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  • Writer's pictureDJ

What's in a Name?

Words that acknowledge

Words that heal?


At the dawn of the 20th century, legendary French chef Auguste Escoffier managed kitchens at a series of prestigious London hotels. As Head Chef at the Carlton, he proposed to introduce diners to frog legs. Sadly the great British public weren’t ready. Perhaps we still aren’t. His solution? He called them something different. Frog legs on the menu won no friends in Victorian London, but when Escoffier rebranded them “Nymphs of the Dawn”, customers lapped them up. It helped that they tasted delicious, of course, but without the rebrand no-one would have been willing to find out. It matters what we call things.


This month’s naming of Transport for London’s six new overground lines also marked an interesting rebrand.


The Mildmay line is named after the small charity hospital in Shoreditch that provided pioneering care for people with HIV/Aids in the 1980s.


The Lioness line is named after the England women’s football team that showed the men how to actually win something.


The Weaver line follows a route through areas of London with historical links to the textile trade.


The Liberty line is named after the Swansea sports stadium. Just kidding. It honours London’s reputation as a place of freedom and independence. 


Then there are the two lines with the most evocative names of all; Suffragette and Windrush.

A little over a century ago British women had no right to vote, and those who campaigned for that right were treated like terrorists. Nothing can erase that, but paying overdue respect to people of courage is no bad thing.



In the years following World War Two, Britain’s labour shortage led to people of the Commonwealth being invited to emigrate to this country and build new lives as British citizens. Almost half a million made the journey. In 1948 the liner Empire Windrush brought the first thousand passengers from Jamaica, and the ship gave its name to the Windrush Generation.

The welcome these people received at the time was often shockingly, unlawfully cruel. Those who stayed and helped rebuild post-war Britain showed monumental character and perseverance, and later in life they were entitled to look back with pride. What must it have done to them to have their basic citizenship rights denied all those years later?

Starting in 2017, at least 83 people were wrongly deported from the UK, many more were wrongly detained, denied legal rights, lost their jobs or homes, had passports confiscated or were denied benefits or medical care they were fully entitled to.

These people were Commonwealth citizens who came to the UK at our invitation, accepted the protective cloak of British citizenship, then had it ripped from their backs when they were elderly and vulnerable. Threatened with deportation to countries they hadn’t seen in half a century or more. Separated from home and family. Made to feel like aliens in their own country.

This was justified as a continuation of the "hostile environment policy" instituted by Theresa May as Home Secretary. If it was Mrs May’s intention to make herself more popular among Conservative MPs and party members, it worked, for a while at least; she became Prime Minister. Not a notably successful one, but she can console herself with the healthy pension all ex-PMs get. Victims of Home Office mistreatment are less well-protected.


The naming of the Windrush Line is a good thing.

It matters what we call things. It matters what we say.

It matters far more what we do, though.

Let’s do better in future. 


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