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April 23, 2005

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dan

Why is it called Bucharest by foreign people and not Bucuresti i dont know. It has nothing to do with pronunciation. Since when it's called Bucharest? Maybe u know better. Budapest is Budapest. Kiev is Kiev. I dont understand why Bucuresti is crippled into Bucharest. Its weird. Roma is Rome. But Bucharest sounds a bit like Budapest thats why people confuse the two.

Bojan

Belgrade is called Beograd by the Serbs, meaning White City. Why it's called Belgrade by foreigners, I've no idea.

Carlos

English speakers are equal opportunity manglers of the names of foreign cities. Look at how an American pronounces "Paris": PARE-riss. (At least we get the spelling right. Usually.) It's not meant as a slight. English simply has a lot of fossilized mishaps embedded within its vocabulary.

Bernard Guerrero

Firenze.

Jim Parish

Most of these, I think, have fairly simple explanations. The name "Paris" was borrowed into English at a time when French - or at least its Norman variant - still pronounced final /s/. "Florence" came into English in its Latin form, "Florentia", and then was modified by standard English phonological processes. (Of course, other languages do this too; cf. Italian "Parigi" for "Paris", parallel to "Luigi" for "Louis" and "Ambrogio" for "Ambrose". I'd be interested in an explanation of French "Londres" for "London"...) For "Belgrade", I can hazard a couple of guesses. Serbian "beo-" is cognate to Russian "byel-", if I'm not mistaken, and either the name was borrowed into English when the Serbian form still contained an /l/, or it came into English via Russian. Finally, as regards "Bucharest", my first thought is that it probably came into English via German. Claudia, what's the German name for that city?

One Englishism that I do disapprove of is the recent fad for pronouncing "Moscow" with a final long "o". That has no warrant either in English tradition or in Russian pronunciation. Heck, if authenticity is desired, bring back "Muscovy"!

claudia

Since when it's called Bucharest?

Well, since when, I don't know. It's the English version, the German version is "Bukarest". Doug and I pronounce the name actually in the Romanian fashion, between us.

As others have told you, there are countless other examples. Most of the cities with many names are old cities, btw. Long rows of conquerors, merchants and traders may have something to do with this. It seems that the odder a name is, the more distorted it will be in other languages. Which makes a certain amount of sense.

München is hard to pronounce for English and French (and others), so it Munich with respective pronounciations.

Berlin is easy and stays what it is.

Kln is not easy and has a Roman background, so the name is Cologne in English and French.

The list is quite exhausting.

It's not a slight, no need to feel offended. It's just the way it is. I know I wondered about this myself, oh so many years ago. I'm getting old.

Carlos

In the 1920s, New Berlin, Wisconsin changed the pronounciation of its name, shifting the accent on 'Berlin' from the second to the first syllable. Peter Jennings once did a spot for ABC News in Wisconsin where he announced that ABC covered the news "from BerLIN to New BERlin".

(I don't know whether New Berlin was specifically settled by Brandenburgers, but it wouldn't surprise me. German immigration to Wisconsin came from all the German-speaking lands.)

Jussi Jalonen

Since Jim brought up Moscow, this might be a good moment to remind once again that the name of the Russian capital is actually of Volga-Finnish origin. The suffix -ova/-va/-v is still the sign of the participe presens in Finnish language.

For a comparable example, the name "Berlin" is of Slavic/Sorbian origin. Considering that the names of these old cities often have nothing to do with the languages of the people who inhabit them today, does the spelling and pronounciation really matter all that much?

Cheers,
Jalonen

claudia

Considering that the names of these old cities often have nothing to do with the languages of the people who inhabit them today, does the spelling and pronounciation really matter all that much?

Good point, Jussi.

dan

Bucuresti comes from a shepherd called Bucur who settle here some centuries ago and founded this city.

Bucuresti can also mean "the city of joy" since "bucurie" means "joy".

On the other hand Bucharest means nothing.

And by the way Timisoara, Cluj, Brasov, Constanta are pronounced the same in romanian and english. Seems that only Bucuresti is being butchered by english language.

Carlos

And by the way Timisoara, Cluj, Brasov, Constanta are pronounced the same in romanian and english.

Setting aside that 99+% of English speakers haven't even heard of those cities, here's how an American English speaker would pronounce them on sight:

ti-mi-SORE-ah (or possibly, ti-mi-so-AH-rah)

KLUHDZH

BRASS-off

kon-STAN-tah

So, no, I don't think so.

I dunno, man. I don't get my shoelaces in a knot when someone mispronounces Milwaukee or Zamboanga. Why the paranoia?

claudia

Hm, dear. Check your sources before you use your shoe to clobber us on the heads. The Bucur story is a legend, not more than that. Yes, it appears everywhere. Yes, they also say it's a legend everywhere. You know, like Romulus and Remus.

Bucharest was probably founded by Mircea cel Btrn in the 14th century after a victory won over the Turks (bucurie means joy in Romanian, for this reason Bucharest is often called "The City of Joy.").

See Wikipedia, et al.

Jussi Jalonen

"And by the way Timisoara, Cluj, Brasov, Constanta are pronounced the same in romanian and english."

At least two of those cities have been known by different names, some of them still in use in various European countries. Timisoara? Temesvar. Cluj? Kolozsvar. Klausenburg. Claudiopolis.

"Seems that only Bucuresti is being butchered by english language."

(Shrugs) I don't really understand why this bothers you so much, Dan.

For a comparable example, Gteborg, Karlskrona and Malm are written the same in Swedish and Finnish. On the other hand, we say "Tukholma" instead of "Stockholm", and butcher Lule and Ume into "Luulaja" and "Uumaja". Yet for some odd reason, our Swedish neighbours don't seem to be bothered. Neither are the Russians when we refer to St. Petersburg as "Pietari", nor the Danes when we speak of "Kpenhamina".

By the way, in some parts of the world, this existence of different foreign names - even if they might be products of bad translitteration or derivation - is actually taken as a _compliment_ by the native inhabitants. Coming up with a name that's more easy to pronounce in a foreign tongue can be considered as a sign of a long-lasting affinity and actual interest in the country (or, in this case, the city).

For example, our Estonian relatives are thrilled when we refer to their beloved homeland by the name "Viro", and _insist_ that we use it, because it's so very _special_ and _original_ - even if it means nothing, and is badly derived from the name of one single Estonian province.

(By the way, the Finnish word for Germany is "Saksa". However, I presume that our resident Bavarian hostess is not mortally offended that we use the name of Saxony as a short-hand for the entire Teutonic country and nation.)

Cheers,
Jalonen

dan

It doesnt bother me.

2 million people can't be wrong. We call it Bucuresti. At least we live here. If your not flexible that's your fault. Im gonna call New York "Noul Iorc" from now on :).

claudia

2 million people can't be wrong. We call it Bucuresti. At least we live here. If your not flexible that's your fault. Im gonna call New York "Noul Iorc" from now on :).

Hm, how old are you?

Carlos

Dan, man, that's fine. About a quarter of New York's residents don't refer to it as "New York" anyway. Nueva York, NYu-Iork (in Cyrillic), et cetera. Only lunatics and extreme nativists -- usually difficult to distinguish -- complain about it here.

For your sake, I am hoping that Romania has a third category. I will be charitable and call it "innocent".

C.

Mihai

"By the way, in some parts of the world, this existence of different foreign names - even if they might be products of bad translitteration or derivation - is actually taken as a _compliment_ by the native inhabitants."

-I have to agree with that totally! It's great that at least Bucharest has an English name variant and its perfectly OK. I actually hate it when people try to pronounce foreign names when there's an English name. All the English like pronouncing "Budapest" as "Budapesht", which is incorrect, because in Hungarian it's pronounced "Buda-pesht", with the 'a' sounding like an 'o' (like the Estonian o-tilde, or ), and the 'e' is pronounced more openly, sort of like the German 'a-umlaut'. So, unless you pronounce it like a Hungarian does, then it's not worth it. Some expats in Bucharest also pronounce the name "Book-a-resht" - it's either "Book-oo-resht" or "Bucharest".

Concerning the Estonians and the Finnish, they have some of the most interesting names for other countries - like calling Russia "Venemaa" in Estonian, or Sweden is "Rootsi". Jussi, maybe you could explain where they go these names from? Viro comes from Virumaa, which today is Ida-Viru maakond, does it not?

Jussi Jalonen

"Concerning the Estonians and the Finnish, they have some of the most interesting names for other countries - like calling Russia 'Venemaa' in Estonian, or Sweden is 'Rootsi'. Jussi, maybe you could explain where they go these names from?"

The usual explanation is that both the Estonian "Venemaa" and the Finnish "Venj" ("Russia") come from the same root as the old tribal name "venethi" used by Tacitus in his "Germania". Elsewhere in Central Europe, this became a name for Sorbians and other West Slavs - i.e. "Vends" or "Wenden".

As for the origins of the words "venethi" and "vends", it may contain the Scandinavian word "ven/vn" - i.e. "friend". It's sort of odd, when one considers that the old Russian word for both Finns and Estonians is "chud" ("foreign, strange, the enemy") and for Germans, "nemets" ("dumb, mute"). We call them friends, they call us, um, something else.

The Estonian word "Rootsi" and the Finnish word "Ruotsi" (Sweden), on the other hand, are usually thought to refer to the Swedish region of _Roslagen_, north of the present-day Stockholm. The name contains the verb "ro" = "to row", and Roslagen would mean approximately "reached by rowing".

Consequently, the Finnish "Ruotsi" is the same precise Nordic tribal name as the famous "Rus" in the Chronicle of Nestor... which means that we call Sweden by the same word that elsewhere in the world eventually became the name for Russia. Weird, but true.

"Viro comes from Virumaa, which today is Ida-Viru maakond, does it not?"

Yes, that's correct. "Eesti" and "Estonia" are, of course, another tribal name from Tacitus, although it's generally thought that his "Aestii" actually referred to the native Baltic tribes - i.e. the ancestors of the present-day Latvians and Lithuanians.

Cheers,
Jalonen

Carlos

There was a Saturday Night Live skit some years back, where a comedienne playing a ditzy blonde newscaster pronouncing Nicaraguan place names as (she thought) the Nicaraguans do -- trilled r's, almost uvular g's, Italianate vowels, et cetera. Fell in the category of observational humor, since many pretentious newscasters in the US at the time did do exactly that. (Perhaps they still do. Haven't heard much about Nicaragua lately. I'm sure it's all better now!)

It being the post-Belushi era Saturday Night Live, it was more annoying than funny, but what can you do.

Denis

Posted by: Mihai at April 26, 2005 10:20 AM
"The usual explanation is that both the Estonian "Venemaa" and the Finnish "Venj" ("Russia") come from the same root as the old tribal name "venethi" used by Tacitus in his "Germania". Elsewhere in Central Europe, this became a name for Sorbians and other West Slavs - i.e. "Vends" or "Wenden".

As for the origins of the words "venethi" and "vends", it may contain the Scandinavian word "ven/vn" - i.e. "friend". It's sort of odd, when one considers that the old Russian word for both Finns and Estonians is "chud" ("foreign, strange, the enemy") and for Germans, "nemets" ("dumb, mute"). We call them friends, they call us, um, something else."

You are not right.
We do not call Finns and Estonians as “chud”. I‘ll say more – I don’t know this Russian word! May be you mean “chudak”? It can be translated as “strange, funny” but not “the enemy”!
We can call “funny” any people, from any country in the world .
Estonian we call “Estonets”, Finns we call “Fin”.
Yes, Germans we call “nemets”, but it didn’t mean something bad!
Here that I have found about old names and meanings of these names.

“In the end XIX beginning of XX century more often "another's" the representative of German culture is considered. It is interesting, that in old russian language of all foreigners named a word the “nemets”. Subsequently this word has been superseded by a word the stranger, and the word meaning the “nemets” was narrowed only up to those foreigners who came from Germany, the Root of a word the German nem-, from mute, that is the German is mute, not able to speak (not knowing our language) the person. In a basis of definition of the foreigner its inability to speak on native, in this case Russian, inability to express verbally, thus, laid.” (this is machine translation from Russian)

“Chukhonets” (what it mean I don’t know )
The old national name of Estonians, and also the Karelian-Finnish population of vicinities of Petersburg.

P.S. Sorry for my poor English

Jussi Jalonen

Denis, Mihai, or whatever your name is, the word "Chud" as a common Russian name for Estonians, Finns and other related Fenno-Ugrian peoples is really basic knowledge. You can find the word already from the Chronicle of Nestor, with its many, many references to this mysterious tribe known as "white-eyed Chuds" - who, in all likelihood, were probably ancient Vepsians.

Hey, you can still find the word from the _map_, even today. The Russian name for the Lake Peipus? "Chudskoye Ozero".

As for the ethymology of the word, you're right that it's not completely clear. However, the most common explanation that _I_ have seen is that it derives from the word "chuzhoi", which means precisely what I said - "foreign, strange, alien". The same word, "ue", appears also in the Saami languages, where it means "enemy" or "thief". I guess I should have been a bit more clear on that point.

The word "chuknonets", by the way, is most likely derived exactly from the above-mentioned "chud" (although I've heard other explanations as well). The same goes for the more famous word "chukhna", nowadays used mostly a derogatory term.

And of course there's nothing bad in using the word "nemets" for Germans. The Poles do the same, and they even call the entire country "Niemcy". I'm not advocating any politically correct censorship or revision of words, especially when it comes to old, established historical names. Still, one has to admit that semantically the word "nemets" (i.e. mute) has pretty much the same origins as the word "hottentot" (i.e. stutterer), with a clear derogatory intention.


Cheers,
Jalonen

Denis

Thenks for explanations.

Kiitos :)

Bennox

I must agree that it's very annoying when people try to use the name as it is in the original language when speaking English instead of the English equivalent. "I'm going to Warszawa", they'll say, or "Venezia was delightful". Many cities have different forms in different languages! Bucharest is what it's called in English - end of story! And Moscow, to rhyme with toss toe, is the British English pronunciation. Unless we should all call it Moskva and decline it according to its role in the sentence?

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