The citizens of Valladolid, a city in northwestern Spain, are used to going to a local retail park called Río Shopping and parking on a street named Me Falta un Tornillo – literally, “I’m missing a screw,” although the expression can also be rendered in English as “I’ve got a screw loose.”
But elsewhere in Spain, the street name is still a source of amusement despite dating back to 2011. The designation gained new prominence on social media recently, after several Twitter users urged their followers to look up the location of the IKEA furniture store in Valladolid.
“Google ‘IKEA Valladolid’ and see what street it’s on, you won’t regret it,” tweeted user @lasuspiritos. The message was retweeted more than 7,200 times while a similar message posted by @ffchll got 1,700 retweets.
The reason the street has such a quirky name is that IKEA’s Facebook account held an online vote between October and November 2011 called: “Our best street has your name on it.”
More than a thousand people participated in the survey, with 54% voting for Calle Me Falta un Tornillo ahead of other options such as Calle Como en Casa, Nada (There’s No Place Like Home Street) or Calle Del Abrazo en el Sofá (Hug on the Couch Street). As part of the campaign, IKEA raffled off 10 personalized reproductions of the plaque bearing the name of the winning street.
But how was the Swedish company allowed to name a public street in Valladolid? The answer is simply that the multinational bought the land in Arroyo de la Encomienda, a municipality of around 20,000 residents located near Valladolid, to build the Río Shopping retail park, an acquisition that El Norte de Castilla newspaper covered on its front page on June 11, 2010.
IKEA then launched a campaign to name the street, and the winner was later officially approved by the Arroyo de la Encomienda authorities. Me Falta un Tornillo designates both the main drag and the side streets leading to other large chain stores, such as Leroy Merlin or Media Markt.
As the Valladolid branch was the first IKEA store to open in the region of Castilla y León, the aim was to make its inauguration memorable by involving locals in the firm’s identity in a humorous way, according to a company spokesman. “It was something special that was only done there, and it was very well received,” he says.
“It’s a way of becoming part of the collective consciousness”
There are many street names linked to companies or with corporate names in Spain, as Fernando de Córdoba, a branding strategist better known by his thousands of followers on Twitter as @gamusino, explains. “On the one hand, there are the more traditional streets where the name comes from the way locals identify them, such as the Caja de Ahorros [savings bank] Passageway in Madrid, Banco Bilbao Street in Bilbao, TV3 Street in Barcelona or Renfe Train Station Street in Burgos,” he says. “They are organic street names that the city council has made official, possibly because that was how they were generally known.”
Meanwhile, according to De Córdoba, there are also streets where a company has “the privilege” of giving it a name. “This could be compared to naming rights, which is when a company names a building, such as the Wanda Metropolitano [in Madrid], the Kodak Theatre [in Hollywood] or the Wizink Center [in Madrid], which in the end is a way of sponsoring a name.”
There is also the case of Calle Azul, or Blue Street, so named when the BBVA bank established a work center in Las Tablas, Madrid, in reference to the company’s signature color, as the journalist Marta Maroto explains in an article for eldiario.es.
Street names depend on local bylaws that change with each town, although there are some common criteria, such as prioritizing names that deserve to be perpetuated due to their relationship with the municipality, or naming streets after people only if the latter are already deceased. Other criteria include no names whose spelling or phonetics might sound comical, and no names that might be offensive to any minority.
From a brand’s point of view, having a street named after it is a way of becoming an integral part of society and achieving permanence. “A street does not change its name, it’s permanent by nature, and so it’s a way of becoming part of the collective consciousness,” says De Córdoba.
From the public’s point of view, however, it can be hard to understand why a private company should be on the urban street map. Nevertheless, De Córdoba points out that “the IKEA name was chosen by the public and does not make a direct reference to the company. It is also a street that serves [the retail park].”
From AC/DC street to Super Mario Bros Avenue
While the case of Me Falta un Tornillo Street is somewhat unique, having been decided by the public at IKEA’s instigation, it is not the first time that Valladolid has put a twist on its street names. In October 2017, the city council agreed to change the name of eight streets associated with the Franco regime, with Mariano Miguel López Street – named after a Francoist priest – becoming Celtas Cortos Street, to honor the well-known Spanish rock band that hailed from the city.
And in March 2000, the rock group AC/DC personally inaugurated a street named after them in Leganés, Madrid – a first for the band. The mayor, José Luis Pérez of the Socialist Party (PSOE), came up with the idea and received votes in favor from all political parties in the city council except the center-right Popular Party (PP). The move drew a lot of media attention, and the street plaque was stolen and replaced on a number of occasions.
In Zaragoza, 2010 was a revolutionary year for street names: the city council voted to get rid of names that carried overtones of the dictatorship, such as Comandante Pau Street which became Héroes del Silencio Street, after a famous Spanish rock band. On the outskirts of the city, residents of the newly developed Arcosur neighborhood proposed that the streets be named after video games. Out of the 68 streets, 12 have names such as Super Mario Bros, Tetris, Final Fantasy, Space Invaders and Gran Turismo.
And in 2001, the Zaragoza City Council included the district of Valdespartera in its urban development plans and took the opportunity to name up to 86 streets after movies. A search on Google Maps yields streets like Singing in the Rain, Schindler’s List, Treasure Island, The English Patient, An American in Paris, The Shining and The Wizard of Oz, while the two main avenues are called Séptimo Arte (Seventh Art) and Casablanca.
Meanwhile, in Rivas-Vaciamadrid on the outskirts of Madrid, local authorities decided to pay tribute to Spanish comic books. In 2001, when the city council was run by a coalition of the United Left and the PSOE, it was decided that 15 streets in a new neighborhood would have names such as Zipi y Zape, Pepe Gotera and Otilio, Mortadelo y Filemón (known as Mort & Phil in English), Rue del Percebe and Rompetechos.
And that’s not the end of it. In Torremolinos, Málaga, there’s the Plaza de la Gamba Alegre – Square of the Happy Prawn. And in Fresnedillas de la Oliva in Madrid, there’s a street called Pito del Alcalde, which could be translated as Mayor’s Dick or Mayor’s Whistle. Less modern but equally bizarre are street names such as Salsipuedes (Get Out If You Can) in Pamplona, Abrazamozas (Hugger of Young Women) in Zamora, Poca Sangre (Not Much Blood) in Vejer de la Frontera, and Impertinencias (Impertinence) in Valencia. And in Ferrol, in the northwestern region of Galicia, one of the steepest hills in the city is aptly named Rómpete el Alma (Break Your Soul).
English version by Heather Galloway.