Better And Better

If you don't draw yours, I won't draw mine. A police officer, working in the small town that he lives in, focusing on family and shooting and coffee, and occasionally putting some people in jail.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

It's Istanbul Not Constantinople.

What do we call Burma now? Myanmar.
What do we call Pretoria, South Africa now? Tshwane

I can't keep up with them all. I grant that new African countries would have new names, or re-use old ones. I get that Yugoslavian subdivisions got renamed. That figures. Likewise with the former USSR districts, regions, and states.

Recent events in India underscored that some of their better-known towns just flat changed their names without asking us:
Calcutta to Kolkata.
Madras to Chennai.
Bombay to Mumbai.

Lots of geographic geekery to be found here about name changes.

But here's a question I've had for a while, which I've never had a satisfactory answer to:
Why do we still call Bangkok "Bankok," when everyone in Siam Thailand calls it Krung Thep?

8 million residents there call it that. It's short for "Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Yuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit," which could really cost you to utter, when the meter's running on the cab you just hailed. ______________________________________________________

Click above to embiggen.[ate.][(ify.)]

Speaking of a practical use for knowledge of geographic name changes, my wife picked up a Replogle 12 Inch Starlight Globe fairly recently, at an auction. She seemed surprised at how happy this little $5 purchase made me, and said "I'm sure that it's not anywhere near current." Almost 11 years of marriage, and this woman still doesn't really know me fully. Of course it's not current! That's its charm! I was tickled to find that it didn't have a visible copyright date near the legend in the S. Pacific (where they put pretty much all the legends on globes, right?). Finding out when the map or the globe was made is half the fun of an old globe. Usually the answer is most easily found in Africa, specifically toward the south of that continent. But I started with the Middle East:
Click to embiggen.
See that place where Oman should be? It's listed as Muscat & Oman. That puts it as being prior to 1975, and probably earlier. See that pink area where Yemen should be? That's the Aden Protectorate. See the orange area listed as "Yemen"? That's North Yemen, which declared itself a republic in 1962. The Brits withdrew from the Aden Protectorate in 1967. Aha! We're getting closer. Let's see... does it help that Abu Dhabi isn't listed? Nah-- we wouldn't have seen it before '68 or the U.A.E. creation in '71. The Somali Republic had gained its independence from Britain in 1960, and Djibouti (French Somalia) didn't gain independence from France until 1977, so that's no help.

Let's check west Africa-- Western Sahara was still Spanish Sahara. Guinea-Basseu was still Portuguese Guinea. These do nothing to help me-- they still went by those old names in the early 1970s. Togo was no longer French Togoland, which put it later than mid-1960. Benin was still humorously named Dahomey, but that would last until 1970. Equitorial Guinea was still called Spanish Guinea. The Gambia got indepenence in 1965, but never changed its name.
Well, it's time to cheat, and go down to south Africa:
South West Africa hadn't yet re-invented itself Namibia, which they did in 1968. Aha! South Rhodesia hadn't yet changed its name to Zimbabwe in 1964.

And the clencher: Northern Rhodesia was a British protectorate from 1963 to 1964, when it became Zambia. (Well, it was also a British protectorate from 1924 to 1953, but we've already established that this globe's not that old.)

So, neat globe from the early Johnson administration. 1963. The world was really changing back then.

As I noted up above, it still changes even now, as well. Hour by hour.

But back then, the changes came so fast and furious, they would make you dizzy:

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At Tuesday, December 09, 2008 6:24:00 PM, Blogger Xander said...

I love it! This is why I collect atlases...It's fascinating to see how the world changes.

At Tuesday, December 09, 2008 11:32:00 PM, Blogger Chuck Pergiel said...

I don't understand geographic name changes either. It used to be Peking, then it got changed to Peiping and now it's Beijing. I mean who cares? It's not what they call it in China. If it's an English version of some other language, it's going to be wrong, so why not just leave it alone?

At Wednesday, December 10, 2008 1:33:00 AM, Blogger Matt G said...

Like Japan. Some call it Nippon. But the locals call it Nihon. Huh?

At Wednesday, December 10, 2008 2:24:00 AM, Blogger Old NFO said...

LOL- excellent post Matt- My problem is going back to some of those countries years later, and can't find ANYTHING, because they've changed all the names. My trick, find an OLD taxi driver, he remembers... :-)

At Wednesday, December 10, 2008 9:26:00 AM, Blogger The Lily said...

Some are actual name changes, but some of them are just Americans becoming aware that our pronunciations are anglicized and not necessarily used in the actual country.

I had that revelation when I was traveling in Italy and Venice was suddenly Venezia, Florence was Firenze, Turin was Torino, etc, etc...

At Wednesday, December 10, 2008 10:59:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A lot of this name changing stuff is them (other countries, cities, wtf ever) shedding the names put on them by us English speaking thugs and returning to the names the NATIVES already called it.

They're not changing names. We are.

Fun post all the same

At Wednesday, December 10, 2008 8:07:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's called BYZANTIUM.

Americans and their education... :P

At Wednesday, December 10, 2008 9:21:00 PM, Blogger Sabra said...

A) Damn you, that song is now stuck in my head. (Good thing I'm a fan.)

B) I always have fun with Russian/Soviet cities. St Petersburg to Petrograd to Leningrad back to St Petersburg. (Pointless sidenote: Peter the Great named it that to sound German; the first outsiders who were really allowed to be a part of Russia were Germans. The Russian word for German, in fact, became their word for all foreigners. Sadly, I can't remember it.)

C) Issues with pronunciations are made worse with different alphabets. The Cyrillic Moscow is Москве if memory serves. This is nothing like either English pronunciation; it's pronounced "Moskveh". Gorbachev's name is similarly mangled--Горбащовь should be pronounced "Gorbashov" (note that the "sh" is harsh & the o is a heavy short o.) I can only imagine that Asian languages are exponentially worse; it doesn't seem as if we've made any effort at all to transliterate them in any way that makes sense.

D) This is still a separate issue from countries changing their names--or coming in or out of existence--due to politics. There are ethnic, German-speaking Germans living in both France and Poland because of WWII peace agreements.

At Friday, December 12, 2008 3:15:00 AM, Blogger charlotte g said...

I knew in my heart of hearts--I KNEW--that those almanacs at Christmas woud someday come back to haunt me....

At Friday, December 12, 2008 9:28:00 AM, Blogger Matt G said...

Yup. Think how they haunt me. . .


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