Monday, July 10

Random Question of the Day

Does anyone know why we (and other people groups) do not call foreign cities and countries by their proper names? For example, why do we say Florence, Italy rather than Firenze, Italia? Or why is Deutschland called Germany? [I know they used to be Germania]. Russia instead of Rossiya? It's just one of those things that has bugged for years, so I thought I'd ask.

9 comments:

Allan said...

I have no idea. A guess: it's all about who writes the history books (or maps, in this case). I would guess that anglicized (or at least Latin-ized) place-names came about from mapmakers.

Amanda Peterson said...

I think it's the whole English translation thing. I don't remember much Spanish, but I do remember that United States in Spanish is Esatdas Unido and Texas is Tejas. I hope rather than believe its a language thing rather than a pride thing.

kristi w said...

I'm not suggesting at all that it is a "pride thing". Why does the country's name have to be changed in translation? I don't get it.

Davis Family said...

Strange, isn't it? Amanda is probably right, To test the theory, we should ask someone who speaks British English (as opposed to American) to spell these place names.

I wonder if the French call Florence "Firenze" or do they have a different name altogether? What do the Italians call "Germany"?

Maybe we should get the proper placenames from the Swiss. After all they are neutral. :)

Steve Maxwell said...

Hey Cool question Kristi. I would even say that right after the "original person or persons" named the country or city, the metamorphises began and the name we have today is a configureation of years of pronunciation. It would be interesting to see how many people originally from anyone place vary in their pronunciation of their cities. Again, great question.

Randy said...

How about the way people refer to Le Tour De France?

My Spanish speaking friends refer to these countries by their Spanish names. Germany is Alemania. Spain is Espana. America is Estados Unidos. Italy is Italia. And so on . . .

rebecca marie said...

i've never understood this, only i never applied my misunderstanding to city names, but rather to people names. i remember hearing as a teen at metro all of the kids names being translated after mission trips. i always thought... "noooo... if i go to a non-english speaking place, my name will still be becky, period."

Glenn said...

I don't have an answer for you other than those already given. I do know that when we went to China people would ask us where we were from and when we told them America they always said "Beautiful Land." We later learned that the Chinese symbol for America means just that - "Beautiful Land." I like the way the Chinese think.

The name thing is true for personal names as well - how may ways is "John" spelled or for that matter Christ - Cristos or the feminine Kristi, hmmmmm?

Gina said...

Someone posted a question about whether people in other countries do the same thing we do and translate place names into their own language. I've been to several countries in Europe and it seems to be a pretty common thing--in fact, I would have been shocked to see a country name I was familiar with. (You should have seen me trying to order "Swiss cheese" at a deli counter in Vienna.)

Maybe it's difficult to pronounce the native names correctly in other languages? Maybe we should just blame the map makers. The ones who started it are all dead by now and can't defend themselves.