In Elizabeth Gilbert's wise, hilarious book "Eat, Pray, Love," there is a brief digression about cities and words. Every city, Elizabeth's Italian friend Giulio insists, has a single word that defines it not just a description but a single thought that is most often on its residents' minds.
For Rome, Giulio explains, that word is SEX.
Isn't that a stereotype? Gilbert asks. No, says Giulio, sex is literally what everyone in Rome is thinking about, all day, every day. What about at the Vatican? Gilbert asks. "They have a different word over there," Giulio says. "Their word is POWER."
As for Naples, he says, the word would be FIGHT.
Then Gilbert adds to the lexicon: The thought most on New Yorkers' minds, she decides, is ACHIEVE; and for Los Angeles it's a "subtly but significantly different" word, SUCCEED.
Giulio's challenge to find a defining word for the world's cities a word that seems to both hover over and seep from the pores of a place raises the obvious question: What about Salt Lake City? What would our word be?
Not SEX probably. But what about its less lusty and more diligent cousin, PROCREATE?
Or, along those same lines, LABOR which encompasses not only the birth process but the state's official motto, "industry."
Or would PROCREATE and LABOR be Utah's words? Would Salt Lake City have a completely different word than the rest of the state? Would Salt Lake City's word be, say, REBEL, and Utah's be OBEY? Would Salt Lake City's be CAFFEINE and Utah's be ICE CREAM?
Or is there some unifying thought on the minds of most of us no matter whether we live in Salina or Sugar House? The verb RECREATE, perhaps. Or CONTRIBUTE.
Or, says KSL radio host Amanda Dickson, how about FAITH? Not just the obvious nod to the state's dominant religion but also the faith the pioneers had that this barren valley would flourish, she says, and the faith we had to host the Olympics, and the faith even now "to have big families, the faith that somehow we'll have enough money to feed them and educate them."
Which brings us back to PROCREATE, or perhaps POPULATE, which is what you might suppose would be University of Utah demographer Pam Perlich's suggestion. But actually she offers the word BEAUTY. Surely Utahns are always thinking about the natural beauty that surrounds them here, she says.
Salt Lake lawyer Pat Shea picks PRETENSE. Salt Lake sculptor/visionary Stephen Goldsmith picks POSSIBILITY.
Which is sort of like one of Utah legislator Greg Hughes' words: ASPIRE. Hughes also suggests USEFUL, HEALTHY and CLEAN a clean living that is mirrored by the cleanliness of the city itself.
That's probably a better note to end on than GUILT.Send us your word.
E-mail: [email protected]