What’s in a name?

I travel a lot, an awful lot, and I’m frequently puzzled and intrigued by the names of many of the places I pass through. Quakers’ Yard; Devil’s Bridge; Hope; Hobbiton (OK, maybe not that last one!)… Evocative and sometimes perplexing names that demand explanation – always an interesting pursuit on a long trip! When it comes to this challenge, Google is my friend, and I’ve learned some fascinating facts about the places I’ve visited and passed through, as well as a fair bit of of folklore, legend, industrial heritage and historical fact, simply from researching how places came to be known by the names they bear today.

Today, we are seldom afforded the privilege of bestowing a name upon a place, other than perhaps the property we live in, and even then, the choice tends to be steeped more in personal preference and vanity than history or locale. I hate, with a passion, those twee corruptions of the names of joint owners… ‘Jimsara’ ; ‘Danibelle’ ; ‘Arthrita’ ; and the plain awful ‘Crofters Cottage’; ‘Traveller’s Rest’; ‘Seaview’, and of course,  the classic and utterly dire, ‘Chez Nous’ – bleaaarghh!

The less said about those, the better… However it would be rather fun if we could be a little more creative with such things, and those of us who own land in SL have all the opportunity in the world to do so.

A quick squint at the world map reveals that SL place names can be equally as quirky, obscure and interesting as those we come across in RL, and it can be as fascinating a pursuit to delve into the origins and reasons behind some of the location names we come across inworld as it can be in real life.

Having to name just a single, or small number of parcels can pose its own difficulties for the imaginatively challenged, and it’s clear that some give up fairly rapidly and succumb to the somewhat lazy approach that we often see employed by land barons: ‘Spongeworth Estates #14’ might well be a perfectly reasonable utilitarian approach to the problem, but it certainly doesn’t have the appeal of ‘Butterfly Meadows’ or ‘Marshmallow Creek’, and I know that either of the latter would be a far more desirable inworld address for me, than the former.

Thankfully, whatever their other faults may be, the Lindens took a creative approach to naming their own land, right from the start. It’s quite fun to explore the mainland and trace the age of sim based on the naming convention it follows. The starting point of the Grid, and many would argue, the first piece of land created in SL (although SL started with 16 sims) – ‘Da Boom’ – is somewhat enigmatic… A corruption of ‘De Boom’, a road in the Linden Street area of San Francisco: There are unavoidable – although never officially confirmed – allusions to the Big Bang; the singularity from which the virtual universe was created and started to expand outwards.

In fact, all of the first group of sims had names taken from San Francisco streets: ‘Welsh’; ‘Stillman’; ‘Ahern’… And so on, and if you take a look at the SF Street map, it can be a fun exercise to locate your favourite proto-sims from SL in their real world locations! The Lindens were to return to the Bay Area some time later, with the creation of the Bay City Regions, but in the interim, colours became all the rage, and the next generation of sims are clearly identifiable by their colour coded nomenclature.

There are other themes the Lindens took to heart as well.. But I’ll let you do your own exploring to discover them for yourselves!

There’s also a fascinating array of place names to be found among the private regions too. Some, purely descriptive, others give clues about what’s to be found within; some are completely bonkers – flights of fancy and the products of a wild imagination; whilst others can be evocative and intriguing.

I do like to see people taking an idea, and running with it. Take my home sim, for example – ‘Penny Lane’. Clearly, the owner has a fondness for The Beatles, but what lends the whole place a sense of coherence and adds to the enjoyment is that the individual landowners on the sim have entered into the spirit and given their own parcels a Beatles twist, or some variation on the theme. So we have ‘Nowhere Land’; ‘Dear Prudence Rock Club’; ‘Strawberry Field’… It’s great fun and it adds something to the overall sense of community.

I think there’s something very important about having a sense of place, especially in a virtual world, and a well considered, thought provoking name can provide just that… And, if you’re stuck for inspiration, then you’re very welcome to join me on one of my journeys any time, and steal some inspiration from the peculiar places I pass through in RL!

s. x

I think about you all the time
But I don’t need the same
It’s lonely where you are, come back down
And I won’t tell ’em your name
Goo Goo Dolls – Name



This entry was posted in Linden Love, RL, SL, SLarcheology, Tales of the Road, Tour Guide. Bookmark the permalink.

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