What's in a name?

What's in a name?

I don't like Grafton Street. Sorry, but I don't.

Dublin has many highlights to it, but the slow crawl through a zombie crowd past fast food shops and Disney stores is not one of them.

The street looks tired, and it's filthy. It has irritating and unwelcoming posts all over it that defy basic street design. It's not designed for people: there's no-where to sit or rest for a moment. It wants you to go away.

Perhaps that's the thing that bothers me most when I learn that Grafton Street has been part of some-sort of secret rebranding project to make it sound more classy. You can think of it as Grafton Quarter if you like, council, but I'd appreciate it more if you came up with a stylish street to go with your stylish name.

I suspect that isn't why everybody else is outraged by the new Christmas lights though. The reason for that is really quite simple: you can't tell people what to call things.

Names tend to have history. 'Dublin' can be traced back to 'the black pool'. 'Naas Road' was the road to Naas. Adults are reminded of one horrible mistake with a nickname that haunts them. That's how names work.

You can't take something that people already have a name for and tell people that they have to call it something different. They won't like it. How did DublinTown not see that coming?

That's why there are lots of people out there who don't realise that 'Eircom' isn't a thing any more. And they still believe they're watching 'TV3'.

Perhaps that's why there is evidence that Dublin has been trying to get 'Grafton Quarter' going since 2014, yet nobody has noticed it.

I think the original idea was actually a good one. Of course businesses located near Grafton Street should team up to get more people shopping there, and if they want to team up under the name 'Grafton Quarter' then that's as good as any other name.

Likewise Dublin City Council should be improving the neighbouring streets, and if badging it all up as 'Grafton Quarter' is what gives them the energy to design a better South William Street then good for them.

Coming up with those ideas in private is very different to unleashing it on the public, especially via a giant light-up display that replaces one of the city's most well-known winter sights. Even if you think the outrage is over-the-top, you can see that is was totally predictable, and a really basic error.

For me, that sums up precisely the most frustrating part of Dublin.

Everywhere I look I see growth. Growth is good. We know we need houses, and in these turbulent times we need something to keep our economy going.

But the growth we are getting is totally out-of-tune with what the residents need and want.

We have a Docklands area that has absolutely no soul. We have restaurants that many people can't afford. We have hundreds of student accommodation buildings that local students have said are over-the-top.

Yet you're forced to accept it because that's all you're getting. That's the spirit of Grafton Quarter: I asked if the street could be tidied up a bit and all I got was a plasticy American name. That's what we're getting and we better start appreciating it.

If you want to tell me I'm wrong or just leave anonymous abuse like half the internet seems to do these days, please use the comments box below.

Tedious about the author bit

Radio producer and travel historian. I love the places people pass through along their journey.

I research and write about how our need to get around continues to shape our world through roads, railways, airports and whole new towns.

My thoughts and/or research have been used by the likes of Truck & Driver, BBC local radio, Daily Express, The Guardian, The Independent, Mail Online and Daily Mirror (detail).

I can't tell you how many toll booths I've been through. But it's a lot of toll booths.

Legally bland

Any similarities with real-life events or wealthy international firms is probably coincidental. No products endorsed. I'm powered by Monster Munch.

© 2022 Johnathan Randall.