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Place names that are very different in other languages

Place names that are very different in other languages

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Old Nov 3, 09, 11:48 pm
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Place names that are very different in other languages

The other thread about mispronouncing place names brings up a similar topic: what place names have names in languages foreign to the place that are not based on the meaning (e.g. United States -> États-Unis in French), spelling (e.g. France -> France in English), or pronunciation (e.g. Roma -> Rome in English)?

For example:

Firenze -> Florence or some variation in other European languages
Deutschland -> Germany in English, Allemagne in French, Niemcy in Polish
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Old Nov 4, 09, 12:22 am
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Germany is perhaps the classic one. Others in Europe are Finland in English (with similar names in other western European languages) but Suomi in Finnish, and Greece in English (again, with similar names in western Europe) but Ελλάδα (Ellada) in Greek. The Mediterranean Sea is Akdeniz in Turkish, and I guess that lots of local geographical entities have local names that differ from place to place.

Countries sometimes change their name, and other languages are sometimes slow to update their usages. Persia—Iran, Siam—Thailand, Formosa—Taiwan, and Burma—Myanmar are some examples of this. Indeed, one could argue that there is no need for other countries to change. After all, the Germans are not offended when we call their country "Germany" rather than "Deutschland".
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Old Nov 4, 09, 1:02 am
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Jerusalem is Al Quds in Arabic, Aleppo is commonly called Haleb... actually many places in the Arab world have quite different names between English and Arabic.
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Old Nov 4, 09, 1:38 am
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I've always wondered how London becomes Londres in Spanish and München, Lisboa, and Porto become Munich, Lisbon, and Oporto in English.
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Old Nov 4, 09, 1:48 am
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Originally Posted by DesertNomad View Post
actually many places in the Arab world have quite different names between English and Arabic.
Indeed: Egypt - Misr springs to mind.

Others:

Morocco - al Maghribia (Arabic)
Georgia - Sakartvelo (Georgian)
Armenia - Hayastan (Armenian)
Scotland - Alba (Gaidhlig)
Wales - Cymru (Welsh)
Switzerland - Helvetica (Latin)
Hungary - Magyarorszag (Hungarian)

And that's just countries based on 5 minutes deep thought
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Old Nov 4, 09, 2:13 am
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Greenland (Kallalit Nunaat) has place names that don't just look different in different languages, they mean something entirely different. Until recently, the Danish names were commonly used by English speakers, but thus is changing. The native names tend to be descriptions of local features, like Uummanaq (heart-shaped), Nuuk (promontory), Ilulissat (icebergs) or Qasigiannguit (small spotted seals). The Danish names rarely coincide, often named after people. One rare occasion where they do is Kangerlussuaq (Sondre Strømfjord).
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Old Nov 4, 09, 2:28 am
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My first thought, on reading this title, were place names in and around Belgium. Not only are there Flemish and French names for most towns in Belgium (with some exceptions), but many places have German names too... and there are Flemish names for some border towns in France, and Flemish and French ones for border towns in Germany. It can get very confusing!

I'll never forget the time we were driving around western (Flemish-speaking) parts of Belgium, desperately looking for road signs to Lille, in France... until we finally came across a bilingual sign which said "Rijssel - Lille". We had seen lots of signs saying "Rijssel" - how is a foreign visitor supposed to know that Rijssel is Lille? (I know now!!)

Other examples from that part of the world... Liege in Belgium is Luik in Dutch/Flemish and Lüttich in German. Aachen in Germany is Aken in Dutch/Flemish and Aix-la-Chapelle in French. Bilingual Belgian names include Antwerpen/Anvers, Brugge/Bruges, Leuven/Louvain and Namur/Namen. Brussels, of course, has lots of different names, but they are all very similar to each other - Brussels/Bruxelles/Brussel/Brüssel.

Lots of places in Poland and the Baltics have different names because they were inhabited by different populations at different times in their history... and it's not that long ago that these names were a very sensitive issue. I remember the days when Poland would refuse entry to anyone whose passport listed "Breslau" or "Danzig" as someone's place of birth instead of "Wroclaw" or "Gdansk".

Looking at yet another part of Europe, one that used to confuse me is the Italian name for Munich/München - which is Monaco.
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Old Nov 4, 09, 2:42 am
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A few examples in the Netherlands:

's-Gravenhage (Dutch) = Den Haag (Dutch) = The Hague (English) = La Haye (French)
's-Hertogenbosch (Dutch) = Den Bosch (Dutch) = Bois-le-Duc (French)
Vlissingen (Dutch) = Flushing (English)

or for the whole country
Nederland (Dutch) = the Netherlands (English) = Pays-Bas (French) = die Niederlande (German) = Paises Bajos (Spanish) = Alankomaat (Finnish) = Nizozemsko (Czech) = etc., etc.
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Old Nov 4, 09, 3:16 am
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Originally Posted by Sjoerd View Post
Vlissingen (Dutch) = Flushing (English)
There must be a historical reason for this name (there usually is) but it's one of those names that I think are really daft and that I refuse to use (and I don't think there are many other people in Britain who use it now).

Another silly one (that I won't use) is "Leghorn" for Livorno in Italy.

To go back to Dutch examples... when I was commuting by ferry, 20-odd years ago, Hoek van Holland was generally referred to by its Dutch name here, both in spoken use and in timetables and brochures etc. For some reason both ferry and train company now insist on using the old English name, "Hook of Holland". I don't know why they're doing it. It looks like a retrograde step to me. It's not as if Brits couldn't get their tongues round the proper name!
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Old Nov 4, 09, 3:23 am
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There seem to be quite a few where usage is changing - few still refer to 'Lyons' or 'Marseilles'. Even the Flemish use of the Dutch word 'Rijsel' seems to be decreasing - I recently found myself in Gent station asking for tickets there (in Dutch), and they didn't understand me. I assumed it was my awful Dutch accent, but it turned out they were just not used to people using anything but 'Lille' any more.
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Old Nov 4, 09, 3:26 am
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The Netherlands in Welsh is Yr Iseldiroedd - literally, the lowlands - while the English tend to call it Holland.

Welsh and Wales both come from Germanic words meaning 'foreign'. Our own names are Cymru for the country and Cymry for the people meaning something like brothers or comrades. We still call the English, Saeson meaning Saxons, and the language Saesneg. Same origins as Sassenach in Scotland and Ireland.

Other Welsh versions of place names include:

Ffrainc - France
Yr Almaen - Germany
Yr Eidal - Italy
Yr Alban - Scotland
Iwerddon - Ireland
Môr Y Canoldir - Mediterranean - again literally, the sea at the centre of the land
Rhufain - Rome
Lloegr - England
Llundain - London
Caeredin - Edinburgh
Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysilio gogogoch - Tourist trap
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Old Nov 4, 09, 7:47 am
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Originally Posted by jackal View Post
I've always wondered how London becomes Londres in Spanish and München, Lisboa, and Porto become Munich, Lisbon, and Oporto in English.
I can explain Oporto: In Portuguese, the name of the city has always the article "o" (the), as in "The Port". The English translation just got the article stuck to the city name.

About Munich, its Italian name is Monaco, quite confusing, but understandable since both names came from the same root, "monk".
http://www.reuters.com/article/oddly...72024920080409

Another fun fact: Turkey, in English, is a country but also a bird. The same bird, in Portuguese, is called peru, a totally different country.
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Old Nov 4, 09, 8:14 am
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Most of these language shifts in pronunciation don't surprise me.

In the OP's example, the root of Florence and Firenze is the same, the latin Florencia. In English, we stayed closer to the latin root. In Italian, the 'l' shifted first to an 'i' and the 'cia' to 'za', making Fiorenza. This shift away from some consonant clusters is common in Italian. Then, over time the 'o' dropped away and the 'a' shifted to an 'e' making it Firenze.

The dutch examples given seem to be ways people unfamiliar with Dutch language and pronunciation make sense of sounds they cannot pronounce with meanings (if any) they don't understand. Can you imagine someone, hundreds of years ago who has never left the English town that they grew up in, hearing the name Vlissingen, and trying to make sense of it. Flushing isn't really that far off.

More interesting I think are the different names for Germany, which is based on names of various peoples who populated the region. So, depending on who you came into contact with, you end up with Deutsch, Allemand, Tedesco, and German.

I do wonder about some of Mr. H's examples. Morocco seems to just be a pronunciation shift, albeit a radical one, but the others aren't. It would be interesting to know (albeit not particularly useful) if the Latin Helvetians are actually the same people as the Schweiz/Suisses/Schwyz or whether they are a different group of people altogether, both of whom occupied a portion of what is now Switzerland.

As to the bird issue that MariaSF brought up, this one is actually pretty fun. When turkeys first showed up in European markets the original source of them was unclear. The English thought they were from Turkey, hence the name. The French thought they were from India, therefore d'Inde or now, dinde (from India). The Portuguese, from Peru, etc.

Last edited by You want to go where?; Nov 4, 09 at 8:21 am
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Old Nov 4, 09, 8:57 am
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this is especially prevalent in asia: china (zhonghua), korea (hanguk), and japan (nippon) are easy examples.

my french friends always giggle when i talk about my love for grand tetons.
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Old Nov 4, 09, 10:41 am
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I was astounded to learn that Dublin was actually Baile Átha Cliath.

Likewise, some places in northern Canada have two names. Rae-Edzo (English) is Behchokò (Dené) is but one example.

And the whole Latin thing isn't too rough. Just keep in mind that Cologne (or Köln) is Colonia in Latin. Or that Copenhagen (or København) is Hafnia in Latin. Confoederatio Helvetica is why Switzerland is sometimes abbreviated CH. Nothing too hard about it, but then I deal with Latin every day for work.
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