Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Just Gifted I Guess

So above is the name of my subway stop here in Vienna (go U1 !). The one above translates as "deaf-mute street." At least in German speaking countries I seem to have a real knack for getting fairly bizarre Subway stops. It was one of those "hmmm, I think I know those words, could that mean? Nah....or?" Apparently there was a home for the deaf-mutes here back in the day. We're all still a bit special here.

Then back in the day when I was living with a host family in Berlin my stop was "Onkel Toms Hütte," literally "Uncle Tom's Cabin." Didn't really believe that one was for real at first either. Then I asked people why it was called it and people kept telling me that with the American military base near there and we probably named it that to remind us of home, then I usually got to explain how oddly enough slavery isn't really a big gut buster in the US. Turns out a guy named Thomas who was aware of the novel had a pub and decided to call it Uncle Tom's Cabin (I can't say why, but that is really typical Berliner humor) and the stop just got named after his pub.



I kind of feel like it is a warm up process and am sort of waiting for the outright insulting subway stop of my future when it suddenly just says in English "everyone-who-get-off-here-is-a-poo-face avenue" and I am still thinking hmmm, I think I know those words, could that mean? Nah....or?"

5 comments:

Modessa said...

What's really interesting is that it that the stop may have been named before sign language (since deaf people can talk now, just with their hands). I guess you could consider deaf people mute as well, if they only speak with sign language but I personally think of mute as having much less communication. It's kind of a conundrum and sort of weird that they chose to name a street that. Also, the city of Berlin must have okayed Onkel Toms Huette. Did they not look into the history beforehand?

Barbarossa said...

That is a really good point about deaf-mutes. First of all the terms sounds almost archaic to me, but I had always assumed it reffered to people who were physically unable to speak and deaf as opposed to deaf people who are capable of speaking, both using sign language and physically, but may just not have school available to them. The street was named in 1816, but that is was named after had been there longer. I would imagine back then though that all deaf people really were just considered mutes.

In terms of Berlin, hard to say. The station was named all the way back in 1885 and I don't think the city government of Berlin would have thought about it too much back then (Also according to Edward's comment which I will post in a minute the book was a big hit in Europe so maybe they thought they were honoring the novel instead of slavery?). Don't know, but is seems like with place names after a certain age people don't really think about what they mean anymore, just the out of towners, still it would have been interesting to see if the name would have been changed had that stop had been in east berlin.

Barbarossa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Barbarossa said...

So Edward, who my randomy German blog still hates, says:

Hey Ian!

Very amusing how Vienna's kept all aspects of its town history alive
through its subway signs. Is there also a Jewishghetto station? A
Nazi-sympathizers-live-here-street station? How about a
People-who-are-in-talking-wheelchairs-like-Stephen-Hawking-Street
station?

And very bizarre how Berlin names a station after a bar... it'd be
like New York City having subway stops: Borough Hall, Rockefeller
Center, The Stoned Crow (which is an annoying bar near NYU). Or maybe
name stations after sleazy "gentlemen's sports bars" - Gallagher's,
Hooters, Peep World, etc.

OH BABY!

I'm not surprised that "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was used for a name. That
novel was the first major American cultural export. Before Jazz and
Rock-and-Roll, Europeans knew America for three things: a place to
flee to if you're being persecuted, a land of Cowboys and Indians, and
happy plantations filled with supposedly singing slaves. Read Kafka's
"Amerika" - he put all three stereotypes in one book... and this was
written in 1912!!!

Barbarossa said...

Wow, I really do need to read Amerika, there is just too much good stuff in it to pass up! I hadn't quite realized Uncle Tom's Cabin international success, but I suppose you would know after having been in "You ain't my Uncle," and what a darling southern bell you were.

No Jew subway stops in Vienna jump to mind. Judenplatz (Jew square) and Judengasse (Jew street), however, are both very nice parts of town. Just to make you feel better, there is a "villejuif" or "Jew town" in Paris, they argue that it actually has nothing to do with jews, but if it translates directly as "Jew Town," then Jew town it will be.

I really like interesting subway stops though and think New York could use a few more of them. It says something about the history, good or bad. Apparently there is a Stalingrad metro stop in Paris!