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  1. #1
    Senior Member Homebrew01's Avatar
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    Why Do We "Translate" Foreign Names into English ?

    For instance, Torino Italy is Turin here, Napoli is Naples, Brasil is Brazil.

    Why don't we just call Torino Torino ? Why did someone decide that the native name should be changed ? I can understand that some languages have sounds that are hard or impossible for native English speakers to make, so modifying a word makes sense, but most European names don't cause any problem.
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  2. #2
    Administrator Allen's Avatar
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    Guessing here.
    Florence, Naples, and the like are quite old cities. When the printing press came about the Anglicized versions of the names were used in English printings and they became that standard spelling in English.

  3. #3
    Look! My Spine! RubenX's Avatar
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    What I can contribute is that Spanish speaking cultures do it to: Nueva York, Carolina Del Norte, Nuevo Mexico. Others can be written exactly the same but are pronounced totally different.

    My guess is that in earlier days, people didn't have the same respect for names as we do today and though of them as just another foreign word that needed to be translated.
    "Hoy es un dia normal, pero yo voy a hacerlo intenso" ~ Juanes

  4. #4
    Senior Member catmandew52's Avatar
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    Blame the old British Empire and other former colonial powers. Some of HRH's civil servants changed the names of city and countrys because it was the way to bring lesser peoples into the modern age. Either that or they the locals were misprounouncing the name of the place the grew up in.
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  5. #5
    Quirky Grifter LesterOfPuppets's Avatar
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    I've wondered that also. Allen's olde maps theory sounds like a good one. My wall map was made in Switzerland so it has more "international" names for countries.

    Norge, Sverige, Suomi, Polska.

    The Italian cities are there in Italian too - Milano, Roma, Napoli.

    Some of the old Eastern Bloc spellings are interesting: Rominia, Balgarija

    Turkey is Turkiye and Greece is Ellas.

    China is Chung Kuo (with China in parentheses)

    I should get a new world map, this one still has the USSR on it
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  6. #6
    Every day a winding road spinnaker's Avatar
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    Some foreign names are hard for English speaking people to pronounce like Firenze (Florance) . But I can't figure why you would want to change the spelling of cities like Roma or Milano.
    "The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it."

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  7. #7
    J3L 2404 gbcb's Avatar
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    Yeah, like Ruben says it's not just English-speakers who do this. Think of Londres for London (in French and Spanish). And Chinese is all over the place: some places are translated phonetically (In Mandarin you say Manhadun for Manhattan), some are translated literally (Niujin for Oxford, which literally means "ox-ford"), some are historical names that have stuck: Jiu Jin Shan, or "Old Golden Mountain" for San Francisco.

    The most confusing for me to decode in conversation are Chinese names of Japanese places, since they read the characters with Chinese pronunciations. Tokyo becomes Dongjing, Osaka is Daban, Kyoto is Jingdu.

    A lot of English place names in Asia came from attempts to write down approximations of what the locals called the places, as filtered through the ears of sometimes linguistically challenged Europeans. Hong Kong is fairly close to the local Cantonese pronunciation Heung Gong (though it's Xiang Gang in Mandarin). Some names were based on what other outsiders called them: I had thought that Japan came from European mishearing of the Cantonese pronunciation of 日本 (yat-bun), but the Wu Chinese (Shanghainese) pronunciation (something like "zep-pen") is even closer.

    Here's an interesting Wikipedia article on the topic.

  8. #8
    Senior Member JonnyHK's Avatar
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    The subway in Hong Kong is good fun - all the stations are announced in three languages (English, Cantonese, Mandarin) so you can compare them all easily.

  9. #9
    Pwnerer Wordbiker's Avatar
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    A local phenomenon that drives me crazy: mispronouncing names of places, like "Buena Vista" pronounced as "Byoona Vista" or "Florida" pronounced as "Floor-eye-duh".
    Quote Originally Posted by ahsposo View Post
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  10. #10
    on by skijor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wordbiker View Post
    A local phenomenon that drives me crazy: mispronouncing names of places, like "Buena Vista" pronounced as "Byoona Vista" or "Florida" pronounced as "Floor-eye-duh".
    Roger that Ward Bye Car

  11. #11
    Quirky Grifter LesterOfPuppets's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wordbiker View Post
    A local phenomenon that drives me crazy: mispronouncing names of places, like "Buena Vista" pronounced as "Byoona Vista" or "Florida" pronounced as "Floor-eye-duh".
    What? Coloradans like to pronounce Florida like that? Weird.

    Gets done to Spanish names all the time (SF, LA, Rio Grande, etc.), but I can't figure why anyone would say Florida like that unless they're just being funny.

    Kinda reminds me of a little town near here called Felida. The accepted pronunciation is Fell-eye-duh.
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  12. #12
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    Is Arkansas pronounced "are-can-saws" or "are-can-sauce" or "are-can-sass"?

  13. #13
    Quirky Grifter LesterOfPuppets's Avatar
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    ^^ Must be from Colorado
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  14. #14
    Pedaled too far. Artkansas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan The Man View Post
    Is Arkansas pronounced "are-can-saws" or "are-can-sauce" or "are-can-sass"?
    LOL. None of the above.... Ark in saw, or Whoo Pig Sooie.

    But we've got some great cities like El Dor ay dough and Ne vay da.
    Last edited by Artkansas; 10-02-11 at 10:41 AM.
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  15. #15
    Administrator Allen's Avatar
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    Y'all would love what we come up with for Ponce de Leon in Georgia.

  16. #16
    Quirky Grifter LesterOfPuppets's Avatar
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    Dontcha usually skip the "de Leon" part and just say Pawntz?
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  17. #17
    Senior Member mikeybikes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wordbiker View Post
    A local phenomenon that drives me crazy: mispronouncing names of places, like "Buena Vista" pronounced as "Byoona Vista" or "Florida" pronounced as "Floor-eye-duh".
    Like pronouncing Colorado, Cawlorado
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  18. #18
    Administrator Allen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LesterOfPuppets View Post
    Dontcha usually skip the "de Leon" part and just say Pawntz?
    If you want to say the whole thing the de Leon part is pronounced duh lee-ON.

  19. #19
    Administrator Allen's Avatar
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    As to the OP, it is evident from this thread that no one in the world can speak correctly. It ain't just English.

  20. #20
    Pwnerer Wordbiker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LesterOfPuppets View Post
    What? Coloradans like to pronounce Florida like that? Weird.

    Gets done to Spanish names all the time (SF, LA, Rio Grande, etc.), but I can't figure why anyone would say Florida like that unless they're just being funny.

    Kinda reminds me of a little town near here called Felida. The accepted pronunciation is Fell-eye-duh.
    The highway climbs up steeply onto Florida Mesa, where the road cuts are in the Animas Formation. On the east side of this mesa, the Florida River flows south on its way to join the Animas near Bondad. Note that the Florida River was named by Domínguez and Escalante in 1776, and the proper pronunciation is still "flor-EE-da," although the gender has been changed from the original "Florido."
    Even worse.

    http://www.fourcornerssw.com/durango_to_aztek.html
    Quote Originally Posted by ahsposo View Post
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  21. #21
    Insane Bicycle Mechanic Jeff Wills's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LesterOfPuppets View Post
    Kinda reminds me of a little town near here called Felida. The accepted pronunciation is Fell-eye-duh.
    I grew up on Milan Ave. That was pronounced MY-lan.
    Down in Portland there's a Couch St. It's pronounced Kooch.

    My father (who speaks something like 7 languages) is fond of pointing out there is no "C" sound in Japanese, and they've adapted English pronunciations for some common items. "C" ("see") comes out as "sh", thus "City Bus Station" comes out as "S***ty Boos Stay-shun"... and it's probably the cleanest place in town.
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  22. #22
    Quirky Grifter LesterOfPuppets's Avatar
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    I saw one show on OPB with a Couch decendent who claimed it was actually pronounced just like the furniture.

    Another Oregon favorite is Owyhee - an old bastardized spelling of Hawai'i.

    Egads! I was just watching the news and they pulled a guy out of the river in Buena Vista, OR. News guy pronounced it Byoona Vista. I figured after the BV Social Club movie everyone would've started saying it the right way. Oh well.
    Last edited by LesterOfPuppets; 10-02-11 at 11:16 PM.
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  23. #23
    Senior Member catmandew52's Avatar
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    I notice there has not been any mention of the Prudenchell Plazer in Baastin Mass
    Take care that no one hates you justly. ~Publilius Syrus

  24. #24
    derailleurs are overrated bigbenaugust's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LesterOfPuppets View Post
    I saw one show on OPB with a Couch decendent who claimed it was actually pronounced just like the furniture.

    Another Oregon favorite is Owyhee - an old bastardized spelling of Hawai'i.

    Egads! I was just watching the news and they pulled a guy out of the river in Buena Vista, OR. News guy pronounced it Byoona Vista. I figured after the BV Social Club movie everyone would've started saying it the right way. Oh well.
    What about Aloha, Oregon, which I have heard pronounced "uh-LOH-uh" and not "ah-LO-hah".

    Actually, good ol' Wikipedia clears this one up: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aloha,_Or

    And then there's Oceano, CA near where I used to live in college... Sure, it's a spanish word, but NO ONE pronounces it that way: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oceano,_CA

    But don't get me started about all the people who pronounce "San Jose" "san-uh-zay"... no, just no.
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  25. #25
    Administrator Allen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by catmandew52 View Post
    I notice there has not been any mention of the Prudenchell Plazer in Baastin Mass
    No one has said anything about Lon Geyeland, NY either.

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