Inns and outs of the name game

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - SU­SAN KURO­SAWA

What’s in a name? A lot, ac­tu­ally, when it comes to the world of hos­pi­tal­ity. Re­cently, while watch­ing the ter­ri­fy­ingly ad­dic­tive Four in a Bed telly show (in which Bri­tish B&B own­ers test their com­peti­tors and com­plain long and loud about ev­ery­thing from plas­tic flow­ers to lime scale in ket­tles), a chap who’d re­tired to Wales and taken over an ex­ist­ing estab­lish­ment ad­mit­ted he couldn’t pro­nounce it. How to an­swer the phone, one won­ders, let alone do the oblig­a­tory “Wel­come to …” an­nounce­ment? Had he not con­sid­ered chang­ing it to some­thing sim­pler or mov­ing to Aberys­t­wyth?

Back in the old coun­try, when Mother and Dad oc­ca­sion­ally es­chewed our usual Brighton board­ing­house hol­i­day for jaunts to Eng­land’s deep­est coun­ties, we stayed at places with names such as Wan­der Inn and The Old Trout, the lat­ter with a land­lady who looked un­for­tu­nately like just such a fish. Mother pre­ferred those with gen­teel flo­ral names, such as Daf­fodil Downs and Rose Cottage, even when no such plant­ings were ev­i­dent. Once a year we also stayed at the Ell­wyn Ho­tel in Ed­in­burgh, purely be­cause Dad’s name was El­wyn and he would po­si­tion me in front of the sign in the gar­den and I had to stand and reach up to mask the of­fend­ing ex­tra L with one raised arm. He was ridicu­lously pleased when I sud­denly shot up at age nine and cov­ered it com­pletely.

On more re­cent hol­i­days in Bri­tain, I have seen a rash of silly hoard­ings, from an Agatha Crustie bak­ery and an Aqua­holic sea­side bar to a Cod­fa­ther chip­pie and the Barf B&B, although barf is a long, low hill, ap­par­ently, in York­shire di­alect, and doesn’t sug­gest you’d feel queasy af­ter the host­ess’s full English with black pud­ding.

Brand­ing is ev­ery­thing in the cor­po­rate world but smaller busi­nesses can af­ford to be more sub­jec­tive, which is why the up­shot is of­ten a col­li­sion of the own­ers’ names, cou­ples usu­ally, with re­sults such as TomKat or RobRoy. There is a Re­sist Bac­te­ria ho­tel in Kash­gar, China, ap­par­ently, and I rather like its cut-to-the-chase sim­plic­ity, much as in Ja­panese love ho­tels, with rooms by the hour, which revel in names such as Happy Kiss or, per­haps un­be­liev­ably, Ba­nana and Donut. My el­der son did work ex­pe­ri­ence in Ja­pan at Ho­tel Epinard Nasu, named af­ter the French word for spinach, but with no ob­vi­ous con­nec­tion to ei­ther France or the leafy veg­etable other than the (then) designer’s pen­chant for green paint.

My Can­berra friend Cathy has just bought a lit­tle hol­i­day house in South Africa and called it Weaver­bird Cottage, which is lovely, and just what you would ex­pect in a bird-filled na­ture con­ser­vancy. How agree­able to stay at some­where named, say, Mala­chite King­fisher Mews or Meerkat Manor but not Ele­phant Butte Inn which, oddly, is not in the Kruger Na­tional Park but stranded in New Mex­ico. The telly B&B host from Wales with the tongue-twis­ter inn (at least two LLs and three Ds, if I re­call) should take note, how­ever, of such a forthright name and con­sider a change. Per­haps he would no longer be the butt(e) of all jokes.

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