Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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Names for Places

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One thing that – again – occured to me while I was in England recently was the fact that some city names differ between languages. This seems to be for various reasons, ranging from pronunciation difficulties, ask Germans for Edinburgh or even places with really illogical pronunciation like Leicester or Worchester to translations as in St. Petersburg vs. Petrograd or Kapstadt vs. Kaapstad vs. Cape Town to other languages just having their own, possibly historically slightly different name as in Köln vs. Cologne or München vs. Munich or Venedig vs. Venezia vs. Venice. Recently, I experienced the same in Lisbon aka Lisboa aka Lissabon.

Some names also seem to be subject to change. For example, Beijing used to be written and pronounced as Peking in German when I was younger but the language has changed now.

The same goes for the names of countries. Germany, aka Deutschland, aka Allemagne, aka Tyskland, aka Nemecko, etc. My confusion about this goes way back to when I was little and watching sporting events on telly. I found it hard to tell which abbreviation was used for Germany. There could be BRD, RFA or FRG. Surely none of the above resembles the GER or DEU that are both more obvious and more common these days as the abbreviations were pre-reunification and there was another Germany with equally confusing abbreviations (DDR, GDR, and possibly RDA in French but I'm not sure about that).

I find all this quite silly and making communication more difficult. Why doesn't everyone just stick to the way they call places the way they call them there? Surely people staying there should know best.

March 29, 2003, 2:14

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