What’s in a name?

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NTOMBI NDHLOVU

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IMAGINE this: “Turn left into Saxophone Street, then go up on Opera, pass Percussion and proceed on Octave Street…”

By the end of giving directions you could have easily have composed Brenda Fassie’s Vulindlela or Coldplay’s Viva la Vida.

Will anyone ever take you seriously when you give them directions to your home if you live in an area with street names that have a musical theme? Can you imagine the reaction when you try to give directions to a friend or relative who has just phoned you with only R5 airtime? “Hai, man, be serious. I only have R5 of airtime left.”

This is probably what residents in Radiokop, a suburb north of Joburg, go through every time they have to give directions.

And Protea Glen Ext 29 in Soweto, a new residential development, has named most of its streets after fruits, more specifically, berries.

By the time you’ve walked through the neighbourhood you could easily have made a fruit salad with a generous scoop of mixed fruit yoghurt.

M-Net’s Masterchef SA contestants should come here for a cook-off challenge.

“Use one of the berries as the main ingredient of your dessert,” show host and executive chef, Andrew Atkinson would dare participants. “You have strawberry, raspberry, cranberry, boysenberry – let your imagination run wild,” he would say, pointing to the street names.

At the end of challenge you would probably find blackberry gourmet cake, raspberry tart, strawberry cobbler and boysenberry ice cream. The contestant who makes mixed berry jam would get the boot.

After that culinary experience, imagine attending a literary club where you get to analyse great English poems and plays.

Lombardy East is the one place in Joburg where you can raise dead poets.

Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Keats and Milton – these guys don’t need to be called by their full names, like “I’m Bond, James Bond”, because they are heavyweights in their own right.

But just in case you missed the literature class at school, their full names are William Shakespeare, William Wordsworth, John Keats and John Milton.

You can walk up Shakespeare Road and raise the spirits of the dead. Pose a nagging question to Shakespeare (“Was it really necessary for Macbeth to be so indifferent about his wife’s death? They did, after all, call each other partners in greatness”).

But you probably won’t get much of a response from Shakespeare. The man is probably out negotiating for a full head of hair in his next life. You can try other guys such as Wordsworth, Keats and Milton. Wordsworth and Keats were the romantic gurus of their times. Milton, on the other hand, was a bit of a preacher-type poet with strong convictions. And those are just the street names.

One of Joburg’s north-western residential areas, Cosmo City, is an area divided by image and an invisible border. The streets in the section where there are RDP houses, called Extension Six, have African state names like Togo, Ivory Coast and Cameroon. The more suburban side, Zero, has American state names such as Tennessee, Georgia and Mississippi. In Zero, they live the American dream with hair salons in the backyard garage while in Extension Six, they live the African reality with salons in shacks.

I wonder what the metro council was trying to say when these names were proposed. Every street intersection feels like a borderline.

As you leave Cosmo City via South Africa Ave, there is a KFC. Imagine ordering a Tower Rounder and asking for it to be delivered at 248 Los Angeles, and the waiter at the end of the line saying, “No ma’am – we only deliver in Joburg. And that is in South Africa.”


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