WHAT LANGUAGE IS THIS?

The answer requires both an ability to read Arabic script and a knowledge of West African languages, so I’m not especially hopeful that even my Varied Readers will be able to provide it, but it’s such an interesting puzzle I can’t resist passing it on. Lameen of Jabal al-Lughat, in his latest post, says:

A scan of much of the manuscript MS Leiden Or. 14.052 is available online [pdf]. The main text of this manuscript is in a rather poor Arabic. The marginal and interlinear notes, however, are “in one or more West African languages”, as yet unidentified. My best guess is that they’re in Mandinka, based on the orthography’s use of tanwīn and on the frequent word-initial a/i (suggestive of Mande’s 3rd person subject pronouns), but I’m not sure; I haven’t been able to decipher any phrases. Anyone else feel like having a look?

You have to scroll down a couple of pages to get to the reproduction of the MS. Good hunting!

Comments

  1. Trond Engen says:

    Burmese, apparently.

  2. Thanks for the link! I figured it would be an interesting puzzle for the kind of people that like that sort of thing…

  3. Can’t tell if this is spam or not.

  4. Looking at the Wikipedia entry for Burma (funny it hasn’t been changed to Myanmar yet), it’s interesting to note that the word ‘Myanmar’ in Burmese appears to lack the final -r it has in English: Pyi-daung-zu Myan-ma Naing-ngan-daw (‘Union of Myanmar’).
    Is that -r added for the sake of conformity with BrE pronunciation (the way Korean last names are sometimes spelled to conform to AmE pronunciation: Young, Lee, etc.)?

  5. Can’t tell if this is spam or not.
    If you’re talking about the first comment, yes, it’s spam; I left it because Trond made a joke about it, but I removed the spam URL (and all the other jewel links that were originally there).
    funny it hasn’t been changed to Myanmar yet
    Why should it be? The name Myanmar was chosen and is insisted on by a few brutal thugs who happen to run the country. I deplore giving in to such thugs, and wish everyone would continue using Burma, as Aung San Suu Kyi and most other opponents of the regime prefer.
    Is that -r added for the sake of conformity with BrE pronunciation
    Yes, I’ve written about it here and elsewhere.

  6. You’re saying that the name of the country in the country’s language was changed by the current government to ‘Myanmar’?

  7. marie-lucie says:

    “Bama” and “Myanma” are two different pronunciations of the same name, although “Bama” seems to be more widespread, as explained in several Language Log postings (search their archives). (The official name is NOT pronounced “my anmar”: “myan” is a single syllable, and the final r is a Britishism indicating a long vowel).

  8. michael farris says:

    No, the current regime wanted to change the way the country is referred to in English.
    Both Burma and Myanmar are approximations of the same Burmese name of the country (neither of which has an r). The relation between script and speech in Burmese is rather indirect and convuluted and there are variable pronunciations of many words depending individual and/or register concerns.
    In English I prefer Burma primarily because that’s that what Aung San Suu Kyi prefers and the idea that it doesn’t please the regime is an added bonus.

  9. China has called Burma Miandian as long as I remember. I don’t think that the “Mian” part originates with the present regime.

  10. I believe we mad hatters have taken Myanmar to the woodshed and driven Burma around the block before.
    I quote below my own last update when I weighed in on my own blog.
    I’m way out of my depth on the issue of Burmese orthography, but from what I understand, written Burmese and spoken Burmese are in a diglossic relationship perhaps akin to that between Classical Arabic and the rich diversity of contemporary colloquial Arabic, or between Classical Chinese and modern spoken Chinese languages and dialects. Written Chinese underwent drastic reforms during the early 20th century to reflect modern spoken Mandarin, but Burmese still awaits such orthographic reforms. So people may write Burmese as it was spoken 1000 years ago (e.g., Mran-ma) but pronounce the same words the way they have turned out after 1000 years of sound change (e.g., Bam-ma), even writing millennium-old grammatical elements that are now archaic or obsolete in the spoken language. It would be as if all English speakers shared no writing system except a Runic version of Anglo-Saxon.

  11. It doesn’t make much sense to me to stick to the names the British Empire arrogantly bestowed on nations. I’m all for asking the natives what they call themselves, and using that. The fact that the current change was brought about by despicable people doesn’t change the logic behind the change, in my view.

  12. I think the best thing to do would be to transliterate the interlinear notes into roma-ji and ask some African language experts.
    nafata kakawumafan
    etc.
    Obviously someone with a good ability to read handwritten Arabic would be the person to ask.
    The first Google hit for the first word (nafata, presumably, although it looks like it could be dha-, since that ligature is a bit iffy to my decidedly non-specialist eyes) is Nafata of Gobir (r. 1797-98), a sultan “of the small Hausa state, today in northern Nigeria,” which happens to be the Muslim half of the country.
    I’m guessing people have already tried this approach, though.

  13. michael farris says:

    “I’m all for asking the natives what they call themselves, and using that. The fact that the current change was brought about by despicable people doesn’t change the logic behind the change, in my view.”
    Aung San Suu Kyi is also a native in this case. Also, there’s no evidence that Burmese people were concerned about this at all. My suspicion is that the regime instigated the change to confuse public opinion (it could have worked when I first started seeing “Myanmar” I had no idea where it was. After your horrible repressive regime has soured the world on your established name, change it and gain a new kind of credibility.
    Nope. It stays Burma until they get a better government and then if it seems the local people want a new name I’ll consider honoring their wishes.

  14. I’m all for asking the natives what they call themselves, and using that.
    The natives call their country /bama:/, which is what’s represented by the name Burma. It was not “arrogantly bestowed” by the British Empire, it was simply writing down the name the locals used. Why do you assume the junta-approved name is more in tune with local preferences?

  15. Even those who don’t object to Myanmar draw the line at Myanmarese. There are 59K ghits for Myanmarese, over 9 million for Burmese.

  16. Why do you assume the junta-approved name is more in tune with local preferences?
    Because it’s what is used in the Wikipedia entry:
    “The name “Burma” is derived from the Burmese word “Bamar” (ဗမာ), which in turn is the colloquial form of Myanmar (မြန်မာ) (or Mranma in old Burmese), both of which historically referred to the majority Burmans (or the Bamar). Depending on the register used the pronunciation would be “Bama” or “Myanmah”. The name “Burma” has been in use in English since the time of British colonial rule.”
    I’m all for Aung San Suu Kyi is a heroic human rights fighter and I worship the ideological ground she walks on, but this is a separate issue.
    If, as Michael suggests, the junta is trying to pull an RJ Reynolds-Atria type fast-one, then maybe that’s a bad thing, but it’s not like they changed ‘Burma’ to ‘Canada’ or something.
    I just don’t see why who changed the name makes a difference, especially since this is what they call themselves.
    Out of curiosity, was everyone as hostile to the Calcutta->Kolkata change as well?

  17. Catanea says:

    Whatever The Lady says shall be applied. But I’m a Wadhamite by marriage. That’s objective enough for me.

  18. I’ve never heard Wikipedia referred to as the Lady. I like it!
    ;ჭ

  19. “Out of curiosity, was everyone as hostile to the Calcutta->Kolkata change as well?”
    I don’t think that situation is really comparable given the governments concerned. That’s also a fairly peculiar example because, at least for Americans, it’s just a spelling change, no one seems to go out of their way to pronounce the name differently (sort of like Kiev -> Kyiv). For the record I’m not a fan of the Bombay->Mumbai switch and I know plenty of “locals” who feel the same way.

  20. marie-lucie says:

    Calcutta – Kolkata
    Given the peculiarities of the English way of spelling vowels, people from other language backgrounds can make big mistakes in pronuncing names written with English conventions. Kolkata will be closer to the original when pronounced by people of French, Italian, German, etc language backgrounds.
    With Burma – Myanmar, the problem is different, with one confusing spelling replaced by one which is even more confusing. Just about anyone could have pronounced Bama in a recognizable way, but the spelling Myanmar is very confusing to most people, and hardly anyone outside of the country can guess that the “new name” is a variant of the old one.
    Incidentally, the French name is la Birmanie, and it is Birmania in Italian and Spanish. The old name is spelled Би́рма in Russian (Wiki) (and the equivalent of Myanmar does not have a final r). Where does the i in those words come from?

  21. Before the spelling Burma became fixed, usage fluctuated; in earlier books you will find Berma, Birma, Birmah, etc., and my guess would be that the languages you mention borrowed the name from one of those.

  22. Well, the fact that the name is hard to pronounce for a bunch of white people doesn’t bother me. If they call their country Myanma (yes, I’m all for getting rid of the ‘r’) as its official name, then that’s what we should call it. If they change the name of their country to Bama to reflect the colloquial pronunciation, due to language reforms in their language or whatever, then we should follow that. (Roll tide!)
    I’m surprised to find that people aren’t of the same mind as I am here. I’m a little nonplussed by the consideration given political aspects of the situation. Vanya’s comment about Calcutta>Kolkata being different because the governments are different is a case in point. I mean, who cares? If the junta came out tomorrow and announced that 2+2=4, would you reject this? Of course not. That’s reality. The name they choose for their country should be considered on the merits of the name, not who’s giving it.

  23. Incidentally, Prof. Jan Just Witkam has a webpage full of Arabic manuscripts.

  24. marie-lucie says:

    the fact that the name is hard to pronounce for a bunch of white people doesn’t bother me
    I don’t deny that the name of a country is the business of that country, not of foreigners. I mentioned a few European languages because I am personally familiar with them, not because I think that only people who speak those languages would have trouble or should be considered (and French speakers include a fairly large number of non-Europeans). For that matter, I don’t think that Japanese or Swahil speakers would find Myanmar that easy to say. The point is not that the words should be made easier to pronounce for the sake of foreigners (they would be hard for some, but that is unavoidable), but that the British-based spelling adopted for the name is confusing about how the word should be said (and in this case, it is confusing for English speakers – who include a very large number of non-Europeans – as well).

  25. Oh, then I misunderstood. Sorry. I’m totally with you. As I said above, I would be for Myanma, without the -r.
    Myanma is trivially easy to pronounce in Japanese, incidentally. Mya is a rare combination (the colloquial 組みゃ – kumya contraction for 組めば – kumeba and other -む – -mu verbs is the only example I can think of ) but is easily pronounced by analogy with the very common nya.
    The one thing that really bothers me about that final -r is that every time I head the name of the country I recall the maddeningly catchy (and preternaturally long-lived) jingle for Yanmar Diesel weather report ads in Japan.

  26. The Russians apparently dispense with the -r. The Basques don’t, though, although languagehat will be glad to see that they specifically indicate that the name was given by the military (“militarrek erabakitako izena” – “a name established by the military”).

  27. Bathrobe says:

    especially since this is what they call themselves
    I think that the problem here is that Myanmar is not what they call themselves. As the Wikipedia article points out, both “Bama” and “Myanma” are used in Burma itself.
    The name they choose for their country is simplifying things a bit, isn’t it? It’s the name that the ruling junta has chosen to call their country in English. It’s not what the most popular political figure and most prominent opponent of the current regime chooses to call her country in English.
    I guess we could call Burma “Myanmar”, since that’s what the junta wants, and if they get toppled and the name reverts to “Burma”, we can go back to that (just as happened with Zaire and Kampuchea). If they don’t get toppled and the name stays forever, I guess people will be vindicated for choosing to go along with them.

  28. Bathrobe says:

    Japanese originally used ビルマ Biruma.

  29. Bathrobe says:

    I don’t deny that the name of a country is the business of that country, not of foreigners.
    In the current world, with the stigma of colonialism abroad, I agree that the normal approach is Marc’s: “If that’s what they want us to call them, we should call them that”. But I don’t think this principle can be taken as axiomatic. If it really applied to the way people called countries, Germany would never have been called “Germany” or “Allemagne”, Japan would never have been called “Japan” or “Yaban” or “Riben”, Sweden never have been called “Sweden” or “Schweden” or “Ruidian” etc. etc. These names would have passed out of use long ago out of respect for what they call themselves.
    In fact, usually it’s people with a chip on their shoulder who get shirty about their country’s name in English. Moreover, they usually don’t give a stuff what their name is in other languages; they only get hot and bothered about English.

  30. Marc,
    As I understand it, *no one* (except foreigners who assign their own values to archaic transliteration) pronounces the name of the country as Myanmar, which is just a transliteration of how the name was written centuries ago. People archaically write Myanmar and say Bama, just as people write Featherstonehaugh and say Fanshaw, or write Beauchamp and say Beecham, or write Taliaferro and say Toliver.
    Joel

  31. Bathrobe says:

    Just in case my vehement comments above clouded the issue :), I’ll restate my points in a clearer form. What Marc seems to be saying (although not in these actual words) is that:
    “‘Myanmar’ is the name that the good people of Myanmar call their country and they are asking us to call them that, too. I’m all for it”.
    The problems I see with this are:
    * It’s not the good people of Myanmar who are making this demand, it’s a band of unelected military men.
    * The good people of Myanmar will continue to call their country “Bama”. It’s just us English speakers who are being told that we have to use “Myanmar”.
    * Presumably “Burma” is objectionable for its colonial background, but if “Bama” is used by the people of Myanmar, what is colonial about “Burma”? And if the spelling gets up the junta’s nose, why not just reform the spelling?
    * The normal convention is to use the exonym. It is only in extraordinary circumstances that a country demands outsiders stop using the exonym and adopt the local name. If Myanmar’s decision became the trend, we would be deluged with countries demanding their name be changed in English (“Netherlands” refers to the nether regions and is degrading, we want “Nederland”; “Japan” is archaic and colonial, we want “Nihon”; “China” is colonial and ancient, we want “Zhongguo”; “Spain” is a distortion of our real name, we want “España”; “Italy” is the name foisted on our beautiful country through the perfidious French, who incidentally stole all our best culture, we want “Italia”, ad nauseum).
    * Name changes like this are all too often selective and targeted at English only, which makes their political nature even more conspicuous. (You will notice that the city of Peking has become “Beijing” in English, but the Chinese don’t mind that the French keep “Pékin”, or even that the Japanese keep the colonial form “Pekin” ペキン).
    Taken all together, I just don’t think that “that’s what Myanmar wants us to call their country, let’s just do that” is as innocuous and straightforward a proposition as it appears.

  32. Bathrobe says:

    Also, let’s face it, the Japanese aren’t normally terribly forthcoming about changing country’s names in Japanese. Why the alacrity in adopting ミャンマー Myanmaa compared with their total inertia about, say, スペイン Supein? I personally suspect rather self-serving political or economic considerations lie in the background…

  33. Bathrobe says:

    If LH will allow me one more comment, why has Myanmar been so successful its poorly justified name change, whereas the much better motivated name of “Czechia” for the Czech Republic has got virtually no traction at all?

  34. There’s also the possibility that neither Burma nor Myanmar are ideal names for the country. Thant Myint-U in The Making of Modern Burma writes of “modern [Burmese] nationalism based around a central Myanma identity. But this was an identity which excluded not just ‘Indians’ [..] but also many other peoples living within the boundaries of modern Burma. A comparison might be made with Indonesia. In the Dutch East Indies modern nationalism emerged only well into the colonial period, leading to the construction of a perhaps Javanese-centred but still relatively inclusive nationality. Both the name ‘Indonesia’ and the new nation’s adopted language of ‘Bahasa Indonesia’ show an inclusiveness lacking in post-colonial ‘Myanmar’. In Burma the strength and political dominance of a Burmese/Myanma identity based on older Ava-based memories has never allowed the development of a newer identity which would incorporate the divers peoples inhabiting the modern state. Instead, it has led since 1948 to recurrent warfare, the growth of a large military machine and an army rule which seems unlikely to end.”

  35. DG, I think “Czechia” is standard in Europe–certainly in Norway & Germany (Tsjekkia & Tschechien). I don’t understand the “Czech Republic” thing either, though apparently the name is controversial in Czechia too.

  36. DG: In fact, usually it’s people with a chip on their shoulder who get shirty about their country’s name in English. Moreover, they usually don’t give a stuff what their name is in other languages; they only get hot and bothered about English.
    Yes, and this is true of England itself. If you say England, Britain, Grate Britain, the UK, “Northern” Ireland, the “British” Isles you are sure to upset as many people as you please.

  37. I have already said that I would be for eliminating the -r. I don’t know the language, but if Myanma is the formal name for the country and Bama is the informal one, I don’t think it’s a leap to assume that the face they would want to present to the world is the formal, official one.
    That’s my logic. In the US we never say ‘The United States of America’ in casual conversation. It would sound ridiculous. We call it ‘the States,’ but we wouldn’t want to have that as our official name.
    I don’t want to belabor the point, because I think it’s pretty obvious.
    And, my second point is that we should call countries by the names they call themselves if that’s what they want to be called by others.
    In other words, I’m for respecting their wishes.
    Also, yes, sometimes it gets confusing (e.g., Japan sometimes referring to itself in English as Nippon, Nihon etc.), but it’s never unresolvably confusing, and anyway, inconsistency is a part of human nature, and definitely not a reason to throw our hands up in the air in despair.
    Another point. There are countries and other places which are called different things in different languages – Genf, Genève, Geneva, Ginebra – and that’s fine too.
    The only case I’m advocating changing the way we call someplace is when the natives want us to.

  38. Greece is one of the countries stuck with an unwanted English name afflicted with bad puns. And “Griechenland” is even worse.
    Alas.

  39. I was fairly well into a biography of Henri Michaux, written in French, when I realized that Anvers, where he spent much of his early life, was Antwerp.

  40. In other words, I’m for respecting their wishes
    Whose wishes? The Burmese people? When they get their wish and Aung San Suu Kyi becomes leader of the country that’s when I’ll consider using “Myanmar” if that’s the term they choose (and, as Thant U-Myint says, that name doesn’t adequately represent all the “natives” anyway). I’m certainly not going to pander to the whims of a regime whose leader woke up one morning and changed the currency to a system based on multiples of nine because that was his lucky number.
    The idea that countries get to choose what they are called in foreign languages doesn’t make much sense to me, barring a few obvious exceptions when they have effectively become different countries. If the Indonesians want to call England “Inggris” because it suits the phonology of their language better then why should I complain?

  41. bruessel says:

    “apparently the name is controversial in Czechia too”
    and that’s precisely why it’s not the official name and official bodies like the Foreign Office never use it.

  42. And, my second point is that we should call countries by the names they call themselves if that’s what they want to be called by others. In other words, I’m for respecting their wishes. … The only case I’m advocating changing the way we call someplace is when the natives want us to.
    You are totally ignoring everyone who’s trying to explain to you that 1) what “they” call themselves is Bama, not Myanmar, and “Burma” is the traditional representation of this, and 2) the only people whose wishes you’re respecting is the thugs who run the country. It’s starting to feel like you’ve made your mind up and don’t want to listen. Also, while you’re being so politically correct, you might want to drop the “natives”; that’s generally considered condescending and colonialist.

  43. Bathrobe says:

    my second point is that we should call countries by the names they call themselves if that’s what they want to be called by others
    It’s touchingly innocent how you use “they” in this sentence. It’s almost as though horrible white men were heartlessly trampling on the fervent wishes of the people of Myanma by continuing to impose a despicable colonial name on their country. Unfortunately this is not the case — if it were, I think there would be a lot more sympathy for the name “Myanma” on this blog.

  44. Bathrobe says:

    if Myanma is the formal name for the country and Bama is the informal one, I don’t think it’s a leap to assume that the face they would want to present to the world is the formal, official one
    If “Myanmar” were used only in formal contexts in English it might be acceptable. But you seem to be supporting the use of “Myanmar” in all contexts in English — even in contexts where the Burmese themselves use “Bama”.

  45. Greece is one of the countries stuck with an unwanted English name
    the Indonesians want to call England “Inggris”
    When inggris do as the Romans, I say.

  46. On the other hand, I kind of like “Earl Mountbatten of Myanmar”, it makes him sound very trendy. My grandfather had shares in Burmah Oil and lost a lot of money when the Japanese invaded.

  47. I couldn’t give two figs for political correctness. If ‘natives’ conjures images of loincloths and campfires, that’s your problem, not mine. ‘Native’ is a convenient single-word way to express a thought that everyone here understands perfectly well. Trying to call me out on it is disingenuous.
    Your argument has two parts. The main (emotional) part is that the people who changed the name are bad people. Fine. We’re all agreed. They’re despicable scum. High-fives all around. However! Not a single person has even tried to connect the despicableness of the evil, evil men who changed the exonym of the country to why the name itself is wrong or bad.
    The reason the moral stature of the people changing the name is a bad basis for arguing the merit of the name itself is that it forces you into the position where if Aung San Suu Kyi wanted to call the country Lollipop Fairyland, you’d have to agree, just because she’s so noble and upstanding.
    That’s why it’s ludicrous to argue this on the basis of the people doing it.
    The second part of your argument is the part you say I’m ignoring, that the natives use Bama. Well guess what – I agree! I never denied it. In fact, that’s what my whole ‘the States’ vs. ‘The United States of America’ argument is based on, so to say I’m ignoring this argument shows you either didn’t understand or didn’t read this part of my argument. I quoted from the Wiki entry on exactly this topic, several posts up.
    My argument for Myanma over Bama uses a clear analogy, which everyone is free to argue against. My stance is that your argument for using Bama is like saying we should put ‘the States’ on currency, diplomatic letterhead, etc. Show me how or why this is wrong, and I will gladly concede your point. All I’m going on is what it says in the Wikipedia entry. If that’s wrong, I will, again, gladly concede that the country should be called Bama.
    Also, the idea that we should use both names in English is kind of unprecedented. When would we use one and when would we use the other?
    Since everyone seems hell-bent on using the ‘wrong-by-association’ argument, which is nothing more than an emotional appeal, I think we’re going to have to agree to disagree, because I think emotional appeals are kind of silly (cf Lollipop Fairlyland).

  48. “I couldn’t give two figs for political correctness.” Somehow I find this hard to square with: “It doesn’t make much sense to me to stick to the names the British Empire arrogantly bestowed on nations.”
    The Burmese army suddenly decided they wanted foreigners to call the country “Myanmar” in 1989, i.e. 41 years after Burma became independent and 27 years after the military regime took power. Before that they were apparently quite happy with being known as “Burma”. Why should everyone jump to attention at their latest whim?
    The US isn’t forcing foreigners to replace “Estados Unidos de América”, “États-Unis d’Amérique”, “Stany Zjednoczone Ameryki” etc. with “The United States of America” as the only acceptable. culturally sensitive and linguistically accurate version of its name.

  49. “Trying to call me out on it is disingenuous.”
    Actually this is disingenuous. I have to ask “Marc”, are you speak English regularly? Because I can’t think of anywhere in the English-speaking world where “natives’ isn’t considered condescending to the point of racism when used ot refer to people unless it’s on a bumper sticker a la “Texas Native” or “California Native”. It’s still quite acceptable in horticulture too. But other than that, it has been the next thing to an insult for going on thrity yerars now when you referring to indigenous populations.
    “Show me how or why this is wrong, and I will gladly concede your point. ”
    It’s a bad analogy. “Bama” is not analogous the “the States” – Bama is how Myanma is pronounced. You are not calling the country what it is called, you are calling it by an inaccurate transliteration.

  50. We call it ‘the States,’
    Not to open up another can of worms – but no, we don’t very often, that’s what expats say. Usually at home we call it “the US” or just “America”. When we’re attending a sporting event against Canada we call it the “U-S-A.”
    My general problem with these proposed geographic name changes is that almost always the intent is to obscure, hide or erase something. Proponents of “Kyiv” want us to forget that city has any Russian past, proponents of “Beijing” want to erase a reminder of the Kuomintang era, proponents of “Myanmar” are erasing the British past (and simultaneously trying to legitimize the history of only one of the country’s ethnic groups), proponents of “Mumbai” are also trying implicitly to devalue the history of non-Gujarati speakers in that city, etc. It’s supposed to be progressive and “tolerant” to recognize these name changes, but it’s not clear to me why erasing history is “progressive.” However, I’m not sure what proponents of “Torino” were trying to do – I suppose it just looks better graphically.

  51. Well, “Jim,” yes, I speak English regularly. If my usage of ‘natives’ is so offensive to your delicate PC sensibilities, you can replace it in your head with ‘the people who live in the country evil, evil men are mercilessly forcing everyone to call Myanmar, which happens to be the formal pronunciation of the name of the country, but nevermind that, that’s irrelevant because did I mention how bad these evil, evil men are?’
    You know, like a placeholder.
    As for Los Estados Unidos, etc., those are translations of the name. What’s the translation of Myanma?

  52. Proponents of “Kyiv” want us to forget that city has any Russian past
    Wha-wha-what?!

  53. “What’s the translation of Myanma”
    That’s already a translation, or rather a transliteration, of Burmese script. Another way of representing it in the Roman alphabet is “Burma”.

  54. Plus you haven’t answered my question about the 1989 change: “Why should everyone jump to attention at their latest whim?”

  55. I don’t object to “natives”. “Native New Yorker” was quite popular a few years ago. The fewer words one objects to the better, in my opinion; there are enough real forms of oppression in the world without adding silly ones.

  56. michael farris says:

    There are only two sure data points we have. Anything else is conjecture (concerning what form the people living there would prefer).
    The unelected military regime wants the name of the country in English to be Myanmar.
    The leader of the opposition movement against said regime says ‘Burma’ in English.
    Between those two, I know which side I’m on.
    So I’ll continue to say and write ‘Burma’ until there’s sufficient evidence that the people who live there would genuinely prefer ‘Myanmar’.

  57. Proponents of “Kyiv” want us to forget that city has any Russian past…
    Wha-wha-what?!

    Is that a controversial statement?

  58. Charles Perry says:

    While we’re up, there are a lot more politically correct names we could start using: Misr for Egypt, Al-Maghrib al-Aqsa for Morocco, al-Jazair for Algeria, Lubnan for Lebanon, not to mention Suomi for Finland, Bharata for India, etc.

  59. michael farris says:

    “if Myanma is the formal name for the country”
    If you want to drop the final r, then why not go the whole hog and write Mranma?

  60. Has there been a series of whimsical name changes?
    I’ve always called my country ‘the US’ or ‘the States.’ In fact, ‘the States’ seems to be a kind of endonym – it’s what Americans say to each other. This is particularly noticeable in ex-pat communities, as you indicate. But ‘the States’ is common enough here, too.
    At least Michael is admitting that the linguistic grounds for arguing against the name change are weak, and explicitly takes a political stance. And that’s fine. To be honest, if Aung San Suu Kyi wanted us to call the country Lollipop Fairyland, I’d be tempted, because she rocks.
    I’m sure a lot of Ukrainian speakers who want the rest of the world to refer to the Ukrainian capital by its Ukrainian name would consider your statement controversial. Remember, it’s been called Kyiv for as long as it’s been called Kiev (or Kijów or Кіеў for that matter).

  61. “Has there been a series of whimsical name changes?”
    There’s been one arbitrary name change (why 1989?). I’m asking why we should follow it any more than Ne Win’s one arbitrary change from using multiples of ten to multiples of nine. It’s still an arbitrary change.
    You seem to be working from some sort of assumption that countries have a “real name” that foreigners are duty-bound to copy as accurately as possible. I find this rather odd. Presumably we should start calling Russia “Rossiya” (with stress on the second syllable).

  62. “Well, “Jim,” yes, I speak English regularly.”
    Well then, you might try spelling your name in English orthography so the rest of us don’t have to guess, because your cultural competence . that was the point of bringing attention to your name.
    “If my usage of ‘natives’ is so offensive to your delicate PC sensibilities, you can replace it in your head with ‘the people who live in the country evil, evil men are mercilessly forcing everyone to call Myanmar, ”
    Straw man much? Where did I ever say I thought there was anything wrong with word “native”? I simply pointed out that the word has been on the no-no list for a long enough time that absolutely no one could be unaware of it. I happen to like the term, not only because it’s accurate, but also because it offends people I want to offend, the kind of illiterates who object to perfectly good terms like “jungle”.
    “which happens to be the formal pronunciation of the name of the country, but nevermind that,”
    How many more times are you going to have to have it explained to you that that is not any kind of pronunciation of the name that has been used in the past 1,000 years? That it is an artifical pronunciation and a manipulative trick? Oh, and speaking of PC sensibilities, how PC is it to insist on “honoring”, or whatever the buzzword of the day is, the what the locals call their country.
    It’s not like they have room to bitch. They can’t be bothered to pronounce “United Kingdon” or “United States” or “Britain” corectly either.
    Maybe we should just call them some Thai expresion like “border whores” or the equivalent of “wetbacks” or “meth heads”. That would be accurate too, and in keeping with the American tradition of adopting the neighbors’ derogatory names for people.

  63. I’m sure a lot of Ukrainian speakers who want the rest of the world to refer to the Ukrainian capital by its Ukrainian name would consider your statement controversial. Remember, it’s been called Kyiv for as long as it’s been called Kiev (or Kijów or Кіеў for that matter).
    Most Ukrainian speakers really don’t care, in my experience. But the ones that do care are usually motivated by the desire to erase as much of the Russian past as possible. Vanishingly few people care about linguistic accuracy for its own sake. And they’re not asking the “rest of the world” to change names, just English speakers. In French it’s still “Kiev”, and in German still “Kiew”.

  64. Bill Walderman says:

    “While we’re up, there are a lot more politically correct names we could start using: Misr for Egypt, Al-Maghrib al-Aqsa for Morocco, al-Jazair for Algeria, Lubnan for Lebanon, not to mention Suomi for Finland, Bharata for India, etc.”
    And Alamyanmar for Alabama.

  65. >> If you want to drop the final r, then why not go the whole hog and write Mranma?
    Because orthographic mr- is pronounced my- in Burmese. So a Burmese person wishing to be formal would say Myanma not Mranma.

  66. And Alamyanmar for Alabama.
    And Barack Omyanmar.

  67. I’ve always called my country ‘the US’ or ‘the States.’
    You don’t call it “America”? In New England that would strike people as odd, I have to say.

  68. Maybe a little historical perspective can help. Thailand went through the exact same process 50 years earlier. A junta changed the name of the country from the neutral Siam to Thailand, and for the same reason: to rouse support from the majority ethnic group by chauvinistic means.
    Hat, you made a mistake by giving your readers a topic on which they had nothing useful to say. The devil finds tangents for idle minds to pursue.

  69. There aren’t many countries that use two different official names, but Norway has Norge & Noreg: bokmål and nynorsk–though some say they’re bokmål and dyslexia.

  70. No, ‘America’ is what foreigners call the US. It’s an interesting case, actually.
    Jim, I told you I don’t care about political correctness. I’m not honoring anyone. I’m just pointing out that what the current (dethpicable!) government of Myanmar wants us to call it happens to be very reasonable. Plus it’s a frickin fait accompli. That’s what everyone except a small group of wide-eyed hold-outs is calling the country.
    As for Myanma being artificial or whatever, countries do weirder things with their names (cf. Nippon). That’s not my concern, however. If the natives have always called their country Myanma in official contexts and Bama in informal situations or colloquial speech, then that’s what it is. Go complain to them about what they call their country. My only assertion is that we should call them what they want us to call them, and in this case what they want us to call them happens to coincide with what they themselves consider the official name of the country.
    This logical is unassailable, except for the fact that the people asking us to do it happen to be human scum. Alright, logic and linguistic consistency – out the window.
    ‘Hey Al, Ed wants us to call him Edward from now on.’
    ‘Ed? Ed’s an asshole. Ignore him.’
    I’ve addressed the topic of countries having traditional/historical names in other languages.
    The fact that they only want their name changed in English is also not my concern.

  71. My only assertion is that we should call them what they want us to call them
    Marc, you still don’t get it. Who are “they”? Michael Farris has summed up what we know of the wishes of the Burmese people: the Burmese people prefer Aung San Suu Kyi to the military regime and Aung San Suu Kyi prefers “Burma” to “Myanmar”. So we go with “Burma”.

  72. My only assertion is that we should call them what they want us to call them
    A better axiom is “we shouldn’t call them what they don’t want to be called”.

  73. JCass, how do you know? You’re saying the Wikipedia entry is wrong, which isn’t impossible. I’d like to know where you get this information.
    AJP, that’s a level of nuance beyond what international discourse can handle, I think. ;-)

  74. How do I know what?

  75. mollymooly says:

    I reserve the right to decide how I feel about use of the word “natives” on a case-by-case basis.
    My theory is that the International Community refused to go along with the Burma>Myanmar change because it had been burned once too often in the Cambodia>Khmer_Republic>Kampuchea>Cambodia débacle.
    I would also like to point out that this unusually heated discussion was started by a spambot.

  76. Bathrobe says:

    I personally have no gripe against ‘native’, which is not relevant to the argument. It is also true that Myanmar has gained currency in English due to the demands of the junta, making it largely, as Marc said, a fait accompli.
    At any rate, Marc is being quite consistent in one thing: the Burmese government insist that their official name in English is “Union of Myanmar” (“Myanmar” for short), and we should follow them. This is a reasonable position, even if people who dislike the Burmese government find it repugnant.
    The problem is that Marc is not merely following the Burmese government, he is embracing their position with enthusiasm, and the grounds that he gives have been pretty shaky.
    The initial reason for preferring “Myanmar” was that “Burma” was arrogantly bestowed by the British Empire, and that we should ask the natives what they call themselves and use that. This proved to be inaccurate, since “Bama” is actually what the natives call themselves.
    Following a quick bone-up on the sociolinguistics of Burmese, Marc is now taking the position that “the natives have always called their country Myanma in official contexts and Bama in informal situations or colloquial speech”, which he equates to the colloquial use of “the States” for “United States of America” in English. This seems to be a rather different take on the meaning of “colloquial” from Joel’s, which is that no one “pronounces the name of the country as Myanmar… People archaically write Myanmar and say Bama”.
    At any rate, I found it interesting that Marc is not only advocating that “Myanmar” should replace the name arrogantly imposed by the British, he actually proposes going one further than the Burmese and getting rid of the (British English) ‘r’ in the spelling. Do we have a hint here of the reasons for Marc’s ideological fervour?
    Oh, by the way, there is a precedent for using two different names in English: “Holland” and “the Netherlands”.

  77. Oh, by the way, there is a precedent for using two different names in English: “Holland” and “the Netherlands”.
    Also – “England”, “Britain”, “The UK”. Yes, I know, technically they are distinct, but most Americans throw them around interchangeably. “Russia” and “Soviet Union” used to be interchangeable as well pre-1991.
    For that matter – “USA”,”the US”, “America” (but not “the States”).

  78. Bathrobe says:

    “Bharat” and “India” are also two different names for India. India appears to officially recognise both. I trust, Marc, that you will follow the principle you have so fervently evoked here and start using the native name of “Bharat” in future, if you are not already doing so.

  79. I am in favor of taking a low-key approach to this discussion and am also pretty much in favor of allowing post-colonial nations to rename themselves, at least up to a point. The objections specific to the present Burmese government seem justified, though.
    Sri Lanka? For or against? Union of South Africa? Zaire (did Zaire revert)? Madagascar reverted, I think, from whatever it had been changed to.
    Chinese names for nearby nations are outside the world system, I think. Miandian = Burma, Rben = Japan, from Nippon I think, Chaoxian or Hanguo = Korea (both names mean all of Korea, but one is used by the N. and one by the S.)
    The obsession with English only is justified, because English is the de facto and almost de jure world language. If French still had its earlier importance, they’d be bugging them too.

  80. “The fact that they only want their name changed in English is also not my concern.”
    Mine neither. We agree. Screw what they want; I’ll call the place Burma. They don’t rule my mouth. Their request is as silly as someone insisting “My name is John!” when you call him Dipshit.

  81. Bathrobe says:

    LH has always been marked by a certain resistance to political or nationalistic demands to ditch established English-language place names.
    What sparked the current debate was Marc’s almost naive attitude of “Why on earth would anyone be opposed to using ‘Myanmar’?”

  82. You call John Emerson “Dipshit”? I think that’s a bit much.

  83. JCass, sorry I misread your post. I thought you were saying the natives want their country to be called Burma.
    Bathrobe, your last comment is illuminating to me. I had no idea that people were so grounded in ideology. :(
    Your right about my reasons for advocating Myanma. You call them shaky — so knock ‘em down!
    You state: ‘… that we should ask the natives what they call themselves and use that. This proved to be inaccurate, since “Bama” is actually what the natives call themselves.’
    Are you saying that the Wikipedia article is wrong? If so, provide evidence. That’s all I’m saying. If they write Myanma and say Bama, that’s still sufficient reasoning to be called Myanma in my eyes. An argument could be made for Bama, but that’s not what they’re saying. Again, go complain to them if you don’t like what they call themselves.
    Also, since Myanma and Bama and Burma all appear to come from the same word, how is changing the English rendering of this one single word an act of ethnic chauvinism? It’s the same damn word.
    Yes, the ‘States’/’USA’ analogy is not 100% exact, but it’s close enough for you to get my point. Let’s not be pedantic.
    Also, I’m not embracing the junta’s ideology with enthusiasm, although that kind of accusation is generally never far behind in this kind of discussion. The only enthusiasm you see in my posts on this subject is an enthusiasm for logical, fact-based argument. The fact that it is a bad person who is saying something logical and reasonable doesn’t render the thing illogical and unreasonable.
    Again, in what I can only assume is an intentional misunderstanding of what I’ve said, because I’ve said it a million times, I only think we should call a country what they want us to call them. India seems perfectly happy to be called India. Do you have any official positions to the contrary? Are there news reports I’ve missed? Have they started asking the world to call them Bharat?
    Because if they haven’t, then I’m perfectly happy to continue calling them India.

  84. JCass, sorry I misread your post. I thought you were saying the natives want their country to be called Burma
    I said that what the “natives” want is Aung San Suu Kyi and she prefers “Burma” to “Myanmar”. That’s all we can reasonably assume about the wishes of a people who have little to no freedom of expression. Whereas you seem to be working on the assumption that the Burmese military regime somehow expresses the “will of the people” and it’s arbitrary decision to change from Burma to Myanmar in 1989 has a popular mandate.
    Personally, I doubt the average Burmese spends too much of their time worrying what foreigners call their country; they have more pressing problems. And I call England “England” but I don’t care in the slightest whether other people refer to it as “Inggris”, “Angleterre”, “Inghilterra” or whatever. Those are their languages and they can do what they like.

  85. Bathrobe says:

    If they write Myanma and say Bama, that’s still sufficient reasoning to be called Myanma in my eyes.
    “Ar Kansas”, anyone?
    I don’t see any “logical, fact-based arguments” here, merely justifications for someone’s decision. Since the regime is in power, and Aung San Suu Kyi isn’t, they have the right to demand that their country be called “Myanmar”, and it’s reasonable for other countries to respect their wishes.
    But if, for arguments’ sake, the regime gets toppled and “Burma” is reinstated, it would be equally easy to come up with “logical, fact-based arguments” for the reversal (e.g., “Bama, traditionally written ‘Burma’ in English, is universally used among Burmese to refer to their country, despite the archaising script which writes ‘Myanmar’”).

  86. its

  87. Surely Inggris is “English”, not “England”?

  88. Surely Inggris is “English”, not “England”?
    Apparently not.

  89. Bathrobe says:

    From Language Log:
    In Burmese, this name Myanmar is essentially just a variant of the name Burma. It is transliterated as Myan-ma or Mran-ma, and in the local language pronounced something like [ma(n) ma], as against [ba ma] for the traditional name.
    On the same page, quoting from an earlier version of the Wikipedia article:
    within the Burmese language, Myanma is the written, literary name of the country, while Bama … (from which “Burma” derives) is the oral, colloquial name. In spoken Burmese, the distinction is less clear than the English transliteration suggests.
    From another Language Log post, quoting from the BBC news magazine:
    The two words mean the same thing and one is derived from the other. Burmah, as it was spelt in the 19th Century, is a local corruption of the word Myanmar.
    They have both been used within Burma for a long time, says anthropologist Gustaaf Houtman, who has written extensively about Burmese politics.
    “There’s a formal term which is Myanmar and the informal, everyday term which is Burma. Myanmar is the literary form, which is ceremonial and official and reeks of government. [The name change] is a form of censorship.”
    If Burmese people are writing for publication, they use ‘Myanmar’, but speaking they use ‘Burma’, he says.
    This reflects the regime’s attempt to impose the notion that literary language is master, Mr Houtman says, but there is definitely a political background to it.
    Richard Coates, a linguist at the University of Western England, says adopting the traditional, formal name is an attempt by the junta to break from the colonial past.”
    It doesn’t sound to me like a cut-and-dried “Myanmar is better than Burma” or “Myanmar is preferred by the people of Burma” issue.

  90. No, ‘America’ is what foreigners call the US. It’s an interesting case, actually.
    Are you serious? Which foreigners? I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve been taken to task by people from various European nations for referring to the United Sates of America as “America,” and myself as “American.” (What about other countries and people from THE AmericaS?) I also recently read a rant on a blog from an Australian complaining about “USians” referring to their country as America. So much for letting people pick their own names for their country and themselves…

  91. Is it time to post the link to Myanmar Shave signs yet or should I wait till the 100th post?

  92. Bathrobe says:

    So much for letting people pick their own names for their country and themselves…
    Just like to point out that Anne’s name in her email address is “couldbecindy”. Not sure whether it has any bearing on her post…

  93. Ah, now we’re getting someplace. I’ll read this in detail when I get home.

  94. marie-lucie says:

    The fact that they only want their name changed in English is also not my concern.
    This probably reflects the fact that the government communicates in English with the rest of the world, not in the languages of the countries where they have trade relations or diplomatic personnel, for instance. So when they receive letters in English, they expect to see the name of the country as “Myanmar”, not “Burma” or something else. If they don’t want to receive mail written in other languages, then how the country is referred to in those languages is irrelevant (I notice though that on French Wiki la Birmanie is officially called Union du Myanmar.

  95. Apparently “English language” is Bahasa Inggris, so Inggris must be both the noun and adjective. So I’m going to be pretty damn cross if people don’t start calling it Inggris from now on. “English” was our slave name.
    As to the Republic of the United States of North America. I read that there are only five one-syllable countries in Inggris, to wit France, Spain, Chad, Greece and… I can’t remember.
    I still say Peking (except in Norwegian when I say Bayjing, because I’m not sure they know what Peking is).

  96. Laos? Wales?

  97. Six. There are six languages…

  98. marie-lucie says:

    ‘America’ is what foreigners call the US.
    Many do, but so do “Americans” themselves: how many times did we not hear the name in the mouth of former President GW Bush?

  99. Countries.

  100. France, Greece, and Wales get an extra distinction because French, Greek, and Welsh also have one syllable.
    I think I say Laos with two syllables. Is that wrong?

  101. marie-lucie says:

    From Wikipedia:
    Laos (pronounced /ˈlɑː.oʊs/, /ˈlaʊ/, or /ˈleɪ.ɒs/), officially the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, is a landlocked country in Southeast Asia, …
    It seems that the majority pronunciation has two syllables.

  102. That’s funny, Bathrobe, I hadn’t thought of that. :P Actually Cindy was my parent’s second choice for my name, and it always amuses me to ponder how I might be a different person had it been their first. I just don’t feel like a Cindy.

  103. Is Wales a country? Is Laos one syllable or two?

  104. Mine neither. We agree. Screw what they want; I’ll call the place Burma. They don’t rule my mouth. Their request is as silly as someone insisting “My name is John!” when you call him Dipshit.
    Your sarcasm is less devastating than you think, since the people (=junta) insisting you call a bunch of other people (=Burmese populace) by a name they didn’t choose (Myanmar) are in fact a bunch of dipshits. But enjoy your hipster irony!

  105. I admit that neither of those is certain.
    I count Wales as a country for quiz game purposes.
    I say /laʊs/, though I do say /lˌeɪˈoʊʃṇ/. Does any English speaker really say Wikipedia’s /ˈlaʊ/ without the final consonant? (And what’s up with the stress mark?)

  106. We call it ‘the States,’
    I’ve never heard that. I’ve always thought of ‘the States’ as what Americans distinctly do not call the country.

  107. michael farris says:

    IME Americans do not call the country ‘the States’ while inside the country. When abroad, however, they very often do say ‘the States’, especially when speaking with other Americans, especially when they have met said other Americans while abroad. ymmv of course.

  108. chemiazrit says:

    I say /laʊs/, though I do say /lˌeɪˈoʊʃṇ/. Does any English speaker really say Wikipedia’s /ˈlaʊ/ without the final consonant?
    Yes. Those that have actually lived there tend to use the s-less pronunciation. (Two of my colleauges at work fall into this category.)
    Whether this is “correct” or merely a pedantic expat-ish attempt at greater authenticity I really don’t know.

  109. I agree that “the States” is the commonest form I’ve heard used by Americans in Europe. She didn’t invent it, but one American woman I know translated it directly into Norwegian (statene) and I adopted that for my own usage in Norwegian.

  110. Trond Engen says:

    Statene is very common. As are Amerika and uessa:.

  111. I believe that if you’re a French royalist of the ultra branch you count Navarre as a country. It was a shibboleth in 1830 and afterwards, and there still is a Bourbon pretender around, and presumably he claims to be the King of France and Navarre.

  112. Yes. Those that have actually lived there tend to use the s-less pronunciation.
    I’ll be damned—the things you learn around here.
    I believe that if you’re a French royalist of the ultra branch you count Navarre as a country.
    Good to know; I wouldn’t want to offend the next Bourbon pretender I meet.

  113. What A.J.P. said. I use “the States” or some variation thereof (Statene) since I’m living in Europe, after too many of the comments about how I shouldn’t use “America.” I don’t agree with the arguments, I just got tired of them and don’t care enough to keep fighting it out with strangers, my physical therapist, whomever.

  114. I just got tired of them and don’t care enough to keep fighting it out with strangers, my physical therapist, whomever.
    Should that be “whoever”? As in “…, my physical therapist, whoever else gives me a hard time about it”? Or were you thinking of something like “… whomever else I fight about it with”? If you’re anything like me, then I’m guessing that you thought “whoever” (and would have said “whoever” in speech”), but then you corrected to it to whomever so that no nit-picker would think you had erred. And here I am nitpicking anyway: a whole different thing for you to get tired of, right?
    By the way, my parents almost named me Diane, but I turned out to be a boy so they had to think of something else. I’ve always thought that Diane would in fact have been a good name for me (if I had been female).

  115. but then you corrected to it to whomever so that no nit-picker would think you had erred.
    In the book I’m currently editing (the one that isn’t a dictionary), I’ve been deleting the -m from whoms that I’m sure the author stuck in for just that reason.

  116. marie-lucie says:

    there still is a Bourbon pretender around, and presumably he claims to be the King of France and Navarre.
    The current Bourbon pretender (a Spaniard) cannot claim to be king, since you cannot be king until you have been crowned. The likelihood of this happening is remote to say the least. He would have to fight it out with the Orléans pretender (from another branch of the old royal family), who is French, and whose chances of becoming king are better, but still vanishingly small. The last king (Louis-Philippe 1er, an Orléans, reigned 1830-1848) called himself “roi des Français”.

  117. Anne: too many of the comments about how I shouldn’t use “America.”
    You know they’re just taking out their own nitwitted uptightness on you. I bet they wouldn’t want you telling them what to call their country. I suggest carrying around a cd of Rammstein to play to them.
    (Rammstein appears courtesy of Des and his blad.)

  118. What, doesn’t Napoleon III count, m-l?

  119. (I mean , I know he wasn’t a Bourbon, but as K. of F.?)

  120. Ø, I was supposed to be Joel, hence my parent’s similar problem deciding on a girl name. I mean, is it just me, or aren’t Cindy and Anne just totally different kinds of names?
    Anyway, I did write the m originally, thinking “fighting with”, as you suggest, I suppose, but almost edited it out because it’s dying in English and it doesn’t come across well, and, as I believe I’ve already hinted at, these days I’m more likely to throw up my hands and say “whatever” rather than fighting any nitpicking. I don’t think I grew up using that sort of form at all, I think I just started using it after learning German.

  121. According to my sources (mostly wiki) Napoleon I was Emperor of France, not King of France. Proabably the same was true of #III. #I was King of Italy though.

  122. You know they’re just taking out their own nitwitted uptightness on you.
    Yes, I know. It makes my eye twitch a bit sometimes, but other than that I try not to let it get to me too much. But I’m not going back to that physical therapist.

  123. Bertrand Russell’s “the present King of France” example was not good, and that as a consequence Russell’s entire philosophy is invalid. The present King of France is Prince Henri, Count of Paris, Duke of France, who has ended all doubt by uniting the Orleanists, the legitimists, and the unionists.
    Some unionists and legitimatists deny this, but they are illegitimate.
    M-L’s belief that a coronation is required is archaic and null. Get yourself up-to-date, M-L! Twenty-first century royalists think outside the box.

  124. (Since it seems unlikely we’ll get back to African languages.)
    What other Burmese transliterations cause problems in English? The one I know is သုပ် ‘salad’, now pronounced (if I am not mistaken) /θoʊʔ/. The (now historical as explained many times above) spelling is sup in MLCTS. The Burmese restaurant here in Boston uses thot. The one we had here many years ago used thok. I’ve never seen thop, though if I understand what’s going on it really isn’t any less qualified.

  125. When I was a(n American) kid in Japan, we usually referred to the U.S. as “the States” when speaking English, and as “Amerika” when speaking Japanese. People in the 50th state get irritated when they hear visitors from other states talk about flying back to “the States” (as many often do). People in Hawai‘i usually refer to the rest of the country—or at least the Lower 48—as “the mainland” or even as “the continent” if they’re particularly chauvinistic.

  126. marie-lucie says:

    JE: According to my sources (mostly wiki) Napoleon I was Emperor of France, not King of France. Proabably the same was true of #III. #I was King of Italy though.
    Napoléon 1er crowned himself (literally) “Empereur des Français” (the empire comprised more than just France at the time). I had to check about “King of Italy” – I had never learned that in history lessons, but he did have himself crowned there too (that was mostly Northern Italy, but his three sisters were also rulers of parts of Italy at times, although mostly under his supervision).
    Napoléon III was also Empereur des Français, but was quite a different person from the first Napoléon. Victor Hugo went into exile when he seized the throne, and referred to him as “Napoléon le Petit”.

  127. marie-lucie says:

    JE: The present King of France is Prince Henri, Count of Paris, Duke of France, …
    He does not claim to be the king, only the “prétendant au trône”.
    M-L’s belief that a coronation is required is archaic and null. Get yourself up-to-date, M-L! Twenty-first century royalists think outside the box.
    I hope I can think outside the box sometimes, but what makes you think that I am a twenty-first century royalist? (I don’t even know any).

  128. Americans also say “the States” when virtually abroad, that is, among a diverse group online. I do that.
    Americans of a certain age should know to say “the mainland” from watching Hawaii Five-O.

  129. mollymooly says:

    The “America” analogy is false. There are other examples where a country’s right to choose its name is challenged on the basis that its preferred name is irredentist/expansionist: Macedonia, Ireland, China; similarly “German Austria”. I don’t think that applies to Byanma.
    There are of course plenty of examples where an oppressive regime’s namechange was accepted: Congo, Southern Rhodesia, Transjordan, Constantinople, Christiania, Maryborough.

  130. What’s Maryborough, Molly?

  131. Wiki: The Mary River has such a wide mouth that at one stage Maryborough was nominated as possible capital city before Brisbane.[citation needed]
    Doesn’t help much.

  132. The trouble with Molly is he may not come back for a week.

  133. The trouble with Molly is he may not come back for a week.

  134. I just got tired of them and don’t care enough to keep fighting it out with strangers, my physical therapist, whomever.
    Should that be “whoever”?

    No. I think “whomever” is correct there, i.e. [with] my physical therapist, [with] whomever.

  135. marie-lucie says:

    I think that “whomever” is theoretically correct after “with”, but it is so far from the preposition that it seems incongruous, as well as pedantic. But “whoever” here does not sound quite right either, as one expects it to be followed by a verb for which it would be the subject. “Whatever” cannot refer to a person, and therefore would seem to be a general comment expressing indifference, rather than another complement of the preposition. I think that “anyone” or “anybody” would be the neutral, uncontroversail choice here.

  136. This is just one example of why “whom” and all its derivatives should be sent to the historical dustbin sooner rather than later. All they do is cause unnecessary confusion; they play no part in normal spoken English, and there’s no reason they should continue to clutter up written English.

  137. Isn’t that prescriptivist, Language? I use hoom sometimes (mostly spoken), and I don’t see why I ought to be forced to give it up just cos it’s messy.

  138. “with whomever/whoever”. Can whoever or whomever be interpreted as the object of a preposition?
    For me, I’m interpreting it as the sole surface manifestation of a suppressed relative clause and don’t have enough information to decide what that relative clause should be (“with whomever/whoever you choose to name” or “with whoever pops up”.

  139. Isn’t that prescriptivist, Language? I use hoom sometimes (mostly spoken), and I don’t see why I ought to be forced to give it up just cos it’s messy.
    No, it’s not; I was expressing a hope, not laying down a diktat. You should speak as you enjoy speaking, and more power to you. Hell, I use it myself sometimes after prepositions (where it is hanging on most tenaciously). I just think it’s the linguistic equivalent of the vermiform appendix.

  140. marie-lucie says:

    From the instances I have heard and read, most people “whom” currently use “whom” and especially “whomever” are hypercorrecting, perhaps thinking that “whom” is a more elegant version of the plebeian “who”.

  141. Yes, although it’s sometimes quite hard to tell unless you can do it by ear. However, I’ve found that if you often use a language whose accusatives are inflected it makes you (me) more sensitive.

  142. Crown lives in Norway, so it will be hard to force him to talk right, but maybe we can send a flying squad to convince him.
    I still use “whom” directly after prepositions. Elsewhere I’m inconsistent, depending of various consideration such as mood. I will use “whom” in order to sound a bit more high-tone, seriously or otherwise, but I check to make sure that it’s really accusative. So I guess in the latter case it’s a style choice.

  143. Oh, it’s Maryborough in the middle of Ireland, now called Portlaoise:

    The town proper was established by an act of Parliament during the reign of Queen Mary of England in 1557. The English renamed the town Maryborough and the county was named “Queen’s County” in her honour. The area had been a focus of the rebellion of Rory O’More, a local chieftain who had rebelled and had lost his lands, which the Crown wanted to be settled by reliable landowners. The following year, following widespread dislocation and dispossession of the native Irish in the region due to the newly established English colonists, the Ó Mórdha (O’More) and Ó Conchúir (O’Connor) families and their allies reacted against the English. For the next fifty or so years, the English settlers in Maryborough waged a continual, low-scale war of aggression against the native Irish inhabitants of the surrounding region who retaliated against the new colony.

  144. marie-lucie says:

    JE, I was not commenting on present company, most of whom write excellent English both formal and informal, but on some people “whom” seem to feel compelled to use the form in a mistaken attempt at formality.

  145. Noetica says:

    On Burma:
    I will use Burma at least until the people of that stricken country have a voice with which to ask that I do otherwise. As for the spelling and phonology, I am reminded again of Punjab, which has been mentioned more than once here. I will always pronounce it as if it were spelt Panjab. See this note at Wikipedia: the spelling Punjab was a clumsy colonisers’ attempt to represent the first vowel accurately in English, bringing about an unfortunate “hypercorrect” pronunciation with /ʊ/: “POON-jahb”. This cannot now be remedied, it seems.
    On whomever:
    The too distinct questions are these:
    Q1. Are the whom- forms to be used at all?
    Q2. Which form, if the whom- forms are to be used according to traditional norms, is canonic in constructions like “give it to whomever”?
    How we deal with Q2 might affect our answer to Q1, as suggested by LH’s remark about his editing choices, above. Here I address only Q2.
    Vanya’s comment:

    I think “whomever” is correct there, i.e. [with] my physical therapist, [with] whomever.

    This is a typical response to the problem, and commonly motivates “correction” to whomever. I consider it insufficient.
    One of Marie-Lucie’s comments, in part:

    I think that “whomever” is theoretically correct after “with”, but it is so far from the preposition that it seems incongruous, as well as pedantic. But “whoever” here does not sound quite right either, as one expects it to be followed by a verb for which it would be the subject.

    With the greatest respect, I disagree. There is nothing that makes whomever more “theoretically correct” after with. What is “correct” depends on what follows the pronoun, or what would be presumed to follow it, not on what precedes it. Nor is the distance between with and the pronoun a decisive consideration.
    Sometimes, after with, to, for, and the like, whoever is better. The syntactic context can do a lot to settle the presumed role of the pronoun in imagined expansions:

    I’ll give it to the person who wants it most, to whoever needs it most, to the one who I have decided is most worthy. Whoever! It doesn’t really matter.

    Sometimes, for a parallel reason, whomever is better (remembering that we want canonic consistency, and have chosen to distinguish who- and whom- forms):

    I’ll give it to the person whom I like most, to whomever I trust, to the one whom I deem most worthy. Whomever! It doesn’t really matter.

    Sometimes no single choice is a clear winner, because the context is mixed:

    I’ll give it to whoever asks politely, to whomever I trust, to the one who wants it most. Who[m]ever! It doesn’t really matter.

    When there is no relevant context, or when elements of the context conflict, I say it is better to use the more basic or less marked form (remember: even if the whom- forms remain squarely within our repertoire of possibilities):

    She did not feel compelled to give a reason. She would give it to whoever [she wished].

    In this case the addition of she wished makes no difference. The pronoun is not understood as the object of wished. Nor does the expansion she wished to give it to force the use of whomever, since other expansions are also possible: she wished should have it, etc.

  146. …who/m…
    m-l: as well as pedantic
    Sometimes this is a feature, not a bug. I can’t imagine any other way to respond to a wrong number at an unreasonable hour than a very formal “With whom do you wish to speak?”

  147. Noetica says:

    My point would be better made if the bold forms had to with them:

    … To who[m]ever! It doesn’t really matter.

    As for Lao, yes: having done the Mekong trip to Luang Prabang, I can confirm that all visitors aware of their linguistic surrounds said Lao, not Laos. The case resembles Inggris (or Inggeris, in Malay), noted above and certainly news to me. It appears to be an adjective directly from English, but is correct for England also. (I somehow feel I should have known that; I am in Sabah right now, just about to head home to Australia. Climbed Mt Kinabalu, saw the sunrise at the top. Just as well I had a warm scarf!)
    Nijma:
    Right. My Q1 is best considered quite distinct from Q2, I stress again. I think neither is as simply answered as many assume.

  148. Safe journey, Noetica.
    For some reason “whom” sounds more fitting with British accent. With an American accent, it just sounds obnoxious in some undefinable passive-aggressive way that is impossible to object to, which of course is why I like to use it with those folk who are too drunk to dial a phone properly late at night–and who would probably enjoy hearing me curse them out.

  149. marie-lucie says:

    Nijma, I agree with you that pedantism (?) does have its uses, especially when uttered with (an imitation of) an upper-class British accent, a la Lady Bracknell, for instance. But there is a difference between consciously putting on an act that one is in full control of and trying to ape a style that one does not understand. I have seen and heard “whom” and “whomever” in odd places in the speech and writing of people who, I would have thought, should have known better than to use “whom” as (apparently) just a fancy equivalent of “who”.

  150. marie-lucie says:

    Noetica, I don’t think I disagree with you on any points, but there may be a misunderstanding.
    I had written a point-by-point reply, but most of it disappeared when I tried to preview it (perhaps there are limitations on paragraphs, use of italics, etc?) and I am too tired to start again.
    Basically, I would say to students: When in doubt, use the “who” form if I didn’t have time for more detailed explanations about Subject and Object, and also Do not end a sentence with “whoever”.

  151. Not “pedantry”, if used ironically? I think of it as switching registers, but to answer someone in a more formal register than they have used with you is meant to send a message. But if “whom” isn’t used correctly, it’s hardly more formal and sends a different message from the intended one.
    What is “correct” depends on what follows the pronoun, or what would be presumed to follow it, not on what precedes it.
    Yes, “to” in front of the example helps, as some are looking for the preposition preceding “whom’ as a marker of the objective form.

  152. Also, one of Noetica’s examples doesn’t use parallel construction.

    I’ll give it to whoever asks politely, to whomever I trust, to the one who wants it most. Who[m]ever! It doesn’t really matter.

    It seems a bit schizophrenic (or maybe just inconsistent) to switch in the same sentence.

  153. Noetica’s prose is as unobjectionable as ever. This is not even a mild case of lack of parallelism.

  154. Nijma:
    No, it is not “a bit schizophrenic (or maybe just inconsistent) to switch” in that example. Let’s look at it again, amended to include the to that I mentioned earlier, and highlighting all the relevant pieces of syntax:

    I’ll give it to whoever asks politely, to whomever I trust, to the one who wants it most. To who[m]ever! It doesn’t really matter.

    The point of this example? Elements of the nearby syntax conflict, in that they give weight to both who- and whom- forms in presumed expansions of To who[m]ever! The forms in the first sentence are not controversial, especially with my stipulation that we are adhering to the traditional rules. Only if these are relaxed could we allow to whoever I trust; and by no competent editor’s standards could we have to whomever asks or to the one whom wants.
    Ø:
    Thanks. In return, I find no fault with that evaluation. :)

  155. Noetica says:

    Marie-Lucie:
    Fine. These things happen, and precision sometimes takes time and a fiddliness that is vulnerable to technical disruption.
    Let me preempt anyone who would object to this fragment of yours on the grounds that it flouts itself:

    … and also Do not end a sentence with “whoever”.

    That sentence does not end with “whoever”; it ends with ‘ “whoever” ‘. :)
    Nijma again:

    Yes, “to” in front of the example helps, as some are looking for the preposition preceding “whom’ as a marker of the objective form.

    In the constructions we are discussing, the propriety of the pronoun in the objective case is not indicated by a preceding preposition, pace Vanya. The preposition fits with the “case” of the whole clause that begins with who[m]ever, whether that clause is given in full or truncated to a single word: who[m]ever. But the traditionally correct form of who[m]ever itself is determined by its role within that clause as subject (whoever) or object (whomever). Sometimes that role has to be merely presumed, because the clause is truncated.

  156. Oh, Noetica’s prose is as entertaining and provocative as ever, …and Mt. Kinabalu, *sigh*… but the mixing of whomever, whoever, and one apparently in the same sentence is disturbing (to say nothing of the non-parallel clause structures), no matter if it was constructed to model different interpretations, or presumed expansions. It’s like fingernails on a blackboard. And I take it who[m]ever is shorthand for whoever/whomever, or “whoever or whomever”.

  157. Instead of “to whom?”, my grandmother once said “who tomb?”.

  158. Might as well be Cindy says:

    Whoever.
    Whomever.
    Whatever.

  159. Are you sure that shouldn’t be “May as well be Cindy”?

  160. Nijma,
    I disagree about the parallelism issue. “Whoever” and “whomever” so close together are startling and even unfortunate, yes, but I submit that (while avoiding those words) I could make an example that (1) has roughly the same logical and grammatical structure as Noetica’s, and (2) doesn’t give a reasonable person any sort of heebie-jeebies or whim-whams.
    Well, now I suppose I should do it. I’ll be back.

  161. I’ll give it to the person whom I like most, to whomever I trust, to the one whom I deem most worthy. Whomever! It doesn’t really matter.
    I find this passage bizarre, and if it fell under my editorial eye I would delete “Whomever!” The single-word sentence “Whoever!” is inherently colloquial, and “whomever” is inherently formal, and the two simply don’t mix. In general, I agree with Nijma here—whatever grammatical/theoretical justifications you can produce for a mix of the two forms, the mix sounds awful, and the corollary to Duke’s “If it sounds good, it is good” is “If it sounds bad, it is bad.” Good writing should not make you resort to diagramming sentences.

  162. I’m back to where I started. “Whom” comes immediately after a preposition, and elsewhere should only be used as a stylistic effect, an effect which might include parody of overcorrection.
    On the other hand, if we discontinue the grammatical “whom” outside that specific postprepositional slot, there’s no such thing as overcorrection; ironic overcorrection and sincere overcorrection are both synonym substitution for stylistic effect. The sincere overcorrector is trying to sound classy, and the ironic overcorrector is parodying the sincere one (for pretentiousnes, perhaps, but not for grammatical error any more).
    You would have the difference between pedantic but traditionally correct whoms and pretentious overcorrection whoms, but they would amount to the same thing except in the most pedantic circles.

  163. Noetica says:

    I find this passage bizarre, and if it fell under my editorial eye I would delete “Whomever!”
    Well, for a start I amended it to To whomever! But there is no disagreement here. I too would apply deep surgery to such a passage, in a client’s writing. It was contrived for a specific purpose, which was not to show grace or felicity of style. In fixing it I would be considering my Q1, not my Q2. But the passage was devised to address my Q2. I passed no judgement on the practical propriety of anything in the passage.

  164. ForSørenDa says:

    Are you sure that shouldn’t be “May as well be Cindy”?
    I’m not sure of anything anymore. ;-)

  165. I’m not sure of anything anymore. ;-)
    LH claims another victim!

  166. The center does not hold and mere anarchy, etc., etc.

  167. Søren Forsøren-da: I’m not sure of anything anymore. ;-)
    Neither am I. It’s a bit worrying. One thing about these descriptive linguists: it’s not as if they don’t notice the difference.

  168. The center does not hold and mere anarchy, etc., etc.
    Oil that is olid melts into air. Let’s leap the dogs of war, etc.

  169. mere oligarchy loosed upon the world

  170. “Whom” comes immediately after a preposition
    Except that Noetica has thrown a monkey wrench into the works by cheating with clauses. :~) His examples use “who” or “whom” directly after “to” but they are either the subject of the clause (which makes them nominative), the object of the clause, or are the subject or object of an implied clause, or it could be construed that they might be part of an implied clause. It would also be possible to construct a sentence where who/whom was the object of the clause but identical with the main subject of the sentence–in which case would it not be nominative? The examples may be grammatically defensible, but that doesn’t mean they would fly on this side of the pond. Maybe they sound better down under.
    I’m not ready to give up “whom” though. There must be uses for it other than intentional pedantry. On the day we lose this word to the English language, we may all well ask for who the bell tolls.

  171. Ar Kansas, anyone?
    Yes, indeed. In Arkansas the Arkansas River is pronounced /ˈɑrkənsɔː/ “Arkansaw”, like the state, but in Kansas (the river runs through both) it is pronounced /ɑrˈkænzəz/ “Ar Kansas”, like the state. The former pronunciation for both the state and the river has the unusual feature (perhaps unique in the mere anarchy of English) of having been established by law. The French called it “Akansa”, apparently.

  172. Listen, Nijma, I wouldn’t walk into a tough Chicago bar and say “Observe the two clauses on either side of the comma in the following utterance: ‘I would like to buy a pint of your best for whichever of my fellow drinkers is drinking the stuff, and for anyone else for whom you deem it appropriate.’”
    But here on the west shore of the Atlantean Pond I reserve the right to say things like “I’ll work with whatever you give me and whatever else is available.” Which exhibits no more parallelism than I’ll give it to whoever asks politely, to whomever I trust

  173. marie-lucie says:

    The French called it “Akansa”, apparently.
    No, there has always been an r, and the two a’s cannot have been the same. The story is more complex. There was a discussion of it on the Martian blog a while ago.

  174. I think that in Noetica’s example the clause is the object of the preposition, while “who” is the subject of the clause, but many people write “whom” because “who / whom” immediately follows the preposition. So I should have said, “write “whom” when it is the object of the preposition AND the preposition immediately precedes “whom”.
    In what I have read about Old French and Middle English grammar, confusions of this sort were all over the place, and dialect variations and historical changes were both in play. My OF grammar in fact says “OF does not have rules, but only tendencies.” Sometimes if you know the dialect you can understand the meaning, and if you know the meaning you can specify the dialect, but if you see a detached scrap you can’t do either, and for example a pronoun might be either m or f (but not neuter) and either singular, plural, or non-count, depending on dialect and era.
    But did they collapse into anarchy? No! (Maybe? Sort of?)

  175. Bathrobe says:

    in Kansas … it is pronounced /ɑrˈkænzəz/
    Well I’ll be damned. The things you learn on Language Hat.

  176. marie-lucie says:

    JE: in both Old/Middle French and Middle English there were a number of dialects, since communications were slow and in each country the capital was not yet the main centre of prestige. Also, reading material in the vernacular was not very plentiful, and neither were readers. In both cases the rise of the capital and of the power of the monarchy residing in the capital caused the dialect of the upper class of the capital to become that of the court, and later the official language of the realm. If the countries had remained politically divided until a recent date (as in Italy and Germany), there would have been several centres, therefore not chaos, but several prestige dialects vying with each other. Instead, in both cases there are forms and especially words which come from various dialects and for some reason were adopted and retained in the official language.

  177. Yes, fixed by state law in 1881. It seems that in the early decades of statehood there were two competing pronunciations and it was felt necessary to settle the matter. I can’t tell whether were also still competing spellings at that time — whether perhaps the spelling with -sas rather than =saw was adopted at the same time to conciliate those who preferred to pronounce the final “s”.
    I wonder what the language of the statute was. How did the legislators specify the pronunciation?

  178. Of course, by “the language of the statute” I meant “the wording of the law”.

  179. Concurrent Resolution No. 4, Acts 1881, p. 216:

    Be it therefore resolved by both houses of the General Assembly, That the only true pronunciation of the name of the State, in the opinion of this body, is that received by the French from the native Indians, and committed to writing in the French word representing the sound; and that it should be pronounced in three syllables, with the final “s” silent, the “a” in each syllable with the Italian sound, and the accent on the first and last syllables—being the pronunciation formerly, universally, and now still most commonly used; and that the pronunciation with the accent on the second syllable with the sound of “a” in man, and the sounding of the terminal “s,” is an innovation, to be discouraged.

  180. I believe that Kansas also legislated pi to be 22/7.Kansans are very rational.

  181. MMcM, thank you. I was guessing that you would come through.

  182. Ø: I wouldn’t walk into a tough Chicago bar and say “Observe the two clauses on either side of the comma in the following utterance: ‘I would like to buy a pint
    “A tough Chicago bar”, HAHAHAHA, I hear they can’t even smoke in Chicago bars these days. But you don’t understand how Chicago works. If you preface any sentence with “I would like to buy…” you get to complete the sentence any way you want, and no one will say boo. Indiana on the other had, well, the bars are so rough and the barfights are so bloody, that at the end of the night the bartender picks up the ears off the floor that got cut off in fights and says “Whose ears? Whose ears?” That is why people from Indiana are called “Hoosiers”.

  183. Do I need to put a smiley face after that one? I can just hear Hat saying, “I can never tell if she’s joking…” Oh, attribution to the immortal Mike Royko.

  184. Kansans are very rational.
    We are at least fans of (that particular) ratio.

    Making things a bit easier, the name of the town Arkansas City (Kansas) is usually just “Ark City.”

  185. One take on the legal history of π.

  186. I’ve never been one to let a good anecdote be ruined by some fancy-dancy elitist so-called “fact”.

  187. David Marjanović says:

    Zaire (did Zaire revert)?

    Yes, it’s now the More or Less Democratic Republic of Congo.

    Madagascar reverted, I think, from whatever it had been changed to.

    …?

    R[i]ben = Japan, from Nippon I think

    Or rather the other way around, as you can see from the p which isn’t native to Japanese. It’s “sun root”, and Japanese borrowed the characters and pronounces them according to… medieval Wú or something.

    Chaoxian or Hanguo = Korea (both names mean all of Korea, but one is used by the N. and one by the S.)

    The first must be from Choseon, explained as “land of the morning silence”, and again I wonder if the Korean word is composed of Chinese characters in an approximation of Chinese pronunciation; the second is just “Koreans” + “-land”, notably with Hán (“ethnic Koreans”) and not Hàn (“ethnic Chinese”).

    Yes. Those that have actually lived there tend to use the s-less pronunciation.

    I’ll be damned—the things you learn around here.

    It’s a French plural, les Laos, referring to united provinces or some such.

    cannot claim to be king, since you cannot be king until you have been crowned.

    Not in France, where the dauphin automatically became king by means of his predecessor dying. Le roi est mort, vive le roi. The crowning was just the public announcement of that fact, with varying amounts of church approval mixed in.
    Technically, then, this guy was Louis XIX, King of France and Navarre, for 20 minutes between the abdications of his father (Charles X) and himself. If, that is, you accept that monarchs can abdicate in spite of their Divine Right – the last Austro-Hungarian emperor thought he couldn’t and only rescinded the de-facto parts…

    Twenty-first century royalists think outside the box.

    Quite so.
    X-D

  188. marie-lucie says:

    Technically, then, this guy was Louis XIX, King of France and Navarre, for 20 minutes between the abdications of his father (Charles X) and himself.
    Would you believe that I had NEVER heard of him? I vaguely remember something about le duc d’Angoulême, but such titles were worn by different people at different times. The 20-minute reign was a total revelation.
    His life seems to have ben one of the most nomadic for a member of a royal family.

  189. Per wiki: Madagascar, or Republic of Madagascar (older name Malagasy Republic, French: République malgache)
    The names I gave for Korea were actually pure Chinese names, but are keyed to the Korean’s own names which are somewhat similar.

  190. marie-lucie says:

    Madagascar: These must be the official names, because in France we always knew the place as Madagascar. Malagasy (pronounced more or less “malgash”, hence the French word “malgache”) is the name of the people and the language, Madagascar the name of the island.

  191. Bathrobe says:

    The problem with Hánguó 韓國 is that 韓 Hán is the name of an ancient Chinese kingdom from the pre-Qin Warring States period (475 BCE – 221 BCE). I’ve always been curious how Korea managed to take on a Chinese name, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a good explanation.
    Cháoxiǎn 朝鮮 is assumedly the local reading of a Chinese name. Nippon 日本 is also a Chinese-style name, but it’s not so clear that it actually originated in China.
    In early times the Japanese called their country Yamato, sometimes hi-no-moto no Yamato (Yamato root of the sun), which indicates that the concept of the ‘root of the sun’ (日の本 hi-no-moto) was around.
    The Chinese, in conformity with their normal practice, gave their eastern neighbours the derogatory name of 倭 meaning ‘dwarf’ or ‘midget’. Presumably this name wasn’t totally pleasing to the Japanese as they changed 倭 wa ‘midget’ to 和 wa ‘peace’. ‘Yamato’ is now normally written 大和 or ‘great peace’.
    But the ‘root of the sun’ concept eventually won out over both ‘dwarf’ and ‘Yamato’. In a famous letter to the Sui dynasty emperor Yangdi (reigned 604-618), the Japanese emperor styled himself as 日出處太子 rì-chū-chù tàizǐ ‘emperor of the place where the sun comes up’. In the 7th century, the Japanese very clearly established a preference for being called 日本 (possibly pronounced Nippon in Japanese, although the actual pronunciation of the time is not known) in their dealings with the Chinese.
    I’ve never seen an explanation of who created the name 日本. Trying to figure this out is probably a fruitless exercise. For all we know, it could have been created by a Chinese adviser at the Japanese court, working on the basis of the customary epithet for Yamato, hi-no-moto.

  192. The names of the old Chinese states (pre-Qin) were systematically recycled as the names of local dynasties, some of which were non-Chinese, e.g. Xixia (which isn’t exactly the name of an old Chinese state, but is derived from the name of one via a line from Confucius.) So while part of the Chinese sphere of influence, the Koreans could have accepted one of the honorific state names floating around unused.

  193. I think that in Noetica’s example the clause is the object of the preposition, while “who” is the subject of the clause, but many people write “whom” because “who / whom” immediately follows the preposition. So I should have said, “write “whom” when it is the object of the preposition AND the preposition immediately precedes “whom”.
    Sort of.
    Here it is again:

    I’ll give it
    to whoever asks politely, [subject of clause, follows preposition]
    to whomever I trust, [object of clause, follows preposition]
    to the one who wants it most. [subject of clause, object of main clause, does not follow preposition][so is this nominative or objective case?]
    To who[m]ever! [follows preposition, but the verb is understood, could be any or all of the above]
    It doesn’t really matter.

    Just for kicks, here is another one:
    The one who should have it is Noetica, to whom we have already sent it. [follows the preposition, is the object of the clause--indirect object, yes?--but is nominative, being identical to the subject of the main clause. But just try to use "who" in this case; it doesn't work.]

  194. follows the preposition, is the object of the clause–indirect object, yes?–but is nominative, being identical to the subject of the main clause.
    I don’t follow this logic. It is the “indirect object” of “send” in th subordinate clause. The fact that “Noetica” is nominative in the principal clause is irrelevant.
    “I saw Nijma, who is wearing a red coat”. In this case, Nijma is the object of the verb “saw” in the main clause, but in the subordinate clause “who” is the subject of “is wearing”, making it nominative. Since it’s nominative, it could not be “whom”, whatever Nijma’s status in the principal clause.

  195. @ David:
    I wonder if the Korean word is composed of Chinese characters in an approximation of Chinese pronunciation
    Did you mean “in an approximation of the Korean pronunciation”? This would be more interesting, suggesting that the name “Choson” already existed in Korean, and the characters 朝鮮 were then assigned by the Chinese as an approximation of the Korean name. This would nix the usual interpretation of Korea as “the land of the morning calm”, since the assignment of characters would have been arbitrary.
    This reminds me of the assignment of Chinese characters to write place names in Hokkaido. The Ainu name nupur-pet (‘muddy river’) is rendered in Japanese as Noboribetsu with the characters 登別 meaning ‘climb separate’. This is then read in Chinese as Dēngbié, which is pretty far removed from the Ainu original. (I always thought that Chinese characters were superior to mere alphabetical writing systems, and now I know why. It wouldn’t be any fun if the Chinese had to call it Nupur-pet, would it?)

  196. Nijma, here’s how I see it. Take the sentence
    He who wants it the most can have it.”
    It has the main clause “He can have it”, and it has the subordinate clause “who wants it the most”. These are joined, subject to subject. Let us call “who” the navel of the subordinate clause and let us call “he” the placenta of the main clause. It is “he” rather than “him” because the placenta happens to be the subject of its clause, and it is “who” rather than “whom” because the navel happens to be the subject of its own clause.
    In other examples the clauses may be joined object to object
    “I’ll give it to him whom I trust”
    or object to subject
    “I’ll give it to him who wants it the most”
    or subject to object
    He whom I trust can have it”
    I have used “he” or “him” rather than “the one” in these examples in order to reveal the case (subject or object) of the placenta.
    I believe that the rule I have followed is a standard schoolteacher rule, and that you can’t go wrong following it in formal writing. If it leads to sentences that seem stilted, there are ways of ducking the issue. There’s also a lot to be said for the other option of just saying ‘to hell with whom’. But when I do use ‘whom’ I’m going to use it as I just said.
    How does the rule extend to the situation where you are replacing one of the bolded pairs above by whoever or whomever? It’s dictated by the who versus whom. The he versus him is not what counts. (Or again another option is to just say ‘to hell with whomever’.)
    In your just-for-kicks example, the navel is “whom” (a (prepositional) object — that’s why it’s not “who”) and the corresponding placenta is “Noetica” (nominative).
    Final remarks:
    1. Those who say ‘to hell with whom’ often end up saving whom for special occasions anyway. You say that you keep it for putting strangers in their place on the telephone. Emerson says he keeps it for some prepositional phrases.
    2. In that last example of yours there are two subordinate clauses. The placenta attached to the bolded one is “Noetica”. The placenta for the unbolded twin is “The one”.
    3. “The one” is the subject of the main clause. “Noetica” is more like an object, but that’s not the right word. It’s still nominative, according to the rule that says “The one who should have it is me” would be wrong. When I was in sixth grade, these things were called predicate nouns (?). I gather that the verb “is” in this example is called a copula, but I’m going to stick with reproduction metaphors and steer clear of intercourse puns.
    4. “The one”, “Noetica”, and “whom” all refer to the same person in your sentence, so you are right in a sense when you call [some of] them identical. But this wrong in another sense: these three words or phrases play different roles in the sentence and therefore are not treated the same grammatically. And of course Noetica (as opposed to “Noetica”) is none of the above. He is not a word but a living breathing being (a placental mammal, I assume.)

  197. Excuse the length. Bathrobe made one of my main points much more succinctly.

  198. Bathrobe,
    Thanks for the Noboribetsu etymology. Long ago on a bike ride through Hokkaido, I had a Japanese resident of the town named Pippu explain how the Chinese characters normally read Hifu came to be pronounced Pippu: by gradual fortition over time. I have no idea what the original Ainu name of the place may have been.

  199. There are of course plenty of examples where an oppressive regime’s namechange was accepted: …Transjordan,…
    At the end of the British Mandate in Jordan, the Transjordanian parliament approved the change of Abudullah’s title from Emir to King, and officially changed the name of the country from Transjordan to Jordan at a parliamentary session on May 22; on May 25, 1946 Jordan became an independent country. [source: Kamal Salibi, The Modern History of Jordan]

  200. marie-lucie says:

    Nijma, what is the name of the Jordan river in Arabic, and how does it relate to the name of the country? In French the river is le Jourdain (a very old name), but the country is la Jordanie, previously the territory of la Transjordanie, an adaptation of the English name.

  201. I never learned a name for the river, but The Internets say it’s نهر الأردن nahr il-urdun. The full name of the country is the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, on product tags you might see H.K.J., on Jordanian billboards الأردنّ “il ordun”. For some reason I want to say its meaning is “earth” or “land” and is cognate with the Norse norn Urd, but that doesn’t make any sense at all. OED and SOED trace it back to Latin, and say the etymology is unknown. The meaning in Hebrew is given here as “down” or “descend”.
    http://www.qbible.com/h/335.html#83

  202. you keep it for putting strangers in their place on the telephone
    Not quite. If someone calls you at an unreasonable hour and does not immediately recognize that the voice they are hearing is not the one they wanted to call, your immediate task is to convince them that they have dialed a wrong number and get them to stop wasting your time. If hearing your voice has not convinced them, being told they have dialed a wrong number is unlikely to convince them either. They may keep demanding to talk to the person, they may demand personal information, which is unwise to give out, or they may call back repeatedly in hopes the person they want to talk to has arrived or will answer the phone. Responding to any of this or interacting with the drunk in any way will simply lead to more questions and possibly jeopardize your safety and/or privacy. You can see from this that big city wrong numbers can be relentless. Your only hope is to convince them by your syntax that they do not wish to prolong the conversation. When you say “to whom do you wish to speak”, they realize immediately that you are not one of the people they want to have fun with and they usually hang up without even apologizing for the wrong number. They do not call back.

  203. Well, I’m glad I don’t live in the big city. Give me the salt marsh any day.
    But you are not relying on syntax alone (as I understand the word) to get the job done. You are using multiple aspects of language.

  204. Nij, how do you know when to do it?
    I’m worried about this kind of situation:
    Poor Ole is ice-fishing, and he’s drinking, and he’s getting sad and sentimental. He misses his brother who moved to Chicago, and he decides to call him. Drops the cell phone a couple of times, but doesn’t actually lose it in the depths of the lake. At last he manages to dial correctly — except for one frozen digit. Now, isn’t he going to be badly traumatized by that frosty voice saying “To whom …” ?

  205. I’m sure cousin Ole would recognize my voice.

  206. I’ve never been one to let a good anecdote be ruined by some fancy-dancy elitist so-called “fact”.
    Johnson (on the Earl of Dorset’s improvisation): “Seldom any splendid story is wholly true.
    Leslie Stephen (on Milton’s fate at the Restoration): “The objection to the anecdote is its neatness. No good story is quite true.
    On the other hand, in addition to Indiana HB #246 (also here previously), there is US HR #224, making 3.14 National Pi Day.

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