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Anyone at all familiar with Billings has a pretty good idea of what is meant by the Heights.

With a slightly more fine-tuned familiarity, you would know what is denoted by the Bench and Alkali Creek, the two main sub-sections of the Heights.

The South Side is also fairly identifiable, although it's hard to say where the South Side blends into that area of town sometimes known as the Southwest Corridor or even South Billings.

As a phrase, the North Side isn't used all that much, but the area of town it describes is easily recognizable, taking in everything east of North 27th Street, and from Sixth Avenue North to the Rims.

A few other areas of town are well known to most locals, including Briarwood, Ironwood, the Tree Streets, the Conoco Triangle and that newcomer, Rehberg Estates.

The one identifier that satisfies no one, leads to no end of confusion and whose boundaries are wildly different depending on who is asked, is the West End. This is largely our fault, because we in the news biz rely on geographical descriptors, particularly in headlines, which we try to pack with information.

Most people would never use a phrase like West End to describe where they live. And among people who do? Here in The Gazette newsroom, my colleagues will tell you that the West End is everything west of Division Street ... or Fifth Street West ... or Eighth Street West.

Go west, young geographer

I hold out for 24th Street West, partly because beyond there is where all the new growth has been in recent years. If you think the West End begins as far east as Division, something like 90 percent of the city outside of the Heights would be included in the West End.

In continental terms, that would be like saying the West begins at the Ohio River. In fact, a long time ago, the West did begin there, but the border moved as "the West" filled up.

I think the same process is happening in Billings. As the West End expands ever closer to Laurel, we can't continue to say that areas tucked up against the downtown are in the West End.

This became an issue again lately when we referred in a headline and news stories to the Ponderosa Acres apartment complex, located between Central Avenue and Monad Road off 12th Street West, as being in the West End.

That just seems wrong to me, both because it's quite far south and because it is so close to that conglomeration of warehouses and industrial plants around Monad Road, which seems to be its own world rather than part of the West End.

Your chance to weigh in

In the online version of today's Gazette we are running an informal poll, asking people where they think the West End starts. If you have something more to say on the subject, drop me a line. My email address is shown above, under my mug.

I would suggest scrapping "West End" altogether and finding distinct names for the various parts of it. Everything west of 32nd Street West and north of Central Avenue could be Sprawlville, and everything between Central Avenue and Rimrock Road, from 24th to 32nd Street West, could be Mallville.

The area south of Central and west of 32nd, consisting mostly of '70s-era subdivisions with a tangle of streets that confounds non-residents, could be the Bermuda Triangle, or the Black Hole.

That rectangle of land I mentioned earlier, dominated by industrial plants and warehouses between Laurel Road and 20th Street West, and from King Avenue to Central? How about Monadia?

For the area north of Central to Rimrock, from 15th to 24th Street West, I nominate West Parkistan. Everything east of 32nd Street West and north of Rimrock -- that whole swath of houses perched beneath the unstable Rims -- could be known as Tumble Town, or Gravityville.

That leaves only the area between Division and 15th, from Rimrock to Central. It is the only section of Billings where virtually every street is straight and follows a rigid north-south, east-west grid. Engineeria? Dullsville? Eisenhowerland?

Magic Citians, let us know what you think.

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