This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Nuts and Bolts: putting things in their places.

Is your house called Rose Cottage? Or Seaview? Or Grantley Place?

It probably isn't. No, the chances are that your house has a number instead of a name. It's less picturesque, but it does help people to predict where No 53 might be situated (sadly, in my road, the answer is opposite No 24, but hey....)

You find this basic system doing all sorts of useful work all over the world. It helps, for instance, that the year 2016 comes immediately after the year 2015.

When the French were reorganising their calendar after their first revolution, they called the days of their ten-day week primidi, duodi, tridi...first day, second day, third day...all the way up to d├ęcadi, the tenth day. This is clearly much more sensible than calling the days of the week after random gods or astral bodies - though, it must be admitted, not as much fun.

But what if you're creating a whole new land, pretty-much from scratch? Well, that was more or less what was happening when the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway was constructed in the north of Canada. The route went through mostly uninhabited and unnamed areas, and so the decision was taken to name the stations alphabetically as they built the line. 

There were ninety three stations in all, so they got through the alphabet several times.

Many of these stations, and the towns that grew up beside them, still bear these alphabetical names. Edmonton is the largest, but Watrous is a substantial town, too. Tate, however, was never much more than a sign. 

It's not quite such a logical system as calling the stations One, Two, Three, but I'd much rather live in Bloom, or Clavet, or Dunn than Sixty Three.

Wouldn't you?

Thing To Do Today: think of a really good name for your house. I've always rather wanted to call mine Gormenghast.

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