The perennial argument over changing place names has flared up again. Specifically, it’s about whether to rename our northern neighbour, Pretoria to Tshwane. Before the world cup.
Why? Have we run out of projects to complete before the kick off? I’ve been thinking about how far ahead of schedule we are… And,believe me, I had many, many hours to think as I bumped along the dirt track that used to be the N1.
A name change is what we really need, isn’t it? Let’s make some sweeping,cosmetic gesture that renders thousands of road signs, addresses and GPS machines obsolete and useless. Let’s add to the confusion and anxiety of half a million foreign visitors who’ve paid first class prices for cattle class flights and five star money to rent somebody’s converted storeroom.Oh yes, I’m sure that the emergency teams mopping up yet another road accident at a non-functioning set of traffic lights are thinking that a name change would make everything better.
I have no emotional attachment to the name, Pretoria. Calling it Tshwane could be naming it after the first people who settled in the area. Maybe their surname was Tshwanepoel. I wouldn’t mind a compromise either, like Tshwatoria. In fact, seeing as it’s all becoming one urban sprawl, why not call it Sowhannmidcenpreshwania ?But can’t it wait until after the soccer? If it’s a matter of pride, then let’s be proud of an event where the Brazilian team’s bus doesn’t have to be rescued by a spelunking team after disappearing into a pothole.
To give you an example of how names can create confusion, let me tell you about the time I complained that I had not received postal notification to renew my TV licence. I lived in Without Street. “Without” (White Wood) is pronounced Wit Hout, because written Afrikaans mistrusts spaces between words. It regards these gaps with the same suspicion as men who make a braai using store-bought firelighters, employing them only very sparingly.
Anyway, when I complained, I was told that the reminder could not be delivered, because I had no proper address. Their records clearly stated that I was without a street. If this happens between us locals, how the hell is a slightly inebriated football fan from Ukraine going to cope? And why are we trying to complicate matters even more?
Another reason to postpone this renaming silliness is exactly the effect it has on Pretoria people, who are otherwise very friendly, but if you call the place Tshwane in their presence, you might as well step outside and punch yourself in the face to save time. Why put visitors or hosts in that position?
Mind you, Pretorianers have their own unique attitude to names. Where else would you find someone named, “Bakkies”? It takes dedication to name your kid after your favourite implement. I wouldn’t be surprised if I met someone called “Shifting Spanner”. So let’s let Pretoria be. These are not people to be taken lightly. After all, have you seen the scars and muscles and moustaches? And some of the men look pretty rough too.
Al Prodgers is a proudly South African stand-up comic and experienced corporate MC. His mission is to get us to Lighten Up for a Change by focussing on the powerful potential that we all have for making a positive difference in the world.
Al was a finalist in the prestigious international comedy competition, the Yuk Yuks Great Canadian Laugh Off, but his great love is touring throughout South Africa performing in English and Afrikaans.
Al is a truly abysmal golfer.
TV work includes Isidingo, Zooming in on Men as well as the MNet Africa series, Stand Up Zambia and Stand Up Uganda.
To read more of his musings or book him for your next function, follow the links alongside.