Saturday, April 26, 2008

Place Names in Conventional English Form, or 'Correctly?'

I learn quite a bit from comments on these posts. Today, someone took the time to make a comment on "Today's Main Event: Protesters vs. the Olympic Torch in San Francisco" (April 9, 2008), bringing up an interesting point.

Here's the comment, by that prolific author, Anonymous:

"Don't pretend that you know a lot about history. Tibet is still a An English TRANSLATION name as same as Xizang. Now that you don't like China, you can call Xiazang any name you want.

"Suggest you goto a library to read a little more about Tibet then comment on this 'Independence', though suggesting going to library is often a mother's duty.
"April 26, 2008 7:54 PM"

My response, in part, was "... I write for an English-speaking audience. And so, when I refer to the the country on the coast of Europe that depends on dikes for keeping much of its territory dry, I write 'the Netherlands.'

"I do so, not out of ignorance, but because this blog is in English. I'm aware that the local name of the country is Nederland (or, more formally, Koninkrijk der Nederlanden) - but many readers might not be."

"The same goes for Tibet."

This Raises a Good Question

What do you think?

There was a time, when I gave names in Arabic form, as well as Latinized forms. I'll still do that, from time to time, but only if there's a good reason. However, it took time to do the necessary research: and I wasn't at all sure that you wanted that sort of information.

I could spend more time with each post, researching the various "correct" forms of each country, before posting. I'd rather not: "Tibet," for example, is known as Pö or Bö, in Lhasa dialect: or maybe Bod. Determining which was the "correct" form - and whose "correct" form should be used - is possible, but would be time-consuming.

Besides, I don't have a font available to me that would handle the Lhasa language, and suspect that you may not, either.

I'd appreciate feedback: I may not change my habits, but knowing what you would prefer will help me make a decision as to how I handle names of places - and people.

Thank you in advance.


praning5254 said...

In my personal view, though I am not a native English Speaker, I will still use the English Names or the Common Names of people or places. We are aware that Bloggers have readers from other countries, and if we are going to use the native names, we may just raise confusion.
It is also a fact, I believe, that most countries have different terms/names for other nations/places.
So it will be best to use the common names/English names/terms, which are already familiar to the majority.

Brian H. Gill said...


Thank you very much for that comment. I appreciate your discussing the reasons for your view.

It seems sensible to use terms "which are already familiar to the majority."

Nomadic said...

Wouldn't it be better if we all called place names by the name used by the people who live there? Hmm....could get tricky around the Sea of Galilee/Lake Kinneret/Lake Tiberius. Maybe we could just give numbers to those places that are contentious? People would have to apply to the UN to swap their number for an agreed name once they could prove a peaceful compromise had been reached.

Brian H. Gill said...

Caroline Jaine,

Thanks for the comment.

As you said, that could be tricky.

You suggestion is - interesting? Somehow, though, I suspect that there would still be disputes.

For example:

Group A would be upset because they don't like the assigned number (think 666 in some American circles), Group B would be upset because Group A got a prime number and they got one that's divisible by 3 and 4. Obviously, a deliberate insult, implying that Group B is divided, while Group A is united.

And that's when the shooting starts.

Perhaps I'm too pessimistic.

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