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What’s in a name? A nomenclatural dilemma

Update: April, 19/2017 - 09:00
Viet Nam News

by Thu Hằng

Urban specialists have been suggesting since 2015 that Hà Nội number its streets, rather than name them. Currently, most streets are named after people who contributed to the cause of national development.

With nearly 1,200 roads and streets named for landmarks and celebrities, such as Trần Hưng Đạo, Lý Thường  Kiệt, the city is running out of names.

Some have applauded the numerical proposal, others have not.

Historian Dương Trung Quốc said he personally welcomed the city leaders’ idea.

"In my opinion, for some newly-built areas, we can name them in numbers. For old streets, we should keep the fixed name and add more number,” he told Việt Nam Television.

“Naming streets and roads by number is scientific and most reasonable. People can easily find address, especially foreign tourists,” said Hà Thanh, a teacher. “I think many tourists are confused when they look at the Hà Nội map to find streets. In addition, digital systems will help people find addresses faster and urban managers will also manage better,” she said.

Dr Nguyễn Thị Việt Thanh of Hà Nội National University also approves of the idea. “Hà Nội will develop so I fully applaud the city’s policy to review the current street naming process and find the most suitable option," Thanh said.

“For me, it is not so important. The name of a street is only to help people easily find addresses. But I still prefer to name streets the traditional way with the names of heroes, artists or celebrities,” said Nguyễn Quang Phúc, 45, a resident of the city’s Đống Đa District.

Nguyễn Tiến Phương, 79, a resident of Phạm Ngọc Thạch Street, said he did not oppose naming roads and streets in numbers, but current naming was also good. “The old one is still good and it is not necessary to change to the new one,” he said. Street names also express culture and history, he added.

“The Old Quarter is the historic soul of Hà Nội because of the famous streets that make up the place, all named for the types of goods or service they were originally known for such as Hàng Bạc, Hàng Đào or Hàng Ngang. Can you imagine those names changed into numbers? Numbers are lifeless,” Phương said.

Do people know about the streets’ history?

People feel close to streets named after celebrities, events and place names, said Đỗ Như Mai, a resident of Nguyễn Khuyến Street.  “City authorities should carefully study the new naming system if the bank of ancient names and celebrities is limited. People don’t want the change, it will affect their life,” she said.

Dr Nguyễn Quang Ngọc, vice chairman of the Việt Nam Association of History and Science, a member of the council for naming and changing street names of Hà Nội, told Tiền Phong (Vanguard) newspaper that many countries name roads and streets in numbers.

Choosing a name or a number for streets and roads should depend on the characteristics of local residents, he said.

Historian Nguyễn Hồng Kiên notes that “many streets have same name in Hà Nội and Hà Đông District and people always confuse them.

"And the house number chaos is also a problem. I think the city’s authorities should focus on completing house addresses rather than naming the streets in numbers,” said Lê Tiến, an engineer in Xã Đàn Street, a newly-built road in Hà Nội.

“I think we don’t lack for celebrities, cultural and revolutionary heroes. The problem is just which name we should choose for that street,” said Hoàng Đức Minh, a veteran teacher in Thanh Xuân District.

“On many streets, the name plates include information about the celebrities and heroes after which they were named to help people know and remember more about history, especially the young generation. It is a good idea. Why we should change the traditional way in naming?” asked Minh.

In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the heroine asks the immortal question, "what’s in a name".

With a population of 10 million, stable names for streets are most important because each street name is not just an address, it is also associated with its living and working residents. — VNS


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