It’s a school day. Twenty thousand CNU students walk out to the campus ground, and take the straight, winding, crossing campus roads to the lecture hall. But hold on a minute, what if someone stopped you and asked, “what road are we walking on?” How do we reply—is it “Main Street”, “East Road”, or just “Road”?
Odonym: The name of our streets
A street or road name, called “odonym”, is given to identify a piece of road. The road names help determine the characteristics, or the history of the area. For example, Chungnam National University is located on Daehak-ro, which loosely translated to English is, “University Avenue”.
Using street names in our daily loves—a cultural thing?
Through my personal experience, if we talk to foreigners, we see them using odonyms whenever they can. Let’s say that we are on a trip in New York. If we were to ask a non-Korean person on how to get to the Empire State Building from Grand Central, they would respond with “Take Park Ave, and turn right on 33rd St.” If it were a Korean, they would respond with “take the road past Pershing Square, and when you see Franchia Vegan Café or Mendy’s Deli, turn right.”
Why do we not use street names that much? Maybe it’s not a cultural trait, but rather because Korean street names are hard to remember. Whilst street names in the US and UK may be as simple as “3rd Ave”, “Smith St”, etc., Korean street names may be as difficult as “Daehak-ro 163beon-gil”, “Doan-daero 590beon-gil”, etc.
As mentioned above, odonyms are supposed to help determine the characteristics, or the history of the road. It is supposed to be “a name”. In reality, Korean road names are just not names, they are “area codes”.
Does our school roads have official names?
To find out if our school actually has names for our streets, the Post contacted the CNU Infrastructure Department. The department explained to us that “Chungnam National University does not have individually named roads within the Daedeok Campus.”
Does CNU need road names?
Chungnam National University Daedeok Campus is a large university campus spanning 1.55 million square metres. In it are 50 individual buildings, which are divided into 3 clusters—north, west, and east—to help with navigation. However, every new school year, we still see freshmen and exchange students confused and lost on where W10 is. (If you did not notice, W10 is the Baekma Liberal Education Centre).
Having road names can be advantageous for the university, not just for foreign students, but for the rest of us. Instead of seeing a map, or looking at the tiny blue and silver building signs, we can point to the street sign and seek direction. Instead of the entire campus being a part of “99 Daehak-ro”, we could bring diversity into the campus.
What if our school had road names?
CNU students have already started to give road names, albeit for mostly comedic purposes. For example, the hill road going to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is called “Arirang-gogae (Arirang Hills)”, hinting at the traditional act of singing “Arirang” when travelling long and rough distances. The road from the Arts Department to the College of Human Ecology is known as the “Ajikdoro (Are-We-There-Yet Road)”, so on and so forth. Although they are nicknames and are mostly funny, they are very well made odonyms, as they name the roads according to their traits.
Quedahm Chin firstname.lastname@example.org
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