You don't think that street names matter: Try telling your grandchildren that your fancy office is on "Crustacean Street"

There is probably no more romantic warbling about streets than the Alan J. Lerner and Frederick Loewe song, “On the Street Where You Live”, from the Broadway musical, “My Fair Lady”. The song is sung by Eliza Doolittle’s high society suitor, Freddy Eynsford-Hill, as he painfully longs for her just outside the front door of Professor Henry Higgins' flat. Just to bring Kats up to speed, the song goes like this--

I have often walked down this street before
But the pavement always stayed beneath my feet before
All at once am I several stories high
Knowing I'm on the street where you live
Are there lilac trees in the heart of town?
Can you hear a lark in any other part of town?
Does enchantment pour out of every door?
No, it's just on the street where you live
And oh, the towering feeling just to know somehow you are near
The overpowering feeling that any second you may suddenly appear
People stop and stare, they don't bother me
For there's nowhere else on earth that I would rather be
Let the time go by, I won't care if I
Can be here on the street where you live.

While the song itself does not mention the name of the street, we know that Professor Higgins lived at 27A Wimpole Street, a grand address in a grand part of London. No doubt Freddy was infatuated with Eliza, but would Freddy have had the same feelings about her if Professor Higgins had lived on a street named Rodent’s Lane or Stench Road? “For there's nowhere else on earth that I would rather be; let the time go by, I won't care if I can be here on the street where you live”. Really Freddy, would that be the case if that street was name Rodent’s Lane or Stench Road? Who are you kidding?

This Kat thought about this when he recently heard that a notable local law firm was moving to a street which, in English, we can call “Crustacean Street”. In an age where image is (nearly) everything, one wonders whether the name of the street can have an economic and reputational effect on the parties involved. Assuming all things being equal, is a property on Crustacean Street worth less than a similarly placed building on, say, Regal Lane, simply because of the difference in their respective names? Can a developer interested in purchasing a piece of commercial property point to the less attractive connotation associated with the name “Crustacean” as a ground to demand a lower sales price? Is the reputation of the developer impacted by being associated with a project located on Crustacean Street?


From the perspective of the prospective tenant or purchaser, similar questions can be raised. Can the law firm point to the name of the street as a basis for seeking reduced rent? What message does the law firm send to its clients and prospective clients in moving from, say, “Everest Road” to “Crustacean Street”? Does the choice of the name of the street tell us anything about the self-perception of the law firm in moving to a location with such a name? Try this: “We want to be perceived as unconcerned with the consensus, but rather as someone who goes against the grain and thinks out of the box. You want the conventional, go to our competitor on High Street; you want cutting edge, you come to us on Crustacean Street.”


One of this Kat’s feline colleagues bellowed from the corner-- “and what about Rotten Row in Hyde Park in London?” As this Kat learned, Rotten Row is a riding grounds along the south side of Hyde Park, running from Hyde Park Corner to Serpentine Road. In its time, it was the place for upper class Londoners to ride their horses in the center of London. What could be more dissonant than the name “Rotten Row” and the riding path for the upper class in the heart of classic London.


Actually, there is no dissonance, only a bit of history and linguistic corruption. It seems that the road was established at the end of the 17th century at the behest of King William III, who wanted a roadway to connect St. James Palace to Kensington Palace, to where he had moved his court. Indeed, the roadway was lined with 300 oil lamps, the first artificially lit roadway in London, to better protect travelers from the possible scourge of highwaymen, who were said to lurk in Hyde Park.


As such, the road was first called “Route du Roi”, French for "King’s Road". In the process by which a name becomes corrupted, and the corruption takes root within the general population, the street ultimately became known as “Rotten Row”. But no one applied the literal meaning of the word “rotten” to the road (which was anything but “rotten”), in light of its history and the long-term use by the upper class. If anything, the less-than-upper-class could enjoy the ironic meaning of “rotten row” as the upper class traveled the road with their horses and carriages.


This Kat wishes his colleagues every success in their move. Unlike Freddy, however, he doubts that he will singing any songs pining away for Crustacean Street.

Photo on upper left by Jurgen Schoner and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License

By Neil Wilkof
You don't think that street names matter: Try telling your grandchildren that your fancy office is on "Crustacean Street" You don't think that street names matter: Try telling your grandchildren that your fancy office is on "Crustacean Street" Reviewed by Neil Wilkof on Sunday, May 27, 2018 Rating: 5

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

We recently visited Charleston, South Carolina, and stayed in a nice Air B&B, but our friends laughed when we told them it was on Cracke Street. (Yes, really).

Anonymous said...

Why is there a picture of a snail?

Neil Wilkof said...

Anonymous, I guess I got my crustaceans confused with my molluscs. No problem, we can relocate the fancy offices to Molluscs Street if you wish.

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