Friday, May 11, 2007

What's in a Name?

Wikipedia's article on Hong Kong Island's Soho district says this:
'For several years the local district council has fought an ongoing battle against local businesses in the area against formal adoption of the name "Soho", preferring instead the descriptive "Hong Kong Theme Restaurant District". The apprehension is that use of the name "Soho" will cause association with the London area of the same name.'

"Hong Kong Theme Restaurant District" - well, there's a catchy name that slips easily off the tongue and is simple to remember. I can really see how that one would catch on.

This is exactly the sort of mindless stupidity that gives Hong Kong's mini-politicans a bad name. Take a district with an already familiar and popular informal name, used by both Chinese and expatriates, and try to lumber it with a long-winded and boring official alternative instead.

And what's wrong with associating it with London's Soho? The area has long lost most of its former sleazy red-light reputation and is today more familiar as a lively bar and restaurant area which also includes London's thriving Chinatown. Did anyone complain when the bar area on Macau's reclamation became known as "Macau's Lan Kwai Fong"? But then for all its faults, Macau has a much better grasp than Hong Kong on how to attract visitors.

Coming next: Lockhart Road in Wanchai to be renamed "Hong Kong Theme Girlie Bar District".

Meanwhile in Taipei, the DPP government is planning to rename the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall as part of its campaign to eradicate Taiwan's visible links with the mainland. Since the existing name is an exact description of the place, it's hard to see what they could come up with instead - "the building formerly known as the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall", a la Prince, perhaps? Like him or not, Chiang was one of the towering figures of modern history who shaped both China and Taiwan irrevocably. I won't bother to dig out the famous quote to the effect that those who try to eliminate history inevitably fail to learn its lessons.


962 said...

I wonder what Soho is called in Chinese
I am sure its not SOHO
Like admiralty is not Admiralty but something to do with clock
But as you say district councillors must crow about something, shame its not about closing the street to traffic and limiting the ar******s at the URA.

Private Beach said...

I suspect it's not Soho either, but I'm sure it's something less cumbersome than "Hong Kong Theme Restaurant District". However, my intended point was that most local Chinese people know the name Soho, just as they will know where you mean if you refer to Admiralty or Aberdeen or Stanley or Causeway Bay, all of which have unrelated names in Chinese.

My new name for Nathan Road in Tsimshatsui: Hong Kong Theme Copy Watch District.