Inns and outs of the name game
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.