8 December 2008

A welcome visit from Peking

I'm pleased to report that there's been a visit to the Blog from Peking - yes "Peking, Beijing, China" is how the local Chinese service provider refers to the place. This suggests that the Chinese themselves are apparently as relaxed about calling the city "Peking" as the Indians are about calling Mumbai "Bombay" (see my entry What's in a place name on 1st December).

Wikipedia casts some light on why this might be so. Not only was 'Peking" chosen as suitable by those who translated Chinese writing into Roman letters, but it's also closer to the way it's pronounced in some Chinese dialects, as can be seen from the following (anoraks can inspect the fuller story by clicking here):

"Peking is the name of the city according to Chinese Postal Map Romanization ... The term Peking originated with French missionaries four hundred years ago and corresponds to an older pronunciation predating a subsequent sound change in Mandarin from [kʲ] to [tɕ][15] ([tɕ] is represented in pinyin as j, as in Beijing). It is still used in many languages ... The pronunciation "Peking" is also closer to the Fujianese dialect of Amoy or Min Nan spoken in the city of Xiamen, a port where European traders first landed in the 16th century, while "Beijing" more closely approximates the Mandarin dialect's pronunciation."

However, I'm still none the wiser about when and why the British media started to change the way they spell and pronounce varous place names and would be interested to hear if anyone could clarify the issue for me.

I can see why, following independence and/or revolution, it might be appropriate to recognise a new status quo by calling "Salisbury, Rhodesia" "Harare, Zimbabwe", or "Saigon, South Vietnam" "Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam". But even here there's no consistency, as our media still refuses to call "Burma" "Myanmar", as decreed by that country's rulers, which is presumably an overtly political decision by media that purport to be 'politically correct', but doesn't happen to approve of this particular junta.

On the other more trivial issue mentioned in my earlier blog entry, Wikipedia mentions a breed of dogs called "Pekingese", "Peke" or "Pekinese", as well as a few more obscure names. So at least we don't have to worry about trying to get our English tongues around words like "Beijingeses" or "Beijes".

1 comment:

~PakKaramu~ said...

Happy new year to you