I recently looked up Ventura in the superb book California Place Names, by Erwin G. Gudde (pronounced “goody”), and discovered that it was shortened from San Buenaventura in 1891 by the Post Office, which was tired of dealing with the confusion caused by its resemblance to San Bernardino. The entry includes this plangent obituary for the name, by Z.S. Eldredge:

And now comes the Post Office Dept., which is the most potent destroyer of all. I have spoken before of the injury done the people of San Buenaventura. They cling to that name and use it among themselves. But they are doomed. Mapmakers, from the Director of the Geological Survey to the publisher of a pocket guide following the lead of the post office, call the place Ventura, and the historic name will be lost. (San Francisco Chronicle, Apr. 10, 1905)

This is how I feel about enforced name changes, as regular readers know, and I am glad to see it so well expressed.


  1. dungbeetle says

    luv reading these man made idiosyncrancies of proving their power and manhood. Who am I? If i am named Evan , am I johan,sean, ian,iain, ivan jonathon, juan or john et al: I have been named “hey you” and “your parents were not Married” but I go along the great Bard who I will paraphase :” A rose by any name Is still a rose.
    We must use words to commune with, not disenfrancise. When a Political group takes over from another It likes to do that animal trait and mark the spot with the new scent.There are too many instances in History, that this name marking has taken place, as long one group believes it is the most knowledgabe and righteous, It will Continual give jobs to etymolgists.

  2. Well said!

  3. How interesting. I went to high school in Ventura. The people do not cling, but neither have they forgotten. I still remember cool old signs that said “City of San Buenaventura” all over. The two high schools were named “Buena” and “Ventura”. I thought I had even seen the name on official-looking seals of some variety or other. No one I knew who lived there was unaware of the city’s original name. Remnants, I suppose.
    I was, however, unaware that the Post Office had changed it. I had thought it was just a natural evolution; so many things in language naturally evolve toward the shorter, the quicker, the easier to pronounce.
    My something-new learned for the day. Thank you.

  4. And thank you for letting me know that the old name is still hanging on! Another example of popular stubbornness parallel to Sixth Avenue in NYC (which has officially been Avenue of the Americas for decades).

  5. You’re quite welcome! I hoped I wasn’t telling you anything you didn’t already know (I wasn’t sure whether you were looking up Ventura because you lived there). 🙂

  6. No, I looked it up because I recently visited my family in Santa Barbara and my brother drove us to Ojai, and as we passed through Ventura County I wondered “Say, why is it called Ventura?” And the rest is history.

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