Names of cities/Städtenamen

Another subject people sometimes get hot under the collar about is that of names of foreign cities. Perhaps it would be worth learning some factoids for the purposes of small talk, in view of the energy wasted on anger about people who say Tbilisi for what was once Tiflis, Beijing for Peking, Mumbai for Bombay, and in language hat’s case, Kyiv for Kiev (he also discusses Torino / Turin, but that seems less controversial).

2 thoughts on “Names of cities/Städtenamen

  1. In my case, it’s certainly not anger at people who use new forms but anger at the demand that people use new forms. (And I think the battle for “Tiflis” was lost a few generations ago.)

  2. Yes, I apologize if I appeared to refer to you, but I was just taking your post as a hook for other translators I have encountered. There’s an American translator on CompuServe who is amusing but gets angry about this. I agree about Tiflis. As for Beijing, I see no problem with Peking, but I do think pinyin to correspond with the pinyin used in China is the least confusing option for less well-known names. And I agree that the demand for a change can be annoying. But I was also thinking of inhabitants of Braunschweig who insist on Brunswick – I may be in a minority on that one.

    Another thing is that as a translator I do what my client wants – up to a point, which is why I get rather exasperated when told that I’m selling my birthright every time I write Tbilisi (I happened to learn it as Tbilisi, and I won’t see 55 again!).

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