Monday, February 13, 2006

Cosmo in Torino

Turin or Torino? Many of the reports I see use 'Torino' instead of 'Turin' to describe the host of the 2006 Winter Olympics. 'Torino' is of course is what the Italians call their city, whereas 'Turin' is the anglicized version of it. I was not alive during the 1972 olympics, and I can only wonder whether they were the München Games. In Bayern. In Deutschland. If not, well, then maybe they should have been. Am I saying that we should adopt the "local" version of the place name? Only in certain cases.

For one thing, 'Torino' is not an odd looking word for English speakers. It flows rather well. And yet we say 'Turin.' Why has Tblisi avoided the anglo-axe? 'München' is rather odd for English speakers, and perhaps 'Munich' is better.

We should not automatically adopt the local name for the place. For one thing, not everyone uses the Latin alphabet, and phonetics must be taken into consideration. Another thing: there might not be a single "local name". What do locals call Switzerland? Schweiz? Suisse? (How about "the C.H."? "Don't call it that," says Michel Bluth.)

For certain "contested" names, maybe we should go back to Latin as a standard. For example, the Danube is a river that flows through many European countries, and thus is called a variety of names. 'Danuvius' is not a bad name for it in my opinion. Of course, what have we gained from calling it that? English speakers and Latin speakers unite? I suppose it's mostly pedantry.

But Torino is better than Turin. Thus spoke Zoroaster.

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