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How to get roads, planes, animals and all other types of things named after you

Leave your mark (or Dave, or Steve, or Helen) on the world

How to get roads, planes, animals and all other types of things named after you
07 December 2017

We’re all going to die. It’s the one thing we all know to be absolutely, unshiftably true. If the idea of one day just being dead upsets you, why not consider the next best thing to immortality - having stuff named after you?

The easiest way to get stuff named after you is to be born into royalty, which hardly seems fair - they get loads of stuff anyway. There are dozens of places named after Queen Victoria, for instance, but we don’t all have the luxury of being born into wealth and fame. Here’s how to get other stuff named after you and live beyond death! 


There are complicated rules about how the Royal Navy names boats, although somehow they’ve allowed no less than four different ships to bear the name HMS Cockchafer. The Navy tends to stick to royals and aristocrats when naming ships after people, although Royal Research Ships, part of the merchant navy, are a better bet - they’re naming one after Sir David Attenborough. The US Navy is a bit more relaxed. They used to have a rule that ships could only be named after dead people, but it was changed in the ‘70s to reward military heroes and engineers without requiring them to have died. A new class of oiler, the John Lewis class, are all being named after civil rights activists, so get making some placards if you want that honour.

Alternatively, go down the civilian road by just buying a boat and arrogantly renaming it after your brilliant self. There are a lot of superstitions surrounding the renaming of a boat, so you’ll need to completely remove the old name from everywhere - lifebelts, ledgers, everything - and pour drinks overboard to appease Neptune. Of course, if you don’t do a great job and your boat is doomed, that could also keep your name alive - that’s what happened to the Mary Celeste.


If you build a road, you get to name it (subject to council approval), so if you happen to own a bunch of land, a swift bit of property development could sort you right out. If you don’t have the money to do that, but you’re reasonably well-liked, you can get people together to petition the council to rename an existing street. If you’ve lived in the same town all your life, everyone knows you and you’re free from nemeses, it could well be worth a go. You might want to get a mate to start the petition though, so you don’t look like a massive showy-offy arsehole.


There are two ways to get medical conditions named after you: discovering them and having them. French paediatrician Antoine Marfan was the first person to describe a hereditary disorder of connective tissue, which later became known as Marfan Syndrome (it’s the condition that makes Peter Mayhew, the original Chewbacca actor, so tall). Conversely, motor neurone disease is widely known in the US as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, after a baseball player who got it. If you want to enjoy having a disease named after you, best get yourself to medical school.


Scientists who discover new species get to choose their Latin names, and while they’ll often go for simple descriptive or geographical terms, plenty have named species after family members, themselves and anything they like, really. If you’ve left it too late to be a scientist, consider becoming a really beloved famous person. There’s a dinosaur named after Steven Spielberg, Utahraptor spielbergi. The late, great Terry Pratchett had a giant prehistoric sea turtle, Psephophorus terrypratchetti, named after him. Or, as with anything really, if you throw money at it, it’ll happen. The Discover Life in America project will name a newly discovered species after you for as little as $2,500. 


If you discover a new chemical element, you get naming rights, but nobody has ever made the baller move of naming an element after themselves. A few have been named after people, such as einsteinium, curium and fermium, named after Albert Einstein, Marie Curie and Enrico Fermi. They were all dead at the time (Fermi was still warm), but there have since been two new elements named after living people: seaborgium and oganesson, after Glenn T Seaborg (who has since followed Fermi, Curie and Einstein to the great big lab in the sky) and Yuri Oganessian. Both scientists though, so if you’re not one, gaining immortality in this particular way is probably out of reach.


The Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 is also known as the Sonny Bono Act, named after the late singer-turned-Congressman. It’s the law that stops Mickey Mouse becoming a public domain character. Bono was one of 12 co-sponsors of the bill, but died nine months before it was passed - it was named in tribute to him. Most British laws named after individuals are named in one of two ways: after the Lord that pushed the legislation through or after the victim of a crime that led to the legislation. If you’re unlikely to make it to the House of Lords, you’re probably better off not having a law named after you, really.


Generally, to have a town named after you, you want to be an explorer, a monarch or a saint, but there are exceptions, mainly in the form of new towns. Peterlee in County Durham is named after Peter Lee, a miner, minister and trade unionist. Telford in Shropshire is named after engineer Thomas Telford. Or, build something like a factory that a town then springs up around - Hershey, Pennsylvania, owes its delicious name to chocolatier founder Milton Hershey.


Airlines all have different protocols for naming their aircraft, often with different themes for divisions of their fleet. Qantas’ Airbus 300s are named after explorers from Australia and New Zealand, while Aer Lingus goes for the names of Irish saints. A few airlines have let members of the public suggest names and put them out to vote, so if you can convince the public that calling the plane Dave is better than calling it fucking Aeroplane McAeroplaneyface, you’re laughing. 

Or, befriend Richard Branson and come up with a cheesy flight-based pun based around your name - he’s a big fan of giving Virgin planes goofy names, and would probably be up for naming one after you if you, for instance, saved his life and turned out to have the surname Wing. Ryanair named thirty of its planes after people who liked their Facebook page as part of its 30th birthday celebrations in 2015, but living on as a Ryanair plane, a place nobody has ever been happy, is worse than being forgotten.


Lynyrd Skynyrd named themselves after Leonard Skinner, a gym teacher in their high school that told members of the band off for having long hair. Franz Ferdinand are named after the assassinated archduke of Austro-Hungary. There are two completely different bands called Donna Bummer. Yeah, there’s no hard and fast rule here, really. Maybe just start a band named after yourself, like Dave Matthews of The Dave Matthews Band, Steve Miller from the Steve Miller Band or Jimi Hendrix from the Jimi Hendrix Experience, or become a notorious criminal and hope a future rapper picks you as a stage name.


Loads of kids are named after celebrities, sportspeople, fictional characters and places, but what if you’re just a normal person and you want loads of children to be named after you? One option is to have a big family and name all your kids after yourself - the boxer George Foreman famously named all five of his sons George (and one of his seven daughters Georgette). Another, less expensive option is to save loads of people’s lives and play the numbers. If you commit yourself to a career as a paramedic or lifeguard, someone’s bound to name their sprog after you eventually, right?

(Images: iStock)