Place name changes are far more common abroad than the cursory reference to them in "Decoded" (December 5). Many newly independent countries reverted to their supposed original names from the colonial ones: Ghana from Gold Coast, Zimbabwe from Southern Rhodesia, Guyana from British Guiana, Sri Lanka from Ceylon, Myanmar from Burma are only a few such changes. Cities too have changed names: Christiania to Oslo, St Petersburg (Petrograd, Russia) to Leningrad and back to St Petersburg, Salisbury to Harare, Constantinople to Istanbul, Elisabethville to Lumumbashi, Lyallpur to Faisalabad, are among the many that readily come to mind. Most non-English speaking countries have retained original names and spellings of the country and main cities along with their anglicised names and spellings: Suomi and Finland, Bruxelles and Brussels, Roma and Rome, Alexandria and Iskandaria to name some. Yet many others have insisted on new spellings: Beijing for Peking, Guangdong for Canton, Almati for Alma Ata, are some examples of this insistence.
What do such name changes mean in reality and how do they affect the price of fish, as the rhetorical question goes? Nothing much, as the experience so far suggests. Not for nothing did the Bard pose the question, “What’s in a name”!
Shreekant Sambrani Baroda
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