We usually feel we know where places are, or we have a good idea where they are; if we don’t, we can look them up. Ultimately we can point to them on a map. We might even talk about ‘pin-pointing’ them.
I feel comfortable with the idea of pointing to London on a map. I should do; I live there. But what, exactly, am I pointing at? My finger might come to rest on an area that roughly covers the middle of the city. That seems perfectly acceptable. But is that London? It will probably be more like ‘Inner London’ or maybe what’s referred to as the ‘City of London’. What about ‘Outer London’? Or even ‘Greater London’? Aren’t all of these areas relevant? As entities they are each officially recognised in the Index of Place Names in Great Britain (IPN) published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). So if the ONS can count them, then surely they must count!
On the other hand, if I search for ‘London’ in Google Maps I am presented with a default view that stretches from Potters Bar in the north to Sutton in the south and from Slough in the west to Romford in the east. Is all of that London? According to the ONS, Potters Bar is in the county of Hertfordshire, Sutton is in Surrey, Slough is in Buckinghamshire and Romford is in Essex.
The Google Maps view does also ‘pin-point’ London: a helpful red marker hovers over a very precise spot with a grid reference of 51.528308,-0.3817765. If you scroll in you discover that ‘London’ can be found just next to the statue of Charles I at the Trafalgar Square end of Whitehall! Continue reading »