A joke in a dangerous neighborhood in the cathedral city

A joke in a dangerous neighborhood in the cathedral city

Anyone walking through the Twindorp district of Utrecht encounters one great world after another. There is a street named after the geneticist Hugo de Vries. There is a path there that commemorates the botanist Auguste Boole.

Among all the academic seriousness, one joke snuck through: Professor ZoneBlomlan. Unsuspecting bystanders might suspect a knowledgeable historian or chemist behind it, but Tintin readers know better. The hard-of-hearing, absent-minded, and short-tempered Professor Tryphonius Zonneblum is one of the main characters in Hergé's popular comic series.

The late 1990s naming didn't happen without a fight. Most of the street names date back to 1934, when the district was established. Further cases followed in the 1950s, when Utrecht annexed parts of Martinsdijk and Vorfeldsee Polder. In 1998, a new road was created during a new construction project, for which a name had to be invented.

All the other roads were named after a professor with a connection to the cathedral city, so it made sense that this would also be the case for this street.

Suggestion “Buyers Network”

The street naming committee set its sights on Dr. Theodor Dentz (1840 – 1933), lecturer in dentistry and founder of the Dutch Dental Association. Utrecht University saw more on a street in honor of Johannes Martin Bijvoet (1892 – 1980), a chemist who conducted important research in the field of X-rays.

And this was without taking into account the future residents, who were united in a “network of buyers”. They came up with the suggestion of Professor Zonnebloemlaan. He was a professor, he was original, he would not cause any confusion, and he would be funny to the many young children who came to live in the homes.

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The Street Names Commission responded with the deadly seriousness of an academic argument. Zonnebloem was not a “real” professor, had no connection to the cathedral city, and therefore did not fit into the area. The fact that the committee wanted to keep Utrecht University friendly may also have played a role, which is why the official advice was Bigvoetlan.

“Just joking should be possible.”

The future residents did not leave it at that and approached the then acting mayor Ger Meek. The residents assured me that they agreed on that. “If they come up with such an initiative, you have to look at it seriously,” Meek said by phone during an afternoon tour. “This was a nice, innovative idea, so I advised the council differently than the street names committee and they liked it.” Thanks to his efforts, the name was finally introduced in 1999. “It fits with the neighborhood and a joke like this should be allowed at some point,” Mick says.

In the end, things worked out well for Pevoit and Dentz. Just south of Tuindorp-Oost, Dr. Dentzlaan and Professor Bijvoetlaan are brothers next to each other. Both streets are less than 100 meters long, but you can't have everything. The Bijvoet Center for Biomolecular Research is also located in Uithof.

Donald Duck Street

Twindorp is not the only neighborhood where cartoon characters are honored. Almere has a veritable Stripheldenbuurt, where citizens can feed ducks at Donald Ducklan, eat spinach at Bobaistraat or read at Aoki and Tenastraat. Professors are not missing here either: Professor Bai, Professor Luccardi and Professor Cumulus all adorn the blue plaques here. Professor Barabbas, the second choice of the buyers network in Twindorp, unfortunately still has to do without the street name. Maybe a road could be named after him in the next area expansion or, just an idea, a professor.

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