Question about city names that are being renamed

Thrasher, Allen athr at LOC.GOV
Fri May 20 21:22:22 UTC 2011


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Searching on my library's OPAC, http://catalog.loc.gov, in this form:

Guided Search
Limit: Books [Otherwise for some searches you get too many movies and audios with publication information in a different language than the material itself, which confuses the result.]
"in Language-name" "as a phrase" As: Notes
[Boolean] AND
"city-name" As: Publication Info.

I find that both Bambai and Mumbai are found in Hindi and Urdu books from the nineteenth century to the present.

This exemplifies that the spelling, and probably the pronunciation as well, of placenames is not necessarily standardized even within a single language as spoken, written, and printed within a single city at one time.

I have from time to time taken a perverse interest in the Shakespeare-Oxford controversy, between those who think that the burger who was born in and retired to Stratford on Avon could not have been the author of the dramas and poems, but rather Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford was.  It does get you into a lot of interesting things  about Elizabethan and Jacobean England.  The Oxfordians find codes and hints of the real identity of the author in the variant spellings of Shakespeare's name in the early publications of the works.  But the Stratfordians point out that spelling even of names was radically unset at the time, and so was unfit for sending occult messages.  Sir Walter Raleigh, who was a very grand person indeed, and whose signature we have many times as many samples of as William Shakespeare's, used (quoting from memory) about two dozen spellings for his own name.  I can't remember if I read the following fact from someplace in the Shakespeare-Oxford controversy or in one of the writings of the late Walter Ong, but a prolific professional writer of the time, whose name I can't recall and which like me you probably wouldn't have heard of, used a similar number of variants on his title pages.  I am by the way, a convinced Stratfordian and thing the Oxfordians are too clever by half,  and seldom have done their homework.

This shows that standardization of names is a slow process.

I seem to recall that 19th c. maps of East Central Europe frequently would have two or three or four labels for the same city or other features, sometimes clearly phonetically related versions in different languages, but sometimes with nothing obvious in common.  (Maybe words meaning the same thing e.g. "New Town: or "Eagle Rock" in several languages not closely related??)

In the same region people nowadays will insist on the spelling and pronunciation of a city name as done in THEIR language not only in that language but in English if they feel it should have been awarded to their nation-state not to the one now controlling it.  Lviv, the capital of the Ukraine, is Lvov in Russian, Lvow in Polish.  Also, it is or used to be a lot of other things in other languages, including those of countries who were realtively remote and so were not making a political statement in their choices.  E.g. for Lviv:

< http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Names_of_European_cities_in_different_languages:_I%E2%80%93L#Lviv > [Hope this gets through.]
İlbav (Crimean Tatar), Ilov (Armenian), Ilyvó (old Hungarian), Lavov (Croatian, Serbian), Lemberg (German), Lemberg – לעמבערג or Lemberik – לעמבעריק (Yiddish), Léopol (French), Leopoli (Italian), Leopolis (Latin), Leópolis (Spanish, Portuguese*<http://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/lviv>), Levov – לבוב (Hebrew), Liov (Romanian), Lìwòfū – 利沃夫 (Chinese), L'viv – Львів (Ukrainian), Lvoŭ – Львоў (Belarusian), Lvov (Czech, Slovene), L'vov – Львов (Russian), Ľvov (Slovak), Ļvova (Latvian), Lvovas (Lithuanian), Lwów (Polish) İlbav (Crimean Tatar), Ilov (Armenian), Ilyvó (old Hungarian), Lavov (Croatian, Serbian), Lemberg (German), Lemberg – לעמבערג or Lemberik – לעמבעריק (Yiddish), Léopol (French), Leopoli (Italian), Leopolis (Latin), Leópolis (Spanish, Portuguese*<http://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/lviv>), Levov – לבוב (Hebrew), Liov (Romanian), Lìwòfū – 利沃夫 (Chinese), L'viv – Львів (Ukrainian), Lvoŭ – Львоў (Belarusian), Lvov (Czech, Slovene), L'vov – Львов (Russian), Ľvov (Slovak), Ļvova (Latvian), Lvovas (Lithuanian), Lwów (Polish).

One may notice that the Romance languages take their lead from the Latin Leopolis "Lion City," "Simhapura."  Actually, as far as written legal documents go, it was probably referred to locally as Leopolis as often as anything else for centuries after its founding in the 13th c.  Interesting that the Hebrew follows the Slavic forms and Yiddish, as a German dialect, follows the German.

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.



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