Dear Reader — let me take you down, ’cause I’m going to the Strawberry Parking Lot.
For the past century and a half, the naming of Swedish places has largely been taken out of the people’s hands and regulated by the authorities. New names of big important places are no longer negotiated organically among those who talk about them. Instead, county and municipal planners tell people what to call a certain place. Thus a number of new names in my home area: Saltsjöbaden, Solsidan, Jarlaberg. Fine names handed down from on high, meaning “Salt Sea Bathing Resort”, “Sunny Side” and “Earl’s Mountain”, names which have superseded quite different older names.
A few years ago, a conservative politician wanted to rename my housing project, Fisksätra, to Saltsjövik, “Salt Sea Inlet”, on the grounds that the current name allegedly had unpleasant connotations. My neighbour, the human geographer Mats Widgren, replied drily in the local paper that a) “Fisksätra” only has unpleasant connotations among people who don’t actually live there, such as conservative politicians with big houses, b) this unique name has worked fine at least since the 1590s.
But the Swedish language hasn’t been entirely stripped of its organic naming powers. Small places are still named the old way as and when need arises. Every day on my way to work I pass a good example: Jordgubbsparkeringen, “the Strawberry Parking Lot”.
Everyone in my area knows where it is, but you won’t find it on any map. It’s one of the two parking lots of Igelboda school, where I was a pupil in the early 80s and my kids are now. One parking lot is near the daycare centre and within sight of the school, and is called Dagisparkeringen or Skolparkeringen, “Daycare/School Parking Lot”. The other one is farther from the school and on the other side of the railroad, right beside the main road to Saltsjöbaden. For about 20 years, someone has been selling strawberries under an awning there in the summer. For several months a year, every time you pass the place you’re reminded of strawberries. And so it’s the Strawberry Parking Lot all year round. A beautiful name, and useful too as it denotes unambiguously a place everyone knows and passes frequently.
But you know, I know when it’s a dream.