What’s in a name?

Imagine arriving along to a ticketing machine at Heuston Station in Dublin, in a rush at peak travel time, keying in the name of the station you wish to buy a ticket to and finding it’s not there. Cue panic, I’d imagine.

A few years ago the same thing happened me. I started typing in Bagenalstown and no result was returned. Then I remembered it’s actually known as Muine Bheag. Now, I don’t know what the result the train ticket machines give at the moment, but if you search on irishrail.ie you’ll get a result that looks like this (note incorrect spelling):Screenshot of the journey planner on the Irish Rail website showing the words Bagnelstown (Muine Bheag) as a destination option

So where’s this going? Prior to alighting the train as it approached Muine Bheag station recently a man in his early 20s asked me “Do you know Bagenalstown well.” “No,” I replied. An man in his 60s overheard, interjected and gave the younger man directions. Getting off the train the older man gruffly muttered. “I wish they’d stop calling it Bagenalstown.” There was no point in me responding. I call it Bagenalstown. I’m one of ‘them’ obviously. I live just over a half an hour away in another county and everybody I know calls it Bagenalstown. So which is it? There’s plenty of reading on Wikipedia if you’re so inclined. You can make up your own mind.

The point I’m trying to make is sometimes we have to converse in a language we’re not comfortable with in order to communicate to people. If you’re a website owner you have to use the language your readers will use in tandem with officialese. So I always recommend people think around their choice of words for their websites and widen their vocabulary as much as possible.
Muine Bheag train station
The other point I could make is Irish Rail doesn’t make it exactly easy for non-locals to alight in Bagenalstown – just as well you have to buy your ticket with your destination at the beginning of your journey! So if you’re ever off to Bagenalstown look out for the sign below!

Do you have any examples of words people could use instead of another word to say the same thing?

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