State senator Russel Pearce explains how he realized the need for the change, "I was driving home from shooting prairie dogs with my four year old granddaughter and as we drove through Mesa, she asked, 'Grandpa, what does Mesa mean?' and I didn't know. I didn't have a good answer for her. Can you imagine how humiliating that was?"
While Pearce was telling the story to Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was giving a cavity search to a Hispanic he suspected of being an illegal immigrant, and the suspect told Pearce that "mesa" was the Spanish word for "table" and that lots of place names in Arizona were Spanish. The suspect lost consciousness and was loaded in the back of a truck to be dumped over the border before he could elaborate.
Pearce then examined a map with several of his colleagues and realized they did not know the meaning of most of the place names in the state, and decided that they must be changed so that other parents and grandparents would not be embarrassed in the same way Pearce was, or worse, have to tell their children that a place, maybe even the city they live in, was named by Mexicans.
One passing Democrat said some of the names were Native American, which further enraged the conservatives. "We killed them, we killed damn near ALL of them," one legislator said. "Why should we be reminded that they used to be squatting on our state before we got here and undo all that killing?"
State legislators are divided on how to remedy the language problem though.
Half want to simply change the present names to English words that sound like the current ones. Tucson would become Two songs, Phoenix would become Fee Nix, Mesa would become Messy, and so on.
The other half, including Pearce, want to translate the offending foreign names. Pearce said, ''Phoenix is some kind of dead bird that comes back to life after being burned to ashes in their religion, so we would call the city "Ashy Bird." Tucson would become Volcano Bottom, and Tempe would become Tampon.
"Once we fix this, we will have to figure out how to deal with other states that have the same problem like New Mexico, California, Rhode Island," said Pearce. "We will probably boycott states until they follow our example and change to real American names. They don't seem to understand what this country is about."
Legislators are also considering keeping one token Spanish name to acknowledge that some Mexicans come here legally and know their place. "We might even change the name of Phoenix to a different Spanish word, 'Pendejo,' which my legal Hispanic friends tells me means 'beautiful pendant.'"