May 29, 2005
Renaming - Remaining
Now it's Istanbul, not Constantinople
Been a long time gone, Constantinople
Why did Constantinople get the works?
That's nobody's business but the Turks
- Lyrics from They Might Be Giants, "Istanbul Not Constantinople"
Will the Real Anti-Colonial Name Please Stand Up?
There is a stimulating short article on today's BBC, City names mark changing times. The article covers the movement toward changing the South African city name of Pretoria to Tshwane, after a black tribal leader who ruled long before white colonization. Yet, according the article, Pretoria may in fact be an anti-colonial name itself with South Africa's last apartheid President FW de Klerk once associating Pretoria with the Dutch Boer struggle against the British Empire. In a comment to the article, a reader questions why there hasn't the same momentum to change the name of Soweto, which in fact means South Western Township.
Some other recent city renamings:
Harare (Salisbury), Zimbabwe
St. Petersburg (Leningrad), Russia
Yangon (Rangoon), Myannmar
Mumbai (Bombay), India
Chennai (Madras), India
Kolkata (Calcutta), India
Renaming - Remaining
The renaming of cities is an interesting phenomena. Almost all cities, over time, have been renamed. From New Amsterdam/New York to the city that I live in, Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City. Saigon and HCMC largely remain interchangable in common parlance. While HCMC, or more correctly TP HCM (Thành phố Hô Chí Minh [City of Ho Chi Minh]) is always used for official transactions and documents. How complete is the real or perceived transformation of a city when a new name is instituted? Throughout Vietnam, the renaming occurs down to the street level. Ironically, the street name for Alexandre de Rhodes in HCMC has not been changed, the missionary responsible for the entire transliteration of the the Vietnamese written language from Chữ-nôm script to the Roman alphabet. (Nom, coincidentally, is a latin root meaning name, as in nomenclature)
The fact is that renaming is everything and nothing (as Borges might have said). My own short history of 30 or so years might read: The orphanage of R. Streitmatter-Tran (Trần Trọng Đạt) was once located on Ly Tư Trọng Street (Gia Long Street) in Hô Chí Minh City (Saigon).
Borges begins his story with "I do not know which of us has written this page."
Posted by rst at May 29, 2005 02:53 PM
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