Sunday, November 30, 2008

Names of Cities

While I was reviewing the papers for Tess Dunlops show on BBC London the other night, one of the things I noticed, but didn't get the chance to comment on, was that the Times announced its decision to start calling Mumbai by its modern name, Mumbai, rather than Bombay.

Obviously this is a tiny fleck of irrelevance in the grand scheme of the tragedy and horror, but it's the sort of thing that catches my eye.

What's taken them, this long? It's been called Mumbai for ages now. And for some reason they've decided to continue referring to 'Madras' instead of Chennai. Did they persist in referring to Stalingrad instead of St Petersburg? The name of the city changed, people. Sort it out. This isn't like trying to decide between 'Florence' and 'Firenze'. In that case, one is simply the English translation for the other.

Not so with Mumbai and Bombay.

Their explanation is that they use the name 'most familiar to the British public'. So will they continue to refer to Pluto as a planet? There are many things that are wrong, but 'familiar to the British public'. Looks like the Times is quite happy to help misapprehensions persist.

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