Thursday, 4 June 2009

You Can't Eat The Venetian Blinds

I drove through Liverpool's Chinatown today and saw a number of Chinese tourists there. I wonder how much at home they felt. "Goodness me," did they think (in Mandarin or Cantonese)? "This is just like home. Specifically that really weird road back home where every shop is a restaurant."

Liverpool's Chinatown is the oldest in Europe and there are tons of them around the world. Apparently if the occupants of every Chinatown jumped up and down at once, there would be a mild ripple on the world's oceans. The insignificance of this result probably explains why nobody has ever tackled the logistical nightmare of bringing it about.

But this is beside the point. What I want to know is why it is that the Chinese area in cities is known as Chinatown, but the Italian area isn't known as Italytown. Italian areas are uniformly called Little Italy, but Chinese areas are never called Little China*. Did Mao tell the UN it'd all kick off if anybody dared to call these outposts "Little?" If that's the case, it's entirely understandable, but it's still a tremendous mystery.

I bet David Carradine would have known.

*Apart from in that film. You know the one.

3 comments:

Jon said...

Maybe it's because Italytown sounds a bit rubbish. Do you reckon native peoples around the world referred to early British settlers as living in Britaintown or, much more disturbingly, Little Britain?
Obviously, once we started massacring them, expropriating their land and generally taking over the debate probably went on to the backburner somewhat.

Vicky said...

Jon, for more on that thought see season 3 of Arrested Development, where the lead character falls for an English girl who lives in an expat corner of Orange County known as "Wee Britain".

Jesus H. Christ said...

Alternatively, many cities have a Latin Quarter where, of course, the original Roman settlers lived and where their descendents still speak conversational Latin (which is fine if you want to discuss attacking ditches or how your slaves are getting on, but less good if you wish to talk about the latest recording by Eminem).
So why isn't Chinatown the Chinese Quarter?
And what happens if your city has more than four Quarters? Does it enter a different reality? Some say that has already happened in Liverpool's Cavern Quarter, where many people find it difficult to distinguish the past from the present.