quite diverse,
Of umpire for the names of
the Universe.

Publication of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NOAA Central Library.

Last Updated: June 8, 2006 9:24 AM

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