Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Name Game

Did you know the Winter Olympics are nearly upon us? The games start on Friday, February 10th but little to no media coverage has been given. I recently found out but I do not really care.

What really draws my attention is what the games' location is being called. The event is being referred to as the "Torino Games." Do you know where Torino is? Some remote mountain town in the Alps with a population of 20, all of them working on the ski slope? Nope. "Torino" is in reality Turin, the industrial town of 900,000.

What is the big deal you ask? My problem is not with the name switch itself even though the names of the games are always internationally know by their English name but the IOC and the media are going with Torino. The media likes Torino because it seems more exotic compared to the mundane sounding Turin.

My problem is with the lack of any naming standard. Oxford's Atlas lists the city as Torino but in Rand McNally its Turin. National Geographic has it both as Torino and Turin. Similar problems in naming are found with cities in India and South Korea. Name changes here are more or less political in nature. I was told by an Indian grad student that locals call Mumbai "Bombay" and the only reason there was a name change was that a new political party gained power.

Some people claim locations should be known by its local name. But no English-speaking cartographer maps Germany as "Deutschland" or Greece as the "Ελληνική Δημοκρατία." What about places like the Česká Republika (Czech Republic) where locals cannot agree on a name? So that system cannot work. A naming system would be nice but until then let us try to stop random and political renaming.

No comments: