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Would a council by any other name be as sweet?
2:03pm Thursday 5th September 2013 in The Fly
WILLIAM Shakespeare, musing on the impact and importance of names wrote in Romeo and Juliet: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”.
Now I’m no English scholar but I think the point being made was that for the two star-crossed lovers, what they were called wasn’t important. They loved each other and the fact their families were bitter enemies with different names didn’t matter.
Far be it from me to disagree with The Bard but I think names are very important and carry weight and power.
People make snap judgements based on many things, but certainly names play a major role in that decision-making process. If they didn’t, branding, marketing and advertising agencies wouldn’t earn millions of pounds from clients.
For example, remember the Vauxhall Nova? No problems with the name here. It conjures up images of something new, or shiny like a star. Take the Nova to Spain and it becomes a different story with Nova sounding suspiciously like the Spanish for ‘won’t go’.
And while we’re in Spain, I think a serious rebranding exercise would be needed if they tried to sell one of its most popular sliced breads here in the UK. Somehow I think Bimbo bread might have a bit of an image problem.
Then, of course, we have our own names to contend with. When we are tiny babies, our parents make the decision for us. I wonder just how much thought they give to the choice, other than making sure it’s in fashion.
When I was a little boy, I really don’t think I had any friends called Ava, Freya, Ella, Imogen or Grace and I certainly didn’t go to infants school with anyone called Noah, Oscar, Isaac, Jacob or Dylan.
All these names are currently in the top 10 most popular baby names for 2013.
Yet our names say so much about us. For example, if you were to come across someone called Gideon, you would immediately overlay that with images of wealth, power, class and breeding (or perhaps a parent with a sense of humour). But change Gideon to the much more neutral George, and all those images slip away.
And that’s why, when you are picking a name, you need to be very, very careful about the message it conveys, either overt or subliminal. Thankfully, in this day and age, I think most people are aware of this.
Or perhaps not.
You may have guessed that I am not a massive fan of our current system of local government. I liked the ‘old’ set up of Vale Royal Borough Council providing some of our services and Cheshire County Council providing the rest.
And I certainly didn’t like the fudged and unwelcome system they came up with instead.
But what really sticks in my craw, what I find really insulting and unacceptable, was the name they came up with for the ‘west’ of Cheshire – Cheshire West and Chester Council.
If you accept the theory that names carry weight, power and value, what does this say to you?
What it says to me is that Chester is more important than the rest of the borough, that Chester is special, that Chester has its Roman walls, its racecourse, its university, its shiny council headquarters and you don’t.
It says Chester is a special case and needs all the love and attention. Of course, I could be wrong.
Interesting, though, that in the east, they didn’t feel the need to call the council City of Crewe and Cheshire East, or Town of Congleton and Cheshire East, settling for a much more egalitarian Cheshire East.
I wonder why.
One final thought. No matter how irate I may be about Cheshire West and Chester Council as a name, believe it or not, it could have been much worse.
The original working title for the council – and one that was used publicly when I saw it on an advertising hoarding near Sainsbury’s – was The City of Chester and Cheshire West Council.
What was the logic behind that, I wonder?