Stray Camel Way. Sealed Message Road. Misty Rise. Fragile Sail Way.
All of these are actual street names in an actual Maryland county. Can you name it? Hint: There's plenty more where those came from.
This can, of course, be none other than Howard County, increasingly suburbanized namesake of Maryland's fifth governor, John Eager Howard, on the Patapsco River. It is home not only to one of the nation's premier planned communities, Columbia, but more dopey residential street names than you can shake a Sleepy Horse Lane at.
Outsiders usually get a kick out of this affectation, and those who have lived in Howard County long enough have become largely desensitized. Indeed, a more straightforward address might be even be upsetting to any longtime resident more accustomed to Silvery Star Path (yes, real) than to 12th Street (sorry, they don't have one).
But what is one to make of a county street called Coon Hunt Court? Several residents find it offensive, and, with the help of County Councilman Calvin Ball, they're launching a drive to have it changed.
This would not be especially notable except that Mr. Ball and others believe the name to be racist. While a "coon hunt" likely was originally intended as a pastoral reference to the longtime tradition of hunting raccoons, usually with dogs to track the animals by scent, it is also a term used in more recent years by certain white supremacists to describe trying to bait African-Americans into fights.
And, historically, the word "coon" has been used to describe black people in general and dates to at least the minstrel shows of the 19th century.
Howard County has a process by which residents can petition for a street name change, but it is expensive and time-consuming. That seems entirely appropriate if the petitioners wanted to change Rustling Bark Court (do you even have to ask?) to something less nonsensical.
Seven years ago, the residents of Satan Wood Drive decided they'd like to live under less devilish circumstances. The street wasn't even supposed to be named after Lucifer but "Satinwood." A tragic typo took hold at some point, and the name stuck.
If the hurdles those residents had to overcome seemed arduous for a mere misspelling — approval from 90 percent of a street's households and potentially several thousands of dollars to pay for such things as certified letters, a new street sign and revised legal drawings — it seems preposterous in cases of offensive street names.
Is Coon Hunt Lane offensive? Some residents found it so as early as 1969.
Yet, the county's requirements are not flexible. All six of the street's residents will have to agree to it, and the costs add up quickly: $290 from each homeowner at the time of application and then $250 for a new sign, up to $2,500 to change the land records and a bit more to advertise the change.
That strikes us as a bit onerous under the circumstances. When a street name is seen as racially insensitive or otherwise offensive, there's a public interest in the matter that transcends mere vanity, fashion or evolving public tastes. This is one street name change that deserves to be expedited — and the cost subsidized by the county.
After all, it isn't offensive only to those who live on it but anyone who becomes aware that Howard County would countenance such a name.
One of the qualities that has come to define Howard County is a desire to be inclusive and diverse. It was one of developer James Rouse's visions for Columbia and represents the kind of idealism that some may find politically correct but, in reality, has helped make one of Maryland's highest-income counties so welcoming to newcomers of all backgrounds and, as a result, spectacularly successful.