Names have power, it's been said. The power to cause lively disagreements.
We saw that underlined again this week with the kerfuffle over the name of Nelson Harbour's landmark rock.
To the vast majority, the outcrop that has launched a thousand sunset photographs is Fifeshire Rock.
But this week the Nelson City Council, in its historically correct wisdom, put the name Arrow Rock on a newly installed waterfront information panel.
It's true the rock got its English name after the first of the immigrant ships to arrive in Nelson in 1841, the storeship Arrow.
The unfortunate Fifeshire, that brought the first boatload of the new Nelsonians, hit the reef surrounding the rock in 1842. The ship remained wedged there for several years, with its materials deconstructed for use in the fledgling town. Eventually, the name Fifeshire replaced Arrow as the common name.
That was not without controversy, even as late as 1958 when a painting called Fifeshire Rock and Bay apparently caused a new argument, with Arrow supporters making their voice known.
However, there are far fewer of them now judging by public feedback this week that came out squarely in favour of Fifeshire.
A nelsonmail.co.nz poll found almost two-thirds supporting Fifeshire with only 13 per cent for Arrow, and 24 per cent for the Maori name Urenui.
The council argument that it replaced the panel's proposed Fifeshire Rock with Arrow Rock because that was the name originally given to it, founders on the logic that Urenui came first.
The fact that Urenui translates to "big penis" may have been an unspoken reason for not going back further. It doesn't quite have the same branding value as Ohakune's carrot or Rakaia's salmon.
In any case the public vote for Fifeshire is a victory for common sense and common usage.
It is also a deserved recognition for the ship that brought in such distinguished Nelson people as the settlement's first lawyer, John Poynter, before its ill-fated encounter that cemented its moniker in history.
- © Fairfax NZ News