So there I was, sitting at the bar of my favorite Mexican restaurant, sipping on tequila with my friend—we’ll call him Mick (because that’s his name)—when in walks an older gentleman with his wife. Turns out the guy knows Mick. They’re old classmates from South High School. Some back-slapping ensues—along with another round of tequila— and soon Mick and his friend have launched into a little rant about how the media refers to their old neighborhood as the South Side.
Being in the media and all, I perked up. Columbus Monthly, as well as our brothers and sisters upstairs at the Columbus Dispatch, do indeed write South Side when referring to anything occurring in that neighborhood.
“Makes my teeth grind,” says Mick. “No one who’s ever lived there calls it the South Side. It’s the South End.”
To illustrate his point, Mick holds out his hands as if he’s holding a globe. “These are sides,” he says, his hands on either side of the imaginary globe. “East Side and West Side.”
He then flips his hands top and bottom on the imaginary globe. “These are ends. North End. South End. See my point?”
Indeed I did, and it caused me pause. Had we been getting it wrong in print? Should we change our style and start referring to Mick’s neighborhood as the South End?
A week after talking with Mick, my wife and I were in Florida for a week-long vacation staying with friends there. One evening we all drove over to the South Florida Fair in Fort Lauderdale to catch a Dr. John concert. Walking through the midway, a carny yelled “Go Bucks” at me, as I was wearing my Woody-style Block-O ball cap.
“Go Bucks,” I yelled back.
“You from Columbus?” he asked.
“Pickerington,” I answered. “You?”
“South End,” he yelled back with a little fist-pump.
“Well I’ll be damned,” I thought.
After the vacation, I returned to work, still thinking about this South Side/South End thing. Despite what Donald Trump thinks, we journalists really do obsess over accuracy. I started asking around.
I emailed Danny Goodwin, the news editor on the Dispatch’s copy desk—a style guru if I’ve ever known one. Danny didn’t disappoint, explaining that the Dispatch has used “South Side” for as long as anyone knew. “I suspect it’s because while South End might make some sense, would Southwest End? Northeast End, etc.? Don’t think so, so we have a consistent way of saying our parts of the city: North Side, South Side, Northeast Side, Northwest Side, et al.”
It was a perfectly reasonable explanation. Brilliant, in fact, and I started to feel better. To be safe, though, I thought I’d reach out to Jane Grote Abell, chairwoman of Donatos Pizza and among the most accomplished of the South Siders/South Enders. Abell was instrumental in helping convert the century old Reeb Elementary into a full-service neighborhood center, complete with a pay-as-you-can restaurant, which I noted, is named the South Side Café.
Abell acknowledged that South End vs. South Side is “a long, drawn-out debate with no real clear answer.”
But then, she boldly weighed in.
“As I understand it, if you were born and raised on the south part of Columbus, you have inherited the right to refer to the south as the South End,” she wrote in an email. “If you are referring to the South Side of Columbus, but you were not born there, you should respectfully refer to it as the South Side.”
So it’s a birthright? Our local language has a home-field advantage? Fascinating.
Abell continued. “When Mayor Mike Coleman commissioned a group of people to develop a strategy and plan for the south part of Columbus, they called the group the South Side Commission. During those meetings, we debated what to call this neighborhood located on the south side of Columbus and agreed that it would be respectful to refer to the neighborhood as the South Side.”
“Good,” I thought. “South Side it is.” We not looking to offend unwittingly.
And lest anyone think Abell rude in her using the home-girl nomenclature, she proudly reserved the right. “I still refer to it as the South End, since I was born and raised in the neighborhood.”
Wonder how they feel on the North End?