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Kerzman: Are we OK with copycat snowplow names?

Our strategic levels of punny snowplow names appear to be at a critical low, America.

Fargo's snowplow fleet ready for action
A fleet of snowplows stands ready in 2013 in Fargo.
Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
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I don’t mean to alarm anyone, but there appears to be an issue with how we’re choosing the names for snowplows.

The North Dakota Department of Transportation released the newest names for its snowplows this week after choosing them in a fashion that has become popular over the last few years in most of the snowy states: by allowing the public to submit their ideas and then choosing their favorites.

The names chosen for North Dakota are Plowabunga, Scoop Dogg, Big Leplowski, Plow Force One, Austin Plowers, CtrlSaltDelete, Sleetwood Mac and Blizzard Buster.

If you’ve been paying attention to snowplow-naming contests over the years (and with names like this, it’s kinda hard not to), you can probably see the issue.

Almost all of them appear to be duplicates of names from other states.

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A “Plowabunga” already goes gung-ho on snow in Nebraska. Plows named “Big Leplowski” tie the roads together in Minnesota, Washington and Wisconsin. In addition to being names of plows in other states, “Scoop Dogg” and “Blizzard Buster” are also names for snow removal products.

It’s a sad irony that there are billions upon billions of perfectly unique snowflakes and only a shovel’s worth of names for the machines that push them around.

Why should we care about this, you may ask? Well, how funny is it to keep hearing the same dad joke you’ve already heard? (We know you hate them, by the way, and that’s why we keep telling them.)

NDDOT can’t shoulder too much blame here. Crowdsourcing names like this is an excellent engagement tactic, but like I-29 conditions during a ground blizzard, submitted plow names are going to be a shifting uncertainty. What a plow is named when it clears the way for travel and commerce is a low priority.

The agency received 890 submissions for names, an NDDOT spokesperson told The Forum. The submissions were broken out by district and voted on by NDDOT employees. They, too, noticed that the best ones they got were duplicates, but what are they gonna do? Return them for a refund? As busy public servants, they did the best with what they had.

Plus, it’s certainly not their fault that this same phenomenon is happening across the country.

Same goes for those North Dakotans who made submissions. Regular folks staring five brutal months of winter in the face can’t be blamed for some synchronicity, or even a little lazy Googling, although they’d better be humble as heck when they get their snowplow selfie.

No, the problem here is that we’ve plowed ourselves into a corner with strokes of genius like “Betty Whiteout” and “Darth Blader.” You can only fish out so many brilliant snowplow puns before that slough freezes over.

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I mean, just look at my lame contributions:

  • “Plow Jones Index”? Too stiff.
  • “Blades of Steel”? A deft reference to a well-regarded 1987 NES hockey game, yes, but too niche to really pop.
  • “Chairman Plow”? A Communist? On OUR plows?!

We need some new ideas, America.
We need new crowdsourced public asset naming conventions.

We need a bold vision that meets the moment and accepts the challenge of a population strung out on clever-pun-snowplow-naming fatigue.

Anything less will just be a Saddy McSadFace.

Related Topics: NORTH DAKOTAMINNESOTA
Kris Kerzman is the social media manager for InForum.
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