BOMBAY/MUMBAI: ENGLISH IS...

BOMBAY/MUMBAI: ENGLISH IS ENGLISH. In light of the recent bombing in India, I've been looking into the whole Bombay versus Mumbai question a little. Here's the story: The city was founded by the Portuguese, who originally called it "Bom Bahia," which later degenerated to "Bombaim." The British took the territory over and started calling it by an Anglicized version of that name: "Bombay." At the same time, speakers of Marathi and Gujarati called it "Mumbai," while Hindi speakers called it "Bambai." Then, in 1995, the Shiv Sena party which controlled the local provincial government proclaimed that it would henceforth be "Mumbai" in all languages.

I see no reason for Americans to follow this diktat. It's totally normal for places to have different names in different languages. Germany is "Deutschland" in German, "Germany" in English, and "Allemagne" in French. We use the German word for Prague, while Czechs call it "Praha." This "Mumbai" business just confuses people. There's a city; it's "Bombay" in English, "Bambai" in Hindi, and "Mumbai" in Gujarati. There's nothing wrong with that.

--Matthew Yglesias

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