It’s all about the name?

When I was 18 I spent a few months in Ghana, West Africa. The family I stayed with seemed to love testing my knowledge of the names of the different clusters of housing as we walked through parts of the town. There was certainly no free ‘Travel Smart Map‘ to be picked up, so the unfamiliar sounds had to be turned into names,connected to places and then stored in my memory.

Port Melbourne is rather different with the names of streets recorded on signs and maps available with all sorts of levels of detail, both in hard copy and electronic. Nobody had to show me where Garden City is, I could look it up for myself. I am pretty sure I even worked out that I should say Li-ar-day for Liardet Street from reading Port Focus before I even stepped foot in that part of Port Melbourne.

Still, what people write and what happens can be two different things. I have found myself corrected at meetings when I have opted for the ‘day’ instead of ‘det’. Although I do not feel like I slipped up too badly as very mention of the Liardet Street started off a bit of a debate about pronunciation at a pub the other evening.

Aside from pronunciation, what a place is called can cause some confusion or mark you off as somebody without a clue. Seeing an early headline about a new, high density residential development at Fishermans Bend had me rather confused; there are already houses there. However, it turns out Matthew Guy was talking about the industrial area of Port Melbourne, also called Fishermans Bend.

The (other) Fishermans Bend residential area is sometimes considered to be part of Garden City, a precinct in Port Melbourne. Although I think there is some confusion as to whether Garden City is even officially a precinct, which causes some frustration to residents when their papers come back with ‘Garden City’ crossed out and Port Melbourne put in its place.

Add to the mix Beacon Cove, a development which is also something of a precinct, and then you could divide up Port Melbourne into rather particular areas. This is of great use to somebody trying to get a handle on the area, but I am left with the issue of how to refer to ‘the rest of Port Melbourne’. I used to say ‘Old Port’, but many of the buildings are not that old and so while it makes sense to me it seems to confuse everybody else. Now I am tending towards ‘Port Melbourne Township’ but I cannot even remember where I read that one.

Of course, such divisions seem useful for describing where something is and the identification with a particular area might increase the sense of community. My clue that people care comes from hearing some residents express disappointment when council staff do not understand where these sub areas are.

Finally names can have quite an impact on what happens there. The fact that the area around Bay Street has been named an ‘Activity Centre’ is often used to explain why high rise development happens there.

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