Question about city names that are being renamed

Richard Barz richard.barz at ANU.EDU.AU
Fri May 20 02:08:07 UTC 2011


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I have only this contribution to make to the discussion of the renaming 
of Indian cities:  We shouldn't think of the former names of Indian 
cities as being corrupted by the British.  The British only adopted the 
names of Indian cities as they heard them.  Thus "Benares" is simply the 
Hindi "Banāras" and "Cawnpore" is the Hindi "Kānpur".  The problem is 
one of English spelling and not of British corruption.  In choosing 
English spellings that are more in harmony with modern usage, one can 
hope that soon there will be an official decision to spell, for example, 
"Lucknow" something like "Lakhnau".  The decision to rename Banaras 
"Varanasi" involves an attempt to restore an earlier form of the name 
for nationalistic reasons that are, oddly, rather akin to orientalism.  
The name "Bombay" is slightly different in that the British acquired the 
name from the Portuguese along with the place.  How the Portuguese 
created or received the name and what it's relation might be to "Mumbai" 
is a matter still open to discussion.

Richard Barz

On 19/05/2011 9:26 PM, Dileep Damle wrote:
> VYAKARAN: South Asian Languages and Linguistics Net Editors: Tej K. 
> Bhatia, Syracuse University, New York John Peterson, University of 
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> Mumbai has always been called Mumbai by speakers of Marathi since 
> certainly the 17th century.  Hindi Speakers call it bumbaai, which 
> seems a corruption of the English Bombay.  I believe Gujaratis 
> (probably second largest linguistic group after Marathi speakers also 
> call it Mumbai.  I was born a Marathi speaking mumbaikar and there was 
> never any doubt in my mind that its proper name is Mumbai.
> There is little doubt that the move to reassert the local name was 
> triggered by two events.  One, the reorganisation of the states on a 
> linguistic basis in the late 1950s when there was a considerable 
> dispute over whether Mumbai should go to Maharashtra or Gujarat and 
> some people also wanted it to become a city state rather like Goa.  
> Maharashtra won out and Mumbai became the state capital, always 
> referred to in the state’s official Marathi language discourse as 
> Mumbai.  Second event was the rise of Shiv Sena which claimed to stand 
> for the local Marathi population rather than immigrants from other 
> states and beyond who have always held power in the economic and 
> political fields.  Much of the opposition to the name change comes 
> from these ‘outsiders’, who espouse their ancestral connections with 
> Europe.
> But surely, it is for the people of a place to determine the name of 
> their city and if they want to throw off the place names imposed on 
> them by foreign invaders then who should deny it.  It is a European 
> custom that a city is given a different name by each foreign nation, 
> vis London=Londres, Munchen=Munich ,Firenze=Florence, Venezia=Venice.  
> It is certainly not a world-wide phenomenon.  We are now in the 
> post-clolonial period and perhaps it is time to stop such arrogance.
> The British corrupted names of Indian cities Varanasi –> Benares, 
> Vadodra->Baroda, Kanpur –>Cawnpore, Pune-> Poona.  Unfortunately the 
> Latin based scripts are terrible at expressing the sounds of words, 
> but the most common and most users of these scripts seem to think that 
> there is something natural and obvious about it.  Without some serious 
> attempt to phoneticise these scripts,  I fear that this abuse will 
> continue.  These ‘name changes’ are often re-spellings and should be 
> welcomed.  The Chinese went through a similar process; vis Beijing, 
> Mao Se Dung, Zhou En Lai, ...
> Dileep Damle
> *From:* Mahajan, Gyanam <mailto:mahajan at HUMNET.UCLA.EDU>
> *Sent:* Wednesday, May 18, 2011 11:22 PM
> *To:* VYAKARAN at LISTSERV.SYR.EDU <mailto:VYAKARAN at LISTSERV.SYR.EDU>
> *Subject:* Re: Question about city names that are being renamed
> VYAKARAN: South Asian Languages and Linguistics Net Editors: Tej K. 
> Bhatia, Syracuse University, New York John Peterson, University of 
> Osnabrueck, Germany Details: Send email to listserv at listserv.syr.edu 
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>
> It is a CBS news item:
>
> http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/10/11/world/main648623.shtmlp:// 
> <http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/10/11/world/main648623.shtmlp:/>
>
> Gyanam
>
> */Gyanam Mahajan, Ph.D./*
>
> */Language Program Coordinator, SSEALC/*
>
> */ALC Department, UCLA/*
>
> *From:*South Asian Linguists [mailto:VYAKARAN at LISTSERV.SYR.EDU] *On 
> Behalf Of *Mahajan, Gyanam
> *Sent:* Wednesday, May 18, 2011 3:19 PM
> *To:* VYAKARAN at LISTSERV.SYR.EDU
> *Subject:* Re: Question about city names that are being renamed
>
> VYAKARAN: South Asian Languages and Linguistics Net Editors: Tej K. 
> Bhatia, Syracuse University, New York John Peterson, University of 
> Osnabrueck, Germany Details: Send email to listserv at listserv.syr.edu 
> <mailto:listserv at listserv.syr.edu> and say: INFO VYAKARAN 
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>
> Greetings from UCLA. There is a UC Berkeley paper that might be of 
> interest and it also provides several references 
> http://www.ocf.berkeley.edu/~easwaran/papers/india.html 
> <http://www.ocf.berkeley.edu/%7Eeaswaran/papers/india.html>.
>
> I remember another article which pointed out that the Bombay Stock 
> Exchange or Bombay High Court or Madras University etc. have retained 
> their name. I will try and find the link to that article and pass it on.
>
> Best,
>
> Gyanam
>
> */Gyanam Mahajan, Ph.D./*
>
> */Language Program Coordinator, SSEALC/*
>
> */ALC Department, UCLA/*
>
> *From:*South Asian Linguists [mailto:VYAKARAN at LISTSERV.SYR.EDU] *On 
> Behalf Of *Thrasher, Allen
> *Sent:* Wednesday, May 18, 2011 2:59 PM
> *To:* VYAKARAN at LISTSERV.SYR.EDU
> *Subject:* Re: Question about city names that are being renamed
>
> VYAKARAN: South Asian Languages and Linguistics Net Editors: Tej K. 
> Bhatia, Syracuse University, New York John Peterson, University of 
> Osnabrueck, Germany Details: Send email to listserv at listserv.syr.edu 
> <mailto:listserv at listserv.syr.edu> and say: INFO VYAKARAN 
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>
> Hal,
>
> Do you mean you didn't hear Madras referred to as Chennai by local 
> people when speaking English, or when speaking Tamil as well?
>
> Peter Hook remarked to me back in 69-70 when the push was starting to 
> rename Poona Pune (or rather, in the unreformed Marathi spelling of 
> the day, PuneM), that the same people who insisted on Pune(M) in fact 
> said Poona/PunA, in both Marathi and English.
>
> Allen
>
> Allen W. Thrasher, Ph.D.
>
> Senior Reference Librarian and Team Coordinator
>
> South Asia Team
>
> Asian Division
>
> Library of Congress
>
> Washington, DC 20540-4810
>
> USA
>
> tel. 202-707-3732
>
> fax 202-707-1724
>
> The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Library 
> of Congress.
>
> *From:*South Asian Linguists [mailto:VYAKARAN at LISTSERV.SYR.EDU] *On 
> Behalf Of *Harold Schiffman
> *Sent:* Wednesday, May 18, 2011 4:31 PM
> *To:* VYAKARAN at LISTSERV.SYR.EDU
> *Subject:* Question about city names that are being renamed
>
> VYAKARAN: South Asian Languages and Linguistics Net Editors: Tej K. 
> Bhatia, Syracuse University, New York John Peterson, University of 
> Osnabrueck, Germany Details: Send email to listserv at listserv.syr.edu 
> <mailto:listserv at listserv.syr.edu> and say: INFO VYAKARAN 
> Subscribe:Send email to listserv at listserv.syr.edu 
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> FIRST_NAME LAST_NAME (Substitute your real name for first_name 
> last_name) Archives: http://listserv.syr.edu Hi, all:
>
> I've been asked by a colleague in another (non-South Asian) area of 
> the world
> what is the history of colonial city naming in India, and whether it 
> is possible to
> reconstruct what the "original" names for Bombay/Mumbai, 
> Madras/Chennai, and
> Calcutta/Kolkata.
>
> Two questions in particular I have is whether (1) Bombay was ever 
> called Mumbai by
> speakers of other languages of India, other than Marathi, and (2) when 
> exactly did the
> call for renaming Bombay as Mumbai began?  I'd be interested to know 
> how recently
> this phenomenon is.
>
> I know that in the case of Madras/Chennai, I never heard of "Chennai" 
> when I first went
> to Tamilnadu (then called Madras State) in 1965 and only later was 
> there a push to rename the
> city.
>
> I keep in mind an incident from when I was involved in SEASSI and went 
> to Hanoi to
> recruit teachers of Vietnamese.  We noticed that when speaking 
> Vietnamese, people
> referred to Saigon as Saigon, but when speaking English, they called 
> it Ho Chi Minh City.
> So I'm wondering whether this practice is all current in referring to 
> Indian city names.
>
> Hal Schiffman
>
> -- 
> =+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+
>
> Harold F. Schiffman
>
> Professor Emeritus of
> Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
> Dept. of South Asia Studies
> University of Pennsylvania
> Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305
>
> Phone:  (215) 898-7475
> Fax:  (215) 573-2138
>
> Email: haroldfs at gmail.com <mailto:haroldfs at gmail.com>
> http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~haroldfs/ 
> <http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/%7Eharoldfs/>
>
> -------------------------------------------------
>
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