Saturday, 24 March 2012

Call it what it is - Most Północny.

Warsaw's newest bridge opens to traffic tomorrow. A much needed crossing that links the north-eastern suburbs of Białołęka and Tarchomin with Bielany and Łomianki on the western side of the river. The city's eighth, the bridge has aroused controversy as to its naming. About a year ago, the city authorities launched an online plebiscite as to whether citizens wished to name the bridge Most Połnocny ('Northern Bridge') or Most Marii Skłodowskiej- Curie for Poland's two-times Nobel Prize winning scientist.

On the basis that four syllables are better than nine*, I plumped for the former. As did the majority of Varsovians taking part. And what did the city authorities do? They ignored the wishes of the people totally and insisted on foisting the name on the bridge. The decision is unpopular not because Varsovians do not hold their city's most famous daughter in highest regard, but because it's so long-winded. And because in popular usage, the planned bridge was universally called Most Północy long before any urzędas dreamt up the idea of naming it after a person with a long name.

In any case, the naming or re-naming of Warsaw landmarks after famous people is not particularly popular. I don't know of any Varsovian who refers to the airport, eleven years after its renaming, as Międzynarodowy Port Lotniczy imienia Fryderyka Chopina. It is, and will always be, Okęcie. And Rondo Babka, please, not Rondo Zgrupowania Armii Krajowej imienia Radosława.

Will people eventually take up Most Marii Skłodowskiej-Curie, or will it remain Most Północny? Okęcie is still known as Okęcie because it was thus for 67 years before the name was changed. As for the bridge - it was formally christened before its opening. Time will tell.

Pics of and from the new bridge tomorrow.

* say it: 'MOST Mar-EE-ee Skwo-DOFF-skyay-Kee-REE'

This time two years ago:
What's Polish for 'commuter'?

This time three years ago:
Four weeks into Lent
[What? Only 18 press-ups?!]

This time four years ago:
The fate of urban wetlands?


AndrzejK said...

The Parisians are even less enamoured as to naming objects after (in the French case) egocentric politicians. Thus Roissy is the name used for the Charles de Gaulle Airport, the Beaubourg is the favoured name for the Centre Pompidou (designed by a British architect) and it is the Etoille and not Charles de Gaulle roundabout.

Michael Dembinski said...

The British (especially in more Shoshalist areas) are fond of street names like "Councillor Tommy Crogg Avenue" or "Jaswant Singh Way".