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Insights into Singapore street names

24 July 2013



Assoc Prof Savage autographing the book for a distinguished guest, Dr Lawrence Chia


Prof Yeoh speaking at the book launch
Research into the origins of street names is a journey filled with discoveries. The stories behind the names tell much about key connections, contributions, places and people through the times. Singapore Street Names: A Study of Toponymics is one such fascinating publication that contains nuggets of fresh information and insights into Singapore’s landscape and history.

Launched on 9 July 2013, this 430-page book was authored by Professor Brenda Yeoh and Associate Professor Victor Savage, both from the Department of Geography at the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS). Prof Yeoh is concurrently Dean of FASS, while Assoc Prof Savage is also Director of the Office of Alumni Relations.

As explained by the two authors in the book’s preface, “The old street names of Singapore carried with them political, economic, social, religious and cultural representations of personalities, peoples, communities, activities and nation builders. … The representation of place, landscape bonding, national identity and cultural heritage are morphed into the street and place names of the city-state. It is hoped that while personalities have dominated public discussion of new street names, the street naming authorities will remain open to creative ways of naming street and place names in future to reflect geographical, environmental, economic, cultural, historical and social significance of the changing landscape.”

Aimed at engaging Singaporeans and the general public, the book was first published in 2003, with a second edition in 2004. On this latest edition, Assoc Prof Savage said that they interviewed many more Singaporeans who are descendants of the people after whom the roads and places were named, and who had lots of intriguing information to share.

Prof Yeoh said: “It is my hope that this book on street names will be a useful aid in helping us discern more clearly our own memory streams and develop our memory pool. These pools of memory, like living waters, will collect to form our nation’s memory reservoirs, which will in turn sustain our affection for the nation, especially against the uncertain odds churned out by when the globalisation dice is thrown.”

Interestingly, among the street names highlighted in this book were some found within the NUS campus. For example, Kent Ridge Crescent was named after the late Duchess of Kent when she visited the Marina Hill with her son; Hon Sui Sen Drive was named after Singapore’s former Minister of Finance (1970 to 1983); and Heng Mui Keng Terrace was named after a Teochew businessman, Heng Mui Keng, who owned property in the area.



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