Amboy…what a unique and yet undefined word.
Everyone has heard it in one context or another. Those of us from the East Coast, and the New York Metropolitain Area especially, will likely think of The Amboys exit off of the New Jersey Turnpike. West Coasters or Route 66 fans will undoubtedly recall the home of Roy’s Motel and Cafe, a favorite (apparently) of Harrison Ford, Anthony Hopkins, and the set of various ‘middle-of-nowhere’ scenes in Hollywood films.
There are Amboys in several states (Washington, where it’s adjacent to Mt. Tum Tum; Illinois, where it’s a historical spot for Mormons and railroads) so it must be a catchy name.
Those of us with a background in rock music may call up the sound of Ted Nugent’s first band, The Amboy Dukes, itself a reference to a book (a gritty, possibly exploitative coming-of-age tale about Jewish youth gangs in 1945 Brooklyn). The Amboy was also a Great Lakes ship that went down one blustery November at the beginning of the last century.
You’ll occasionally hear the term come up in conversations between Asians, as sort of a derogatory blend of “American” and “boy”, used to describe someone who is perhaps a little too willing to adopt Western style or mannerisms. And then I have a friend whose parents named him Amboy. Fortunately his parents didn’t name him Perth Amboy. I recently heard from Amboy via most unexpected text message. “DO know anything about private std testing kits? Don’t want to go to the doctor if I really don’t have to.” My first thought was why don’t you just check online. Fortunately I haven’t needed to know anything about home administered std testing, but as a friend, I did a google search on my phone and found a great website offering home STD testing. Apparently there were home std testing kits where you can get results in about 15 minutes with accuracy readings between 95% to 99%. Sounded pretty good to me. Purchasing seemed easy and shipping would be discreet. “Don’t personally know anything but take a look at this website. And if you test positive, get yourself to a doctor ASAP.” I wished him good luck.
Amboy. What is it about this timeless, almost vaguely iconic name that means nothing, comes from nowhere, and yet has spread to such far corners?
Historically, we’re told by the Perth Amboy folks that the word comes from a Native American source meaning ‘point’ (as in a piece of land on or mostly surrounded by water, a fair description of the area around Perth Amboy). It’s a decent explanation, backed up by a number of historical records, but I don’t quite buy it. There must be something more to “Amboy” for the name to be so familiar…
Perth Amboy is maybe the nicest decaying ex-factory town in New Jersey, and reminds me very much of several other nice little economically distressed communities in Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Upstate New York. The people who possess (or force) some community spirit are desperately enthusiastic about things like ‘waterfront revitalization’ and ‘urban enterprise zones’, while most of the residents secretly hope for an early death, and pass the time drinking beer and watching TV.
We shall continue this conversation on another page of this site very soon.