Photo courtesy of
‘Because This Motorist’s Car Had Failed the Carbon Monoxide and Hydrocarbon Emissions Test a Second Time…09/1975’
courtesy of ‘The U.S. National Archives’

There’s nothing I hate like a contrived nickname. It’s only barely better than a nickname you’ve given yourself, which as we all know is verboten. But Paul Farhi has a piece in today’s Post about “The DMV” which refers to “The District, Maryland and Virginia.” I don’t know about you, but what I think of when I hear that awful acronym is the Department of Motor Vehicles. You know, the place you have to go once every couple of years, to fill out lengthy forms with obscure automotive references and detailed personal information, and to be reminded of the soul-crushing bureaucracy required to do anything related to the government. That’s not what I want to associate my home with, really, and I just don’t understand it.

Paul Farhi says that it dates back to Channel 9’s original name: “Actually, long before then, Washington’s Channel 9 was known as WDMV-TV, which stood for “the District, Maryland and Virginia.” But WDMV died long before the current vogue for “the DMV” (the call letters live on at a small AM radio station in Walkersville, Md.).” But, as William Yurasko points out, that’s just not the case: “Actually, Channel 9 was known as WDVM.”

That kinda guts Farhi’s whole “historical angle,” doesn’t it? I really think this nickname should die a horrific death. We’re “the Washington DC area,” or, for those who live inside the bounds, “The District.” We’re also The Nation’s Capital, if you want to get fancy, or the Greater Washington Metropolitan Area. But The DMV? No thank you. Sorry, Paul Farhi.

I live and work in the District of Columbia. I write at We Love DC, a blog I helped start, I work at Technolutionary, a company I helped start, and I’m happy doing both. I enjoy watching baseball, cooking, and gardening. I grow a mean pepper, keep a clean scorebook, and wash the dishes when I’m done. Read Why I Love DC.

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14 thoughts on “The DMV

  1. I disagree. I think that ‘the DMV area’ is appropriate for a place where the soul-crushing Federal bureaucracy is based.

  2. I’m also going to have to disagree Tom, I always liked the name DMV. It reps all three areas as opposed to just one with “The DC Area.” Our local area is made of so much more than what’s inside the District and I think DMV applies much better.

  3. DMV is annoying to me. There’s already Department of Motor Vehicles but also DelMarVa (Delaware Maryland Virginia). Just stop.

  4. I would estimate that there is a healthy percentage of the DMV population using said term to describe home. There’s radio stations in this town using “DMV” pretty much exclusivly when describing this town. It’s in song lyrics. It’s in graffiti. It’s all over the place. You’ve been white washed. Seek more cultural diversity. The Post article you failed to link to does a good job of explaining it actually.

  5. the post article doesn’t make it explicit, but this is one of those things where there really is a cultural divide in the area. the use of ‘the DMV’ to describe the region is definitely more of an african-american appellation than a white one, plain and simple.

  6. I agree with Brandon and especially Shawn. You cherry-picked the comment in the article about WDMV when Farhi clearly states that the origins are actually traced back to the area’s local hip-hop culture and has been used for years as a regional identifier in those circles.

    I for one like the name as it heralds from a music and arts community unique to our area (go-go and hip-hop) rather than continuing to portray DC as just an area awash in politicians and bureaucrats.

  7. Yeah, I don’t think it’s so bad. I’ve heard the acronym on the radio quite a bit for a while.

    I don’t understand how the DMV reminds you of a “soul-crushing bureaucracy required to do anything related to the government” and the others don’t.

  8. I am 100% with Brandon, I think DMV is a very apt name for a place where government bureaucracy is what we do. While I don’t generally feel my life ebbing away from me as acutely as I do at the Dept. of Motor Vehicles, there are moments where it is on the same level; the metro, in traffic….

  9. Thanks, Tom. I can’t say as I’m fond of it either. It’s like opening a restaurant called “The Dentist”. And I was pretty sure Channel 9 was WDVM. But what do I know? I just grew up here.

  10. I’ve read and heard DMV used to describe the DC metro area, but I’ve never liked it. Too contrived and too much dept motor vehicles.

    When I say DC area, or DC metro, it’s understood that I mean inside the Beltway. If I’m talking about Loudoun Co, then I typically say NoVA. If I mean the District, I say DC or the District. It’s not confusing.

  11. I first noticed its use as a local “trending topic” on Twitter. I just figured that a LOT of people were tweeting that they were stuck in line at the DMV.
    I kind of like that it sounds like “DMZ”
    Sorry, TB, I don’t think it’s going anywhere

  12. Calling the area “The DMV” isn’t something that will “catch on”, but a term that a good majority of people have been using for a while to refer to the area. I grew up here and have been hearing it as long as I can remember. News stories that call something a “trend” just because it’s new to the author are irritating.