Life in London: so many issues. Our inquisitive editor-at-large addresses the ones that nobody else dares (or cares) to. This week: the name game.
Bits of London are being renamed all around us. What used to be known as ‘The Strand’ is, according to property developers, now to be known as ‘Northbank’. Elephant and Castle’s Heygate Estate is to become ‘Elephant Park’. Holborn/Bloomsbury is ‘Midtown’. There’s ‘Silicon Roundabout’. ‘East Village’. And, on one stretch of Regent’s Canal, a group of businesses are trying to popularise the term ‘the Haggerston Riviera’. Don’t believe me? Check out haggerstonriviera.co.uk.
You can see why they do it. According to a rash of articles last week, initial scepticism about Midtown’s name has given way to hipster-chasing joints popping up all over the place. No-bookings proprietors are chasing estate agents down the street to bag themselves a nice spot for their artisan fried-chicken shop. The area previously known as ‘that bit to the side of Oxford Street’ now has central London’s fastest rising rents for businesses. What’s in a name? Shedloads of cash, apparently.
But give us norms a go, will ya? While committees are good for many things – plates of biccies, nodding, thinking about blue skies – the names they conjure up ain’t making anyone cartwheel down the street with joy. Thanks to stormed brains, the newly opened governmentfunded techno hub in King’s Cross has been named ‘The Digital Catapult Centre’. It was a meeting room that spewed out ‘ArcellorMittal Orbit’ – given the architectural acid-trip-cum-swirly rollercoaster that is Anish Kapoor’s Olympic Park monument, it should have been named ‘The Alton Towers Nightmare’. Or ‘Two Red Cranes Shagging The BT Tower’. Or at least ‘Dude! WTF!?!’
Us ordinary London-folk, however, are ace at names. The terms that peeps come up with for their area are self-aware and funny and clever in a way that people scratching their heads around a boardroom table could never manage. A good, tongue-in-cheek way to celebrate Walthamstow: ‘Awesomestow’. How to knowingly big up Croydon, despite it being a tad rough around the edges: ‘The Cronx’. A jokey way to reference the regeneration of Lewisham: try ‘Newisham’. Thus, I propose a new local government body: the Londoners’ Naming Bureau of Official Wickedness. In future, all London citizens will vote on any renaming. Capital letters will also be mandatory. Instead of the boring old ‘Garden Bridge’, think ‘THE TROPICAL PARADISE WALKWAY IN THE SKY’. ‘The Supersewer’ would become ‘THE GIANT POO PIPE THAT SAVED THE THAMES’. We’d dub the Olympic Park ‘THE GRASSY ARENA OF SUPERHUMAN ACHIEVEMENT’. And ‘driverless cars’ would become ‘ELECTRIC BRAINS ON WHEELS’. In no time at all, London will be a far more exciting place to live, with names so thrilling that outsiders will quiver with envy. And for our first act, we’d need to do something really important. Something massive. Something our city’s needed for years. We’d finally come up with a new name for Cockfosters.
Find out more of Alexi’s burning questions including ‘Should I apologise for being so great?’