Tuesday 13 April 2010

Whatever happened to the radio interview

Hey, I’m not going to be on the radio! The excellent Radio 4 programme Word of Mouth contacted me the other day to ask if I could say anything interesting about the way transliterations from languages such as Chinese might affect place name changes. After some serious thought I had to admit defeat. The only decent example I could think of that really fitted the bill was Beijing/Pekin(g), where the centuries-old English form comes to us through French, being replaced by the Hanyu Pinyin phonetic romanisation. Different ways of transliterating Russian have produced intriguingly inconsistent spellings of Russian names in English but I can’t think of any place names that have changed through that. If they’d asked about personal names I think we might have been on more fruitful ground, but hey.

Now doubtless someone will chip in with a huge list of good examples.