Thursday, June 28, 2012

Big Ben Forever

When thinking of London a few visual images come to mind: double-decker buses, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Covent Garden, and Big Ben. But wait, it's not Big Ben anymore. The iconic clock tower at the foot of the Thames and part of the Houses of Parliament is now Elizabeth Tower. I think Elizabeth Tower sounds like the name of a rather wide and eccentric British woman character in a Hugh Grant film. I'm wondering if anybody will really call Big Ben by it's new name of Elizabeth Tower?
Last week as part of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, Parliament renamed the ornate clock tower Elizabeth Tower to commemorate Queen Elizabeth's 60 years of service. A nice gesture but why didn't they create something new to name after her. Isn't that what they used to do? Build a castle or errect a monument or obelisk in honor of a royal. Create a new breed of her beloved Corgi and name the new dog breed in her honor. Since the Olympics are also occuring in her Diamond year, maybe it would be fitting to name the new Olympic Aquatics Center after Queen Elizabeth. Sorry but naming Big Ben after Queen Elizabeth just sounds wrong despite all of her years as a monarch. But then what do I know, I'm just an American with a distinct picture of London in my head. That picture includes Big Ben. 

Just so you won't sound naive and need to have a Brit fill you in on the finer details of British clock tower history, Big Ben is actually the name of the huge bell that rings from the clock tower. (I noticed that I have a Big Ben bell in my alarm clock.) Technically they have named the gothic clock tower Elizabeth, but the Big Ben bell has not changed. It's still there ringing out those Westminster chimes.

So it's really a non-issue after all. Queen Elizabeth should be happy to have the most famous clock in the world named after her. She may be the only one who refers to Big Ben as the Elizabeth Tower. To the rest of us, Big Ben remains.

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