RE: Place names in foreign languages (was: Re: Peking/Beijing

From: Edward Cherlin (
Date: Tue Oct 12 1999 - 03:38:52 EDT

At 11:38 -0700 10/11/1999, G. Adam Stanislav wrote:
>By the same token, the capital of Slovakia, Bratislava, is known as
>Pressburg in Austria, Pozsony in Hungary, and has the ancient name
>Istropolis (Greek) as well as Posonium (Latin). There are Slovak folk songs
>that refer to it as Presporok (with a caron over the s, pronounced as 'sh'
>in English). In some ancient manuscripts it is referred to as Braslav.
>Heck, in 1918 some people were seriously trying to officially name it
>Wilson! They wanted to do that out of the allegiance of the then newly
>formed, and now no longer existing, Czechoslovakia to the US whose
>President at the time was Wilson.

And Bratslav in Yiddish. Among Jews its most famous resident was the
great Hasidic Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav.

>Besides, Slovakia itself is called Slovensko in Slovak. I believe that
>Slovenia is also called Slovensko in Slovenian, so if we insisted on
>calling every place by its local name, we would suddenly end up with two
>countries having the same name, perhaps provoking rivalry between two
>friendly nations.

Although not by that mechanism, there are in fact two Macedonias with
a common border. The Greek government got rather hot under the collar
about it. There are also two Congos, two Chinas, two Koreas, two
Yemens, but only one Germany, which I hope will prove a good example
for the future.

There are also numerous recycled place names such as Newark (at least
ten of them in the U.S. in different states), Haarlem/Harlem (NY),
Abiline (KS), Bethlehem (PA), Moscow (ID), Athens (GA), Cambridge
(MA), Portland (ME and OR) and Washington (DC and WA).

Then of course there are the "News", such as Nieuw Amsterdam/New
York, New Jersey, New Brunswick (after Braunschweig), New London, New
England, New Zealand, New South Wales, Novgorod, Novaya Zemlya, New
Delhi, and the one that gave us the funniest incident, New Mexico.
Some callers from New Mexico to Atlanta trying to order tickets for
the Atlanta Olympics were told insistently, despite all their
attempts to explain, that the U.S. order number could not be used for
orders from other countries.


Edward Cherlin
"It isn't what you don't know that hurts you, it's
what you know that ain't so."--Mark Twain, or else
some other prominent 19th century humorist and wit

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