Many ICLC students celebrate their 21 birthdays during their semester in London. While it's a momentous occasion in the States to go into a bar and buy your first legal drink, you may have noticed that there is much less fuss about 21 year olds buying a drink here in the UK. In many ways drinking culture is a horse of a different color. The legal age is lower in the UK and pubs close much earlier than Americans are used to. You can go to a pub for a classic Sunday roast or for a pub quiz to find out how good your knowledge of trivia really is. There are also similarities, though. They are major social meeting points and binge drinking is problematic in both countries. But one thing that definitely separates British and American drinking establishments is what they are called. Often sites have had pubs on them for hundreds of year and have names that don't necessarily make sense to a modern audience. There are more pubs than it's worth counting called the Queen's Head, the King's Head and the King's Arms. There's a chain called the Slug and Lettuce. There's a pub in Notting Hill called The Windsor Castle. My local when I was a student was called The Elusive Camel. What do these names mean? For some the answers can probably be found on Wikipedia (a reputable source), but other meanings may be completely lost or even made up, not ever really having had any particular meaning. Pub names can also be influential. The areas of Swiss Cottage and Elephant and Castle are named after local pubs (actually I think there is some debate about where the name Elephant and Castle comes from, but it sounds like the name of a pub. The area's more official name is Newington, not to be confused with Stoke Newington which is not nearby).
Your two missions this week, should you choose to accept, are to find the most interesting pub name that you can and, in honor of my old local, to find a camel. Dromedaries need not apply. Only Bactrian camels. Elsie will be counting the humps. I have high hopes that both of these will prove difficult and time consuming, but lead to admirable creativity. As a Londoner herself, Elsie probably feels that she has seen it all. Show her how wrong she can be!