All but the tiniest of roads have to have names so they can be located on a map, and so people can ask directions to them. Bridges less so, but Americans name a lot of them, too.
Very often these arteries carry an obvious geographical reference - the Pennsylvania Turnpike, for instance.
Or, like the George Washington Bridge, roads and bridges and tunnels are named for famous historical figures or fallen military or law-enforcement officers.
We make a big deal out of naming things, as when someone decided to name an airport after a former U.S. Supreme Court justice.
So now we have the Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.
Many, if not most, of our college buildings are named for wealthy people who gave a lot of money to the schools. And our sports arenas and stadiums took this idea a step further.
If Virginia’s governor has his way, you’ll see lots of signs like this in his state. This highway, named for an engineer who’s likely obscure to 99.9 percent of those who travel the road, is in Alaska.
Corporations paid a whole lot of money for what’s called the “naming rights” to U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, for instance, and Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.
Now the governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell, wants to sell naming rights to roads, bridges, and intersections in the state.
He says not just companies, but also wealthy individuals, would help the cash-strapped Virginia transportation budget by paying to have their names - or perhaps those of loved ones - placed on roads and bridges, and thus on maps as well.
The reaction has been mixed. Supporters say Americans are used to having things sponsored and wouldn’t mind a bit traveling on the Coke Zero Expressway across the Nationwide Insurance Bridge out into the Virginia countryside.
Others mock the idea as the next step in the “corporatization of America.” They wonder how far such an idea might spread, and where it would end: at the Burger King Pacific Ocean, perhaps.