Thursday, 23 July 2009

What do you call it?

Even in posing the question there are egg shells to be walked on so I’ll offer the same question in two versions, bearing in mind that with each question it gives its own, different answer.

What do you call the second city of Northern Ireland?
What do you call the fourth largest city in Ireland?

In the first instance the likely response would be Londonderry, in the second Derry, but again it would depend on who you spoke to (though I wouldn’t suggest posing the second question in areas where there are a propensity for union flags and red, white and blue lamp posts and kerb stones).

Doire was the original name of the town, which over time was anglicised into Derry. It was only with the creation of a new city on the opposite bank of the Foyle to Doire in the early 1600’s that the name issue was created.

The city was built to be filled by "British tenants" from England and Scotland, planted in the country to try and prevent further uprisings from the native Irish against British rule (leap forward 400 years and have we really progressed that much further!)

As the building of the city was funded by the livery companies of London they wanted to put their mark on it, so they bolted their city name onto the front end of the anglicised version to create Londonderry.

Today there are a variety of options that you can choose from for the name.

There is of course the one that the Loyalist community, and the UK government, would like you to use – Londonderry.

Then there is the version that the nationalist community and, to be honest, most people outside of the British Isles would use – Derry

You could cheat, like the railway company does on some of its literature and call it L’Derry (making it sound like a French town, I think possibly a seaside resort)

Or there is the “Politically Correct” Derry/Londonderry, and the alternative it’s spawned of “Stroke City” avoiding the whole need to mention either of the words but focus on the punctuation.

However, as I queued up for my ticket this morning I was feeling lazy so I couldn’t be bothered with the extra two syllables and just asked for a single to Derry.

When I got here it looked like I chose correctly. The local authority is “City of Derry”, all the bins, bus stops and town signs say Derry and none of the tours on offer call it anything other than that.

So the question perhaps is not what should you call it, but what to the locals call it and call it that.

Though you then have to consider the make up of the city...

No comments: