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The Center Center

or, if you prefer,

The Centre Centre

by Peter Donnelly

Have you noticed how many places have become “centers” (or “centres”)? Not only does every second shop and clinic call itself Fred’s Carpet Center or Central Dental Center, but it is virtually guaranteed that any large new public edifice, whether it be a basketball court or a live theatre, will be named the [Corporate Sponsor] Center.

This nasty, bland little word is threatening to drive to extinction a host of English words that have a lot more color and meaning.

Perhaps it is because everyone wants to be seen as being at the center, not at the periphery. Perhaps it's because we don't want to define things too narrowly, so we choose the vaguest possible word. In some cases (like “Correctional Center” and “Canadian Firearms Center”) it is pure euphemism.

Whatever the reasons behind the phenomenon, it deserves its own Web page, so here it is. The following is a list of some of the words and phrases being driven out of the language by that one-size-fits-all word. I haven’t made any of these up—I’ve seen at least one example of each.

Association, organization, group, leagueCenter(e.g. Centre for Immigration Policy Reform, “a not-for-profit national organization of citizens”)
Bureau, desk, officeCenter(e.g. complaint center, claims center)
Arena, Gardens, etc.(Sports) Center(e.g. Montreal Forum replaced by [Current Sponsor] Center)
AsylumMental health center
BankBanking center(so called by Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce)
Blood bankBlood center
Boarding kennelsBoarding center
Body shopCollision center
Bowling alleyBowling center
Box officeTicket center
BrokerageInvestor center
Building, Tower, etc.Center
CasinoGaming center
ChurchWorship center
ClinicHealth center(also Dental center, Eye center, etc.)
ClubFriendship center
Command post, headquartersCommand and control center
Concert hall, opera house, theatrePerforming arts center
ConsultancyDelivery center
Court HouseJudicial Center
Data bankData center
DatabaseInformation center(E.g. Canadian Police Information Center)
Depot, stationTransit center
Drunk tankSobering center
DumpWaste management center
Emergency shelterEmergency center
ExhibitAppreciation center(Henry Moore Appreciation Center at Art Gallery of Ontario; renamed Henry Moore Sculpture Center)
Experimental station, laboratoryResearch center
GardenHorticulture center(see also Nursery)
GymnasiumFitness center
Hardware store, lumberyardHome center
HospitalMedical center
JailDetention center(see also Prison, Reform school)
ListCenter(Favorites Center in some versions of Internet Explorer)
LodgeCenter(e.g. Masonic Center)
MailboxMessage center
Meeting hallConvention center
MemorialMemorial center(Oklahoma City National Memorial Center—thankfully renamed Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum)
MosqueIslamic center
Multimedia computerMedia center
MuseumInterpretive center
NewsstandNews center
NurseryGarden center(see also Garden)
Nursing homeCare center
Optical dispensaryVision center
OvenBaking center(at Subway sandwich shops)
PharmacyMedicine center
PlanetariumSpace center; Center of the Universe
Playground, party roomPlay center
PlayroomActivity center
Polling placeVoting center
PoolAquatic center
Pool hallBilliards center
Power plantEnergy center(Portlands Energy Center in Toronto)
PreschoolEarly childhood center
Printing plantPress center(e.g. Toronto Star)
PrisonCorrectional center(see also Jail)
Rack, ShelfCenter(displays in stores called Battery Center, etc.)
Recruiting stationArmed Forces Career Center(U.S.)
Reform schoolYouth center
RegionCenter(Coastal Fire Centre—a region of British Columbia demarcated for purposes of controlling wildfires)
RegistryCenter(Canadian Firearms Center, now called Canadian Firearms Program)
Retreat houseCenter for spirituality
Rental officeWelcome center
RinkIce center
Sales officeDiscovery center(For a townhouse development, though it took some research to discover the meaning of the sign. Other “Discovery centers” are museums, kindergartens, public relations offices, etc.)
SawbenchCutting center(at Home Depot stores)
SchoolLearning center
Shop, StoreCenter
Sledding trackSliding center(Olympics venue at Whistler)
Soup kitchenMeal center
StudioBroadcast center(CBC Broadcast Center)
System applicationAction center(In Windows 7; note also various Control Panel applications called Centers.)
TerminalFlight center(E.g. seaplane terminal in Vancouver Harbour.)
Travel agencyTravel center
Used-car lotPre-owned center
Vending machinesRefreshment center
WarehouseDistribution center