Numbers of the Beast

Although the taxi drivers of Birmingham often don't remember a single one, I've always thought street names were a good method for distinguishing roads from each other. Clearly in a large city there's the chance of duplication, but it shouldn't take too much effort to figure out which Huntington Esplanade is the one you want.

Sadly, our friends in North America don't see it this way. Meandering, chaotic towns with named streets belong to backwards places like Europe. In the New World, cities must be planned in regular fashion and all the streets will be numbered. This will stop disease and overcrowding and reduce the risk of places burning to the ground.

A couple of centuries later, and the wisdom of this system is recognized the world over. London is a barely remembered shadow of its former self, and beautifully organized, US-style towns like Milton Keynes are the centres of world industry and happiness.

Salt Lake City, where I spent a couple of days recently, is beautifully planned. There's no need for you to stay in a motel at 616 Polygamy Place because you can stay in a motel at the far more elegant and memorable 616 South 200 East. What with SatNav being so infallible, you can follow the Birmingham taxi driver approach and actually move about without knowing a thing about the town's geography.

So why doesn't the US take this wonderful scheme to the next level and start giving their children numbers rather than names? There are loads of Brads and Britneys in the US, far too many for anyone to remember, but no-one would forget 375 Pitt or 2104 Spears.

Indeed, nouns are such old hat they might as well just go the whole hog and abandon them completely. Who even uses them nowadays anyway? It's numbers, numbers are the future! Just assign any word in any language its own unique number. Tomato could be 73, aeroglisseur could be 709, Гласность could be 1500. Anyone anywhere in the world would be able to learn it and communicate using it. It would be like Esperanto, but better.

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(You heard it here first)