Saturday 17 August 2013

The Old L33t Street

Okay, light relief today.  This is clearly a road-sign (km 6 is a clue), but if you saw it on Geoguessr would you know where it is?  Half my readers would knock the country off immediately, but мои друзья в России may well not recognise An Chill as an Irish placename.  The former group would nevertheless probably be hard put to zero in on the particular Kill from which this sign is 6km distant.  This is because Kill is a very common Irish toponym.  It is often impossible to discern (lost in the mists of time) whether Kill is named for a local (hazel) wood coill or a local church cill (same as [monastic] cell).  I specify hazel (Corylus) wood, because if the predominant species is oak (Quercus) then the Irish call it doire, which becomes Derry, Terryglass, Edenderry etc.
We can knock off the county if we pull back the view focus to:
There's only one Bunmahon - at the "base/stump/bottom/Bun" of the river Mahon, so this places "our" Kill in Co Waterford.  It's interesting how Irish sees a river as something growing from a base at the sea like a tree, whereas English sees the flow rather than the structure and its rivers have mouths.  The fractal nature and structural similarity of both trees against a winter sky and rivers on an Ordnance Survey map is similar, no?

But we haven't parsed the whole sign yet.  Before about 20 years ago there were effectively no road numbers.  There would be The Old Bog Road, The New Line, lots of places had a Dublin Road pointing towards the capital, local roads would be, as here, the Kill Road or the Bunmahon Road.  The main artery West of Dublin serving Waterford, Cork, Limerick, and all points between and beyond was universally known as The Naas Road after the first town encountered about 30km out of the City.  This caused all sorts of comical problems back in the day trying to direct foreign tourists.  They weren't even sure how to pronounce the 'aa': sensibly but incorrectly trying 'Narse' rather than 'Nayce'.  A concerted effort by the Tourist Board and the National Roads Authority has got all but the oldest and most contrary to call the road the N7.  After they'd got the N roads solid in a majority of heads, they started to identify the network of inter-connectors with R (R for Regional rather than Rural, I think) numbers, like the R702 near us.  Then about 6 or 7 years ago, the smaller roads started to acquire numbers with L (Link? Local?) like the L4015 here discussed.  This makes life, particularly direction-giving much easier, "turn left at the L4015" is more reliable than "turn left at the widow's bar" or "take the fourth left after Kilmeadan".  Although the whole NRA naming-of-parts exercise is something of a chimera, because 3 km from 'our' sign, there is a fork in the road with no signs at all at all.

I think that the L numbers are totally arbitrary which is a missed opportunity because if identified hierarchically like in Britain, where the A19 and A14 branch off the A1 and all roads beginning 7,8 or 9 are in Scotland, it would help travellers to locate themselves.  But if they are arbitrary there's a huge & geeky l33t-speaky missed opportunity not to have L4015 pointing towards Laois (LAOIS geddit?).  Dang!

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