Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Hugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble and Yossi

Did you hear of the racehorse named Wanwan? Or his mate Tutu?
Here’s a little ditty about them:
11 was a racehorse
22 was 12
1111 race
Which demonstrates nothing in particular, but introduces today’s topic of Names.
As Shakespeare put it over 400 years ago:
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
Would Rapunzel agree? Would Puccini have written Nessun Dorma if that was so?
* * *
Let’s try an exercise. Have you ever been to Banyas? Or the Flour Cave? Yes to both maybe, if you’re in Israel and fairly well traveled (it’s only a small country). But have you ever been to Savidor Central? Now that may sound familiar.... it rings a bell... I'm sure I've heard it before... Give up, where is it?

Well, it’s Israel Railways' name for Arlozoroff station in Tel Aviv. Everyone else calls it Arlozoroff, it’s on Arlozoroff Street, it’s next to the bus station which the locals also call Arlozoroff. (Well even the bus station isn’t technically called Arlozoroff bus station. Egged, the major bus company, calls it Terminal 2000, as if anyone traveling there 11 years ago died on the journey.) In fact the only ones who don’t call the train station Arlozoroff are some oldtimers-- who still refer to it as Train North (רכבת צפון) to differentiate it from the other station down south, which makes it wonderfully confusing, as ‘North’ becomes an alternative name for ‘Central’--and Israel Railways, who insist on naming the station after Menachem Savidor, who I’m sure was a superb chairman of the railways over 40 years ago, but, in all due respect, is not known by anyone travelling to and from Tel Aviv today.
And the same goes for Hashalom Station, which is another very popular stop in Tel Aviv and which everyone else, other than the railway company, calls Azrieli, the name of the large office/shopping complex that sits atop the station. (I’ve been wondering how long it would take to get atop into a blog. You just don’t see that word around enough these days.)
Now the considerate Jerusalem council has placed large signs all over its city telling you the name of each suburb. This is incredibly helpful to the residents of Jerusalem, who uptill now had only vague ideas of where they lived, and were completely lost if they had to rely on the kindness of others to send them in the right direction after their customary wild drinking bout downtown lasting way into the early hours of the... well way past 9 in the evening, anyway. Now helpful passersby can rely on the useful signs when the drunkard in question asks “Could you point me the way home? I live in Rasco, thanks”.
Only there too one can be confused. Some of the signposts give you two names, the official one, Like So, and the other one (Like So). That’s because there are official names of areas, say Manchat, which no one uses, and the popular names, which in this case is Malcha. And given that the sign, as with every roadsign, is in Hebrew, English and Arabic, it makes for a busy board.

But I’m not pointing all this out just for the fun of it. (If I wanted to do something just for the fun of it, I'd be sitting in the Prime Minister's Office planning the athletes' village for when Israel hosts the Olympics). No, I'm pointing this name business out because it can be misleading, and it could certainly make a difference to people not familiar with the area.

Recently some buses in Tel Aviv were equipped with a recorded information system. As the bus pulls up at each stop, a well spoken lady announces over the loudspeaker the name of the street, the address, even, in some cases, “the courthouse” or some such useful tidbit of info. This is indeed an applaudable step, and well worth an extra vote or two for the mayor. Only what was the bus company thinking when it chose to name, and record, one such bus stop by its street name: “Al Parshat Drachim”? I doubt you could find three people in Tel Aviv who know where that is. And that’s not surprising, either. It’s not a terribly long or famous street. Oddly it has no buildings on it, no shops, no houses, no bars, no football stadium, not even a kiosk. In fact no one would ever have read an address containing Al Parshat Drachim. But Dan, the bus company, somehow thinks that that’s what will help those passengers who need to alight at this stop. And where exactly is this bus stop? It is the stop opposite Arlozoroff, sorry Savidor, sorry Terminal 2000,... er um.. I mean, you know, it’s the stop you want to get off to catch a bus or train at the major transport hub of the country’s largest metropolis. You’d think that a bus that announces “Arlozoroff train and bus station” would be more helpful. 
Go figure.


  1. Another great post! We suffer from the same thing here in Modi'in-Garden-City. We have the area names which we all use and have used from the beginning and the new names, created about a year ago, which none of us have a clue where or what they are!

  2. wait until you get on the tramway in jerusalem. At every station the name of the station is announced in 3 languages. So when you stop att he Davidka station (on yaffo st) you hear a metal female voice shouting "Davidka! Davidka! Davidka!". 1948 is still here!

  3. Great Post! The ironic thing is that even if you get the name of the street right, you may be caught out by the local translation rules - meet the streets named after Avraham Lincolin, the Rotshild family, George Lloyd, and of course the Reeding Power Station (actually named after the 1st Marquess of Reading)...

  4. Before you say I missed the point, I haven't. you must admit it is at least witty as it alludes to the many choices you have at this 'Crossroads'; to continue from there on a road to the many destination on offer on Israeli public transport or drive yet another car contributing the already jammed same...
    From an Israeli living in the UK who finds driving impossible as on each visit the road structure has changed so that even the TUM TUM as the Israelis call the GPS is at a loss. ZL

  5. I am pretty sure that some people now call the university train station rakevet tzafon as they call arlozoroff merkaz and thus the next one up is tzafon!

  6. Oh, I am one of the 3 people in the city who know the name of Al Parshat Drachim both because my friend Dina used to live on Arvei Nachal (the continuation of the same street when it hits Givatayim just on the other side of the Ayalon) and because of giving people directions from the Ayalon to my (old) house and not wanting them to panic if they happened to look at a street sign on the way BEFORE it actually becomes Arlozoroff. :)