In the practice of naming street, often streets are named after national heroes or explorers for the purpose of commemorating their contributions to the country. This method is linked to the concept of ‘lieux de mémoire’, a French term which refers to a material or a non-material entity which captures the identity of a nation. Therefore, street names serve not only their obvious purpose of geographical indication but also as a tool for forming a national identity.
Yet, in a country which experienced an ideological shift, street names became a
symbolism of their undesired history. In Poland, after the fall of communism, and in an effort towards decommunisation, the authority renamed streets, which were
named after leaders with a communist association. However, the new street names caused confusion among the residents and visitors and there had been a call for the old names to be restored. However, due to the decommunisation law in place, the court rules ruled that the old names will not be restored.
In contrast to the politically inspired street names, some streets in the Netherlands were devised randomly. During the 1900s, some municipality were not so strict with naming the street, so the company that build the street decided on the name. Therefore, the builders often come up with names of streets which followed a theme,
in relation to those of the neighbouring streets within the same area. Hence,
resulting in streets names in Paddepoel-Noord having the theme of outer space, with streets such as Plutolaan, Neptunusstraat, Uranusstraat and Meteoorstraat.
To conclude, street names have subtle meanings and narratives behind them whether
they are that of a national identity or even when it is devised out of imagination. It is often interesting to look beyond the names to find out the story behind them.
This article was first published in the Lustrum preview edition (Year 49 of Girugten – issue 04 – June 2019).