New York gives zoo a bad name

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

ASK ANY taxi-driver to drive to the Central Park zoo and he will most likely say something clever, such as 'Which zoo? The whole city is a zoo.'

This snappy comeback, often retold, finally got to the sensitive ears of the hierarchy of the New York Zoological Society, and they have decided that 'zoo' is a bad word and should be banned from their game parks. In future, all zoos in the New York area will be called Wildlife Conservation Parks.

Images spring instantly to mind of nature-starved, modish New York mothers and fathers on a Saturday morning asking their children if they would like to go the 'WCP (Bronx Division)'.

It won't happen, of course, but William Conway, the society's president, is determined and hopeful in that crusading manner Americans often adopt when they decide to tinker with English common usage.

'I've been here for 37 years and it's like changing my father's name,' Dr Conway admitted on the telephone from the Bronx zoo, 'but it's time to admit what we are and to try and do a better job: a visit to the zoo is an act of conservation.'

'We think 'zoo' is a bad word; it has an unfortunate second meaning,' Dr Conway added. 'In the American Heritage Dictionary the word 'zoo' is also a place marked by 'rampant confusion' or 'disorder'. We are not confused or disordered.'

'Local people calling Yankee Stadium the 'Bronx zoo' is the kind of thing I object to,' Dr Conway said. 'Also, ask anyone to draw a zoo and they start drawing bars; it's not the image we're trying to project.'

I said I had always wanted to visit the Bronx zoo and looked forward to dropping in on him. 'You are very welcome, but as from Monday if you call it that you'll never find it,' the defiant Dr Conway replied.