I’d like to round off this series on cities that might want to consider changing their names with Bangkok and Helsinki. I’d also like to extend unsolicited advice to Madrid, Los Angeles, Fukuoka, Sioux City and several other towns that have been lumped with questionable airport codes.
Let me begin with Bangkok, which has made me giggle since my puerile humour first kicked in. I was amazed to discover that the city is actually called “Krung Thep Maha Nakhon” or “Krung Thep” for short, which means – would you believe? – “City of Angels”. Here’s how the name is pronounced in Thai.
So where did “Bangkok” come from? According to our great cyber-oracle Wikipedia, the origin of the name is unclear, but “bang” is the Central Thai name for a town situated on the bank of a river, and “koh” means “island”, which seems logical in view of the many rivers and canals in and around the city.
That said, I salute the people of Krung Thep, the First City of Angels (founded long before Los Angeles), and hereby notify the Bangkok City Council that my invoice is in the mail.
Moving on to Helsinki, I am embarrassed to admit that I always childishly think “not only the opposite of heaven, but also sinking” whenever I read or hear your name. To set the record straight, the name apparently derives from the Swedish Helsingfors, which refers to the rapids, “fors”, on the river Helsinga, which is now known as the Vantaa. But what is even more interesting is that the Finns themselves often refer to their capital as “Stadi” (city) or “Hesa” (badger’s nest).
To make up for my childish joke, I’d like to offer some free advice to the Helsinki City Council: why not change the name to Hesa or Stadi or Hesa Stadi? (Finnish border police please note: Richard de Nooy is not my real name.)
In closing, I’d like to pitch a concept to the municipal councils of Madrid (MAD); Fukuoka (FUK); Los Angeles (LAX); Fresno (FAT); Safford (SAD); Sioux City (SUX); Butler (BUM); Shreveport (BAD); and Old Town (OLD). Why not put your heads together and make the best of a raw deal? Why not make special passport stamps displaying your airport code loud and proud? I’m sure there are plenty of travellers with a childish sense of humour, who would love to take the Crazy Codes World Tour from MAD via FUK, LAX, FAT, SAD, SUX, BUM and BAD to OLD. I know I would.
(Special thanks to Sophy for drawing my attention to the crazy codes.)
Richard de Nooy