The GardenDespatches from The Satyrs’ Forest

The toponymic bankruptcy crisis

Two street signs, one labelled Birch Street, the other Bob Marleystraat

Oak Street. Acacia Grove. Orchard Way. These are all streets in my local area… and probably in yours as well. And this has to stop.

Tree theme naming is the final vestige of the toponymically bankrupt planner: the man with no connection to his local area, who hasn’t an original bone in his body, and who has a pathological fear of causing even the slightest offence or puzzlement to anyone else. The famous roads of Britain — Oxford Street, Northumberland Street, Watling Street, the Great North Road — all have characteristic, descriptive names which reflect their environs’ history. Not so for the pedestrian Elm Streets of the world.

Perhaps this is a uniquely British sickness. In America, they prefer a neurotic obsession with rectilinear grids and similarly plain street names — Main Street, Second Avenue, Fourth Street, and so on until the end of the world — while the Netherlands, where i grew up, is home to a positive cornucopia of diversity in road toponymy. In Almere alone — a planned city with no local history to speak of, the optimum place to give up and resort to arboreal laziness — there are districts themed after musicians (Jimi Hendrixstraat), fruits (Ananasstraat), Gods (Donarstraat), even particle physics (Elementendreef). But in England? Nothing but trees, baby!

We need a complete and immediate moratorium on naming streets in the UK after trees. The urban planners of this perfidious isle would be well-served to do some actual research into the local area, and where that fails, grow a creative bone in their body — for the good of the ordinary citizens of this great isle.

Leave a comment

    Please be nice. Comments may be edited for proper spelling and capitalisation, because i’m a pedant. Basic formatting: *bold*, /italics/, [// links]→ More