Mind your language

The strangeness of station names

28 May 2022

9:00 AM

28 May 2022

9:00 AM

In Kyiv they have voted to changethe names of some metro stations. Heroes of the Dnieper is to become Heroes ofUkraine. The station was named after the street outside, and there’s nothingwrong with the river Dnieper, which winds its S-shape through Ukraine like theGrand Canal through Venice.

The trouble was that the counter-offensive in 1943 by theSoviet Union against the German invaders made much propaganda of a unitedeffort by all nations under the Marxist flag, even though Stalin had not solong before presided over a famine that killed millions in Ukraine.

Another Kyiv metro station is changing its name from Minskto Warsaw. Again there is nothing wrong with Minsk. It was an ornament to thewireless tuner, along with Hilversum and other mysterious transmitting spots.It just happens that Belarus, of which Minsk is the capital, is run by a tyrantand enemy of Ukraine.

I hope we do not get fussy about names on the LondonUnderground. The biggest problem so far has been confusion, in which nativestend to glory. Thus Tottenham Court Road is nowhere near Tottenham, let aloneTottenham Hale. Embankment station used to be Charing Cross, and Charing Crosswas Trafalgar Square or Strand, while Aldwych was Strand before 1915 and after1979, and then nothing. ‘You’re never alone with a Strand,’ the cigaretteslogan went. But now there are none left.

Occasionally royalism overcomes mundanity. The Fleet line wasbuilt for two and a half miles from Baker Street to Charing Cross and opened asthe Jubilee line in 1979 (also cannibalising a branch of the portmanteauBakerloo line), two years after the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. This week wegained the Elizabeth line, over which the Queen cast a cheery eye last week,with ten new stations (using extant names) built by the Crossrail company.

Last year a new Underground station, Nine Elms, opened. Thename was first taken by the railway terminus that opened in 1838, an inconvenientlylong way from central London. The new station has a sign outside: Nine ElmsStation. This should logically mean that the next station, Battersea PowerStation, should have a sign: Battersea Power Station Station. But logic doesn’tcome into it.

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