What’s in a name? Quite a lot actually – or rather there should be.
Over the past 20 years or so new developments in Chichester have been endowed with names which are at best irrelevant to Chichester and at worst downright silly as well.
The reason for the irrelevance is developers do not take the trouble to research the historic background to the sites and choose instead names they think are trendy and thus will sell to the public.
Cicestrians are rightly proud of their city’s history and when Linden Homes tried to introduce the name Livingwell for their development at Graylingwell there was a public outcry and the historic name was restored.
I thought we had reached a turning point, but I was wrong.
When I read last week’s Observer I was dismayed to find the latest silly name has come not from an outside developer but from Chichester District Council, who are to call their new museum in Tower Street The Novium.
They claim historic linkage having derived the term from Noviomagus, the Roman name for the city.
But leaving aside the ignorant bastardisation of Latin, the name will be meaningless and baffling to residents and visitors alike.
It gives no clue as to what this public building is about.
When I visit a town for the first time, I make a point of seeking out its museums and galleries and look for signs to the Such and Such Museum or the What’s its name Gallery.
The name tells you what is in the tin.
But The Novium…. what is it? A branch of a fashion chain? A trendy health spa? How could you tell?
The new building will undoubtedly provide an improved museum for the Chichester district (with the added benefit of Roman remains in the basement) so why not continue with the name Chichester District Museum – or is that too simple?
Perhaps other organisations will follow CDC’s example and baffle visitors.
The cathedral could become The Spirium and the Record Office The Documentium for example.
On second thoughts, though, while both these examples satisfy the formula by mangling Latin, they still give a slight hint of what the places are about, and that simply won’t do.
Nil carborundum (oops, here we go again!)