Thursday, April 28, 2011

Rethinking SoHud: The Case for Getting it Right

It seems that SoHud is winning the battle for my neighborhood's nickname. This is regrettable, but at this point likely unavoidable.

For the uninitiated, I live in the University District in Columbus, Ohio; a few blocks south of Hudson Street. Hudson is an almost major east-west artery that separates our neighborhood from an arguably nicer neighborhood to the north. Ours is an in-between area. To my knowledge it's never had an official name; at least not one that's lasted into the 21st century. I've heard it referred to variously as North Campus, The University District, Old North Columbus, Baja Clintonville, Washington Beach, SoHu, and SoHud. Sadly, at this stage, the SoHud designator is gaining traction and seems poised to stick.

Our friends at Wild Goose Creative have adopted it for their mural project. A group of affiliated musicians use it to describe their music collective. Perhaps most importantly, the taste-makers at Columbus Underground favor SoHud over SoHu (pronounced So-who) by a wide margin. As evidence, a search of the CU messageboard for SoHu yields a paltry handful of hits, while SoHud racks up page after page of results.

Personally I prefer SoHu. In fact, I prefer it enough that I'm willing to devote a blog post to it. Frankly (and for the life of me) I can't figure out why the SoHu moniker didn't carry the day. It's been around longer than SoHud; of that I'm nearly certain. I first heard the area referred to as SoHu when I lived on Indiana Avenue back in 1993. As early as 2005 it had gained acceptance on the local music messageboard Donewaiting. SoHud, by comparison is clearly a johnny come lately, having only become fashionable in the last three or four years.

SoHu also shares a much closer linguistic relationship to its more famous cousin SoHo (south of Houston in New York City). Both are four letters long and both end in open syllables (i.e. nothing comes after the final vowel sound). They're separated by only one letter, and even that's in accordance with the order of the alphabet. Seen side by side, the names SoHo and SoHu also serve to create a powerful semiotic relationship. They look similar and invite mental comparisons. Considering the fact that SoHu stakeholders see potential in the area as a burgeoning creative neighborhood I'd think these are exactly the kinds of relationships they'd want to invite.

SoHud, by comparison, is more or less an abomination. Linguistically, it trips off the tongue with reckless abandon and screeches to a halt with a hard consonant "d". It lacks visual symmetry and doesn't invite the same relational comparisons to SoHo that SoHu does. Most importantly, ask yourself this: is there a less elegant syllable in the English language than "ud", the anchor of such unattractive words as crud, dud, spud, thud, mud and pud? I'm not sure there is.

That people would ignore all this and continue referring to the area south of Hudson as SoHud is just baffling to me. I understand that in the world of user generated content, crowdsourcing, user tags and the like people have great influence when it comes to establishing language and brands. While I'm in favor of this kind of democratization, I also recognize that the people won't always get it right. In the case of SoHud, they haven't. SoHu is objectively a better name. Sadly, it appears it's not the one we'll get. For my part I'll keeping calling it SoHu and be thankful we didn't end up being called The Hud District.

Thanks to Keith M (formerly Columbsite) and Zach Henkel for taking pictures and documenting our neighborhood. More info and pics can be found on the Urban Ohio Forums


  1. I agree - SoHu is much better than SoHud - that's how we referred to the neighborhood when we lived there.

  2. This has been an interesting exercise. The question has generated conversations on Columbus Underground and Twitter both, with no clear preference being established. Some people like SoHu, some people like SoHud, and some hate them both; preferring North Campus or Old North Columbus instead.

    Honestly, I'd be satisfied with any of them... except for SoHud! It simply sounds awful, awful and unattractive.

    It starts with so, and ends with a (th)ud.

  3. It's hard to believe that a resident of the neighborhood would be proud to call it SoHud. It really sounds kind of disparaging doesn't it. Hopefully it's usage will lose traction and a nicer less ud'ish moniker will prevail. I for one would never say that my friend Jeff lives in a place called SoHud!

  4. Google maps is now referring to the area as SoHud. Check it.

    I particularly don't like the the HUD part and its parallel to the acronym for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Like it is in need of redevelopment or something? Not a fan.

  5. I'm not a fan of the -Hud part, either. SoHu would be a much better choice, though ever since I moved here a few years ago my circle has just referred to it as Washington Beach.

    Old North is honestly my favorite moniker, though. It feels a lot more... native? Like nobody's trying to cover up or force out Columbus history by giving it a twee little name.