Places that should revert to their previous name, places that might want to consider it

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

I'd like to create a big list of 1) places that should definitely change their name back to their previous one, and 2) places that might want to consider it, or perhaps adopt a second name as well. Hopefully others out there have some ideas to fill out this list, and if you do write it in the comments section below. Here are a few to get started:

Places that should definitely change their name back

Iran - change back to Persia. This one is a no-brainer: the area has been called Persia since antiquity, the name still commands respect, there are Persian rugs and Persian cats but no Iranian rugs and Iranian cats, Iran even now argues that the Persian Gulf should not be called the Arabian Gulf as many Arab nations nearby prefer (and it's a bit easier to make the argument when Persia is your actual name, not your previous one), and the name Iran was chosen partly to form a bond with Hitler as Iran = Aryan - we're Aryans too!

Kentucky - change back to Transylvania. While the Transylvania colony did not encompass the whole state of Kentucky, the name is obviously a bazillion times cooler than Kentucky. Nobody knows exactly what Kentucky means, but it might mean field. Bleh. The name Kentucky right now generally conjures up the image of fried chicken; compare that with Transylvania, which is something like this:

Uranus - change to the original Greek Oranos. See here for details. Uranus/Oranos is the only planet to use a Greek god instead of a Roman one, so why use a Latinized version of the name, especially when it results in it being the brunt of jokes whenever the name comes up?

Kaliningrad - change back to Königsberg. The name Kaliningrad is a recent one; the renaming happened in 1946 to commemorate Mikhail Kalinin, an ally of Stalin and a person with no real connection to the city (born in Tver Oblast, studied in St. Petersburg, married to an Estonian, etc.). Pretty much all other Russian cities have lost their silly Soviet-era names (Petrograd, Stalingrad, Leningrad, etc.), and changing back to Königsberg may help Kaliningrad emphasize its shared heritage with the rest of Europe, a must for a city in an exclave that barely exists in the minds of European citizens in spite of being located fairly near the centre. See it's right here next to Poland and Lithuania, close to Sweden, Germany and Denmark.

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Places that might want to think about changing their name back, or adopting a second

Istanbul - consider restoring Constantinople as a second name. - Istanbul's a fine name so this wouldn't be a necessity, but having Istanbul as the Turkish name and Constantinople for other languages (Western European ones in particular) could be a nice reminder of the city's European heritage, and could be a plus in public perception of the country as an EU candidate.

Kitchener, Ontario (Canada) - change back to Berlin. The city used to be called Berlin and was changed to Kitchener due to anti-German sentiment. Not the best reason for a name change, and "Canada's Berlin" could help the city stand out whereas Kitchener means very little now.

Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan - consider the -ia suffix in English and other Western European languages instead of -istan. -ia means 'place of' and -istan also means 'place of' (and not just countries too, a flower bed in Persian is gol-estân / گلستان, a 'place of flower'). -istan tends to sound quite harsh compared to -ia though, and Kazakia, Kyrgyzia, Turkmenia and Uzbekia seem a lot friendlier. Languages that are used to -stan can keep the suffix. In fact, they use the suffix for nations that don't use it in English too - Bulgaria is Bulgaristan in Turkish, Greece is Yunanistan. Pakistan probably shouldn't consider this as it's fairly well-known under its current name already, and Pakia just doesn't seem right. The other nations haven't been independent for very long though and might want to consider it.

Iraq - consider the English name Mesopotamia again. Iraq would remain the name in Arabic and whichever countries prefer the name Iraq. Similar to the reasons above for Iran to Persia, except that Iraq is less unified than Iran and we might not want to rock the boat with a name change, plus the name Iraq wasn't chosen for reasons as silly as those for Iran. An alternative to this would be changing from Iraq to Uruk, the source of the name used now and the name of the ancient Sumerian city from which the name comes. But Mesopotamia would be ideal - think of the two countries Persia and Mesopotamia next to each other instead of the current Iran and Iraq.

Places that are doing a good job so keep up the good work:

Damascus - called Shâm/Şam/etc. in most Islamic countries, Damascus sounds waaay cooler in English. A great example of a city that maintains name coolness and recognition in more than one language. Change the city's official name in English to Sham and recognition would disappear overnight.

Alexandria - while the Arabic name is derived from Alexander (al-Iskandariyya), changing the name to Iskandariya in English would remove the obvious connection to Alexander the Great and the Library of Alexandria, and turn it into nothing more than Egypt's second-largest city.

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