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, league Center (e.g. Centre for Immigration Policy Reform, “a not-for-profit national organization of citizens”)
Bureau, desk, office Center (e.g. complaint center, claims center)
Arena, Gardens, etc. (Sports) Center (e.g. Montreal Forum replaced by [Current Sponsor] Center)
Asylum Mental health center
Bank Banking center (so called by Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce)
Blood bank Blood center
Boarding kennels Boarding center
Body shop Collision center
Bowling alley Bowling center
Box office Ticket center
Brokerage Investor center
Building, Tower, etc. Center
Casino Gaming center
Church Worship center
Clinic Health center (also Dental center, Eye center, etc.)
Club Friendship center
Command post, headquarters Command and control center
Concert hall, opera house, theatre Performing arts center
Consultancy Delivery center
Court House Judicial Center
Data bank Data center
Database Information center (E.g. Canadian Police Information Center)
Depot, station Transit center
Drunk tank Sobering center
Dump Waste management center
Emergency shelter Emergency center
Exhibit Appreciation center (Henry Moore Appreciation Center at Art Gallery of Ontario; renamed Henry Moore Sculpture Center)
Experimental station, laboratory Research center
Garden Horticulture center (see also Nursery)
Gymnasium Fitness center
Hardware store, lumberyard Home center
Hospital Medical center
Jail Detention center (see also Prison, Reform school)
List Center (Favorites Center in some versions of Internet Explorer)
Lodge Center (e.g. Masonic Center)
Mailbox Message center
Meeting hall Convention center
Memorial Memorial center (Oklahoma City National Memorial Center—thankfully renamed Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum)
Mosque Islamic center
Multimedia computer Media center
Museum Interpretive center
Newsstand News center
Nursery Garden center (see also Garden)
Nursing home Care center
Optical dispensary Vision center
Oven Baking center (at Subway sandwich shops)
Pharmacy Medicine center
Planetarium Space center; Center of the Universe
Playground, party room Play center
Playroom Activity center
Polling place Voting center
Pool Aquatic center
Pool hall Billiards center
Power plant Energy center (Portlands Energy Center in Toronto)
Preschool Early childhood center
Printing plant Press center (e.g. Toronto Star)
Prison Correctional center (see also Jail)
Rack, Shelf Center (displays in stores called Battery Center, etc.)
Recruiting station Armed Forces Career Center (U.S.)
Reform school Youth center
Region Center (Coastal Fire Centre—a region of British Columbia demarcated for purposes of controlling wildfires)
Registry Center (Canadian Firearms Center, now called Canadian Firearms Program)
Retreat house Center for spirituality
Rental office Welcome center
Rink Ice center
Sales office Discovery 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.)
Sawbench Cutting center (at Home Depot stores)
School Learning center
Shop, Store Center
Sledding track Sliding center (Olympics venue at Whistler)
Soup kitchen Meal center
Studio Broadcast center (CBC Broadcast Center)
System application Action center (In Windows 7; note also various Control Panel applications called Centers.)
Terminal Flight center (E.g. seaplane terminal in Vancouver Harbour.)
Travel agency Travel center
Used-car lot Pre-owned center
Vending machines Refreshment center
Warehouse Distribution center

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