Friday, November 28, 2008

Just a rant



I have noticed something unusual...or maybe not, about the French and their use of old names to countries or cities and not the said country's desired change of name. For example: I know in the USA, we now refer to the large Indian capital city as Mumbai, not Bombay, which it was called for hundreds of years. According to trusty wikipedia, Mumbai officially changed its name to Mumbai in 1996...In fact Bombay was a name imposed upon by the Portugese in the 16th Century, and Mumbai has deep Indian roots as a word. Yet the French still, up to today's paper reporting the atrocious killings there this week, as Bombay.

Another example: Peking or Pekin--now known as Beijing. Throughout the entire olympics it Pekin this and Pekin that. No, I thought...Beijing! On a quick wiki search I see that in fact the name Peking originated from French missionaries in the country 400 years ago...so that could be one reason for the holdover, and also that Peking is still recognized by Chinese postal authorities, but that Beijing is otherwise the new name..apparently this capital has changed names frequently.

The last one I noticed is Burma or the French Birmanie...since 1989 (wiki) has asked to be called Myanmar. Now I realize this name change is military imposed and this country has series government issues but, if they want to change it...? I know that US papers refer to it now as Myanmar...
I do think at least the French refer properly to Istanbul and not Constantinople, but I am now curious if there are other geographical name-based holdovers and also, why?

7 comments:

Emilie said...

i have a pretty good idea 'why'...hee hee. great post.

Adam said...

I know that the BBC in the UK still refers to 'Burma' and not Myanmar because, as they explained, the military junta did not have the legitimacy required to make this change. They do use Beijing and Mumbai though.

For the French, I guess partly is so not to 'confuse' the public who are already notoriously bad at Geography.

Anonymous said...

Isn't the capital of India Delhi....?

J said...

While I'm fuzzy about the details the name change from Bombay to Mumbai is not with out controversy in India. Something to do with the Hindu majority imposing the/a name on the Sihks.

The US press generally uses Mumbai, but then most Americans believe India is between Illinois and Ohio.

Daniel said...

We could wonder also why do Anglo add an S to Lyon or Marseille.

Or should we admit city name are differents according to the language you use. Look at belgium cities have an different name in french/flemish as Anvers/Antwerp ...

iamme said...

The capital city of India is New Delhi and not Mumbai.
Mumbai is actually the financial capital of India. The Hindi film industry, Bollywood is also based in Mumbai...

michael d said...

Beijing never changed its name; rather, the Chinese changed the way in which the spoken Chinese language was transliterated into Roman characters. The new(ish) pinyin transliteration rendered "Beijing" from "Peking" (which was the result of a less-precise transliteration):

http://www.logoi.com/notes/peking-beijing.html

The same thing can be seen (for the moment) when you go to Taiwan. A given town/neighborhood/street name might be transliterated 3 very different ways, which makes it really confusing trying to find your way around with the signs. But, Taiwan is now working on standardizing the transliteration, so the confusion and messiness will start going to the wayside.