Wednesday, April 07, 2010

 

Small Hell

A name is the first signal a place gives out about itself, and should give some sensible information, or even just an impression about the area, that is vaguely accurate. Like Hull. A hull, well it is an empty shell that has been discarded. The name Hull gives a sense of a place that once held something, but no longer does. A place that is a natural and useful housing for something, unlike, say, the unnecessary extra piece of polythene wrapping that goes around a box of tea.

A slightly flattering placename works fine as well. "Great Missenden". Well "Great" is pushing it slightly, but it is the best Missenden around, so that is fine by me. A bit of boasting is good for the esteem of the inhabitants of a place. They will be more likely to prune their trees and take the bins in, or refrain from leaving stained matresses in the streets. Great Missenden - another well named place.

Place names that really dig into the sides of my hole, though are diminutive country names, given to small, unremarkable areas within a town. "Little Italy", "China Town". These labels only describe the ethnicity of the people who live there, and signal to middle class people, the fact that you might be able to get your hands on some buffalo Mozzarella or a pot of bear bile for a "themed" dinner party. I hate those places. If I want to go to Italy, I'll fucking go - but I don't, because I have already been and it was grubby and full of wankers. As for China - well I lived there for ages and I am going off to live there again in a couple of months, so really, I am all fine for bear bile and chickens feet, thank you. But despite being irritating places full of annoying nationalities and fawning foreigners oohing and aahing over coloured pasta or mooncakes and despite being sickeningly irritating concepts, Little Italy and China Town are, nonetheless, relatively well named places. I would prefer "Italian district" and "China district" but not enough that I thought to bother studying town planning at university and then go out and get a job naming areas. I am not a completely boring cunt.

No, The worst named place in the world for me, worse than anything starting with "Democratic Republic" that clearly is not one at all, or even those ones with dumb names like "Fuckey's Hole", worse, far worse than that is the place called "Swiss Cottage". It just isn't either, is it? It is neither Swiss, nor a cottage. Well it isn't. Is it a diminutive swiss dwelling? No it is not. It is a grubby hole near St Johns Wood? How is it Swiss? Does it have Nazi gold underfoot, a clinic where you can take your own life and a machine that could reduce the universe to a heaving void of dark matter? Does it avoid wars, and whittle dark, endangered, wood into birds on springs, and then coil them into dark recessed boxes, that they may unfurl to mark the passing of time? Does it have a chocolate factory? Do they eat dog meat in the mountains of North London? I think they don't. And don't you fucking taxi driving cockneys start up: "Actually, Swiss Cottage is named after a pub", because I know that, but how is that suddenly ok? Will we rename Knightsbridge "Harvey Nicks Fifth Floor" or Kingston upon Thames might decide to be known as "Yates' Wine Bar"? God, there'd be a scrum on for which crappy district should take the name Wetherspoons, although my money is fairly firmly on Wimbledon for that one. And what about the many, many people in Britain now who pursue a dry religion? Would they be happy to know that their address is 16a Tessa Sanderson House, Pig and Whistle, London SW11. I don't fucking think they would like that. So there you have it, on technical and religious grounds, the name Swiss Cottage is not ok. Call it "Quite convenient Grey Hole" instead.
Noreen

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