Beijing could ban roads being named after foreigners or mentioning dung beetles, excrement and prostitutes.
The Chinese capital’s municipal government is continuing a crackdown on “indecent words” on signs in plans currently undergoing public consultation.
“No Chinese leaders or foreigners can appear in the names of new Beijing roads,” reported the state news agency, Xinhua. “Hutongs and other ancient names must stay but not ‘excrement’ or ‘dung beetle’.”
Hutongs are areas of narrow alleys between larger courtyard houses that each have a name, usually based on the nearby area, businesses, markets, temples or local landmarks.
One in Beijing was known as “Dung Beetle (qiāng láng) Hutong” and has been renamed with a homophone that sounds identical but means “Always Shining Hutong”.
Vulgar place names were once common in the city, Xinhua reported, often including references to animal excrement or prostitutes. Many have already been replaced with less risqué homophones.
The draft legislation also aims to conserve ancient place names when building new roads and squares, while the mention of foreign places is forbidden.
It is not the first time Beijing has issued such decrees. In 1949, Communist Chairman Mao Zedong reportedly banned naming places after communist party leaders, claiming he wanted to prevent a cult of personality.
Most cities and towns in the UK have road naming rules, although they are rarely so specific.
Cambridge provoked outrage last year when it moved to ban apostrophes on street signs, sparking a guerrilla campaign by grammar purists with marker pens.
The city council later reversed the decision but its policy still outlaws road names that “could give offence”, “encourage defacing of nameplates” or are “difficult to pronounce or awkward to spell”.
London is littered with streets named after monarchs, former Prime Ministers, politicians, authors, inventors and the aristocracy.
But the capital, along with most British cities, has also seen censorship of naughty names, including the changing of several roads called “Gropec*** Lane” that were known for prostitution.
Several humorous names have survived the purges, including Ha-Ha Road, in Woolwich, Cock Lane, in the City of London, and Hooker’s Road, Walthamstow.
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