Kevin Myers and postcolonial place names.

Following my recent post about Kevin Myers, I thought I’d share this letter which I wrote in response to this article. It wasn’t published by the Irish Independent. 


In his rush to decry ‘PC name-changes’ Kevin Myers makes numerous mistakes. Peking is not the Cantonese name for Beijing but is merely an obsolete transliteration. Beijing is a more accurate rendition of the cities name and has come to be the predominant one in use since its official adoption by the Chinese government following the second Chinese revolution. Mumbai meanwhile, was always known by that name to speakers of the native Marathi language and the name change was an effort to promote Marathi identity within the multi-ethnic nation of India. His criticism of the use of native pronunciation of place names is also misleading as the name of the city of Mumbai officially changed as opposed to cities such as Torino which we Anglophones have merely persisted in calling by the wrong name for so very long. His comparison of the place names such as London and Cologne with those like Mumbai is insulting- Britain and Germany have not been colonized for quite some time whereas India has very recent memories of brutal British control. Besides, if the British or Germans wish to rename their cities then that is their business- I request he extend the same respect to India and China. Mr Myers would do well to research such countries such as India and China to avoid embarrassing himself by writing any more of this vaguely imperialist nonsense in future.

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