Wednesday, 01 September 2010

Rows, by any other name Today's Telegraph has a piece about embarrassing or stigmatised street names. Changing the name of a street is an expensive and lengthy process, as the article points out, and risks washing away some valued nuggets of local history. Often these are not just rows of houses, but places with an accumulated shared history. Whatever is wrong with 'Brewery Street'? Let's take a closer look. Apparently the inhabitants of Butt Hole Road had to put up with coach loads of US tourists visiting to have their pictures taken near the road sign... - so I can certainly understand the motivation there, as in circumstances which involve nothing more complicated than confirming one's address over the phone to a tedious tittering office twat. But where we English excel is in our unfailing adherence to the tradition of snobbery, and some street name changes can only be accounted for in terms of collective snobbery. Like these examples cited: Residents of Whiteway Avenue, near Bath, changed their street to the more picturesque Englishcombe Rise, because of the "negative connotations" of sharing a name with a nearby suburb called Whiteway. In Walsall, part of Beddows Road was renamed Lavender Grove because the old name had become associated with a high crime rate and anti social behaviour. ...In Bournemouth, Derby Road was changed to Garden Views because the new name was "perceived to have more desirable connotations". The real interest now could be in what effect, if any, these changes have had. 'Beddows' may smell as sweet as 'Lavender' but do people there and in surrounding streets genuinely perceive a difference that is measurable not solely in house prices?

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