Archive for the ‘Names’ Category

City

May 6, 2016

A few weeks ago I published a post titled “Cities,” and just the other day one titled “M Cities.” Here I go again, with “City.” And they have nothing to do with each other.

In the Unites States, on forms that require someone to fill in their address, the space for street address is almost invariably followed by “City, state, ZIP code.” There is one big exception: federal tax forms, in place of “City,” have “City, town or post office.” But state tax forms, at least in California and New York, have the usual “City.”

This has never been a problem for me. All the places where I have lived in the US have been cities, and in every one of them the name of the post office has been the same as the name of the city. So that there has never been any doubt about writing Los Angeles, New York, Berkeley, or El Cerrito.

But there are many possibilities where this might not be the case.

First of all, many Americans do not live in cities. They might live in incorporated municipalities that are not called “city” but town, township, borough or village — the federal “town” is, I suppose, a stand-in for any of these — or in unincorporated areas. The post office serving such an area may or may not have the same name as the corresponding locality; sometimes it is, in fact, that of a nearby city, possibly leading a correspondent to believe that the person lives in the city in question. A case in point is the unincorporated area of East Los Angeles, whose addresses are listed as Los Angeles.

Next, there is the case of large cities, such as New York and Los Angeles, that have annexed nearby localities which nevertheless have kept their postal names. In New York, only Manhattan addresses have New York, NY as the “city”; otherwise it’s Brooklyn, Bronx, Staten Island, or any of the various districts that make up Queens. In Los Angeles, the districts of the San Fernando Valley, the western area (West Los Angeles and Westwood) and the harbor area (San Pedro and Wilmington) have their own post offices. Addresses in Hollywood can be either “Hollywood” or “Los Angeles”, and the ZIP-code areas of the separate city of West Hollywood overlap with those of Los Angeles, leading to further confusion. I have often found in online searches for my mother’s house, located in Los Angeles, listed as being in West Hollywood because of a shared ZIP code. Similarly, when I lived in the Thousand Oaks district of Berkeley,  whose ZIP code is shared with the nearby village of Kensington (I call it a village, though the term isn’t used in California, since it’s a small unincorporated area with some limited self-government), I would sometimes get mail addressed to me as though I lived in Kensington. (One time this created confusion with a tax return: Kensington is in a different county from Berkeley and, since at the time the two counties had different locations for mailing tax returns, some clerk at the Internal Revenue Service confused ZIP codes with counties and informed me that I had sent my return to the wrong place.)

And then we have neighboring cities where an area of one city is served, for the convenience of the Postal Service, by a post office located in the other city. An example of this is half a mile from my house, where San Pablo Avenue divides El Cerrito on the east from Richmond on the west, but both sides of the avenue are served by the El Cerrito post office. There are thus businesses on the Richmond side that not only have an El Cerrito address but even put “El Cerrito” in their names; but they are not in El Cerrito.

Also, the eastern portion of the Berkeley campus of the University of California lies within the city of Oakland, but of course the university’s installations in that area, including the Lawrence Berkeley (sic!)  National Laboratory and the Lawrence Hall of Science, carry the university’s Berkeley address and are thought of by most people as being in Berkeley.

In the United Kingdom, the Royal Mail has created the concept of “post town” to cover all addresses, it being understood that the post town is not necessarily the same as the actual town (or city or borough or whatever) where the address is located. How about “postal city” to cover the same need in the US?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Iñárritu

February 29, 2016

It seemed strange. Leonardo DiCaprio, last night’s winner of the best-leading-actor Oscar for his role in The Revenant, appeared in the clip shown from the movie (which I haven’t seen) to have the linguistic skill to have mastered an indigenous American language. But when, in his thank-you speech, he named the director with whom he must have spent many months in close contact, he could not pronounce the word Iñárritu; ignoring the tilde and the acute accent, he came out with something like “innerEEtoo”, which sounds more Star-Wars-ish than Basque.

When the director won his award, he was presented as Alejandro G. Iñárritu, which is how he has been credited for the past couple of years; before that he used his full name in the Spanish fashion, Alejandro González Iñárritu. But nowadays he is often referred to (for example, in the latest issue of the The New Yorker) even more simply as Alejandro Iñárritu. I wouldn’t be too surprised if this eventually becomes his credit name; middle initials aren’t all that frequent in Hollywood, and then mainly if the first and last names are rather common (Edward G. Robinson, Michael J. Keaton…).

If that happens, then he wouldn’t be the first Hispanic artist (I mean one from a Hispanic country, not a “Hispanic American”) to drop his very common paternal surname (of the type ending in -z)  in favor of his more uncommon maternal one. Antonio Banderas was originally José Antonio Domínguez Banderas (though he used the shortened form from the beginning of his career). Pablo Ruiz Picasso became Pablo R. Picasso and then Pablo Picasso. (Picasso, incidentally, is an italianized form of the Spanish Picazo, taken on by a maternal ancestor who served in the navy of the Kingdom of Naples, under Spanish rule at the time.)

The -z names, mostly ending in -ez but occasionally in -az (Díaz) or -iz (Ruiz) are originally patronymics; they are often glossed as “son of” but there is nothing in the form to indicate that, and they have from the beginning been used for daughters as well; for example, the daughter of Rodrigo Díaz El Cid were named Cristina and María Rodríguez. (Note: I am writing these names in the modern Spanish way, with an acute accent on the penultimate syllable; these would not have been there before 1900 or so, and I think it’s anachronistic, for example, to write — in English — the name of the New Mexico senator Dennis Chavez, whose family had been American for many generations, as Chávez.)

The -z ending seems to come from the Goths, who spoke a Germanic language, and in all likelihood represents the -s possessive common to all Germanic languages. These names are therefore equivalent to English surnames like Williams, Davis and Jones, typically native to southern England and Wales, as distinct from the Scandinavian-influenced -son names in northern England and Scotland.

While the -z names are, along with García, among the most common in Hispanic countries, one rarely finds them on the jerseys of soccer players from those countries; one is much more likely to find a given name or a nickname, such as Raúl (González), Alexis (Sánchez), James (Rodríguez), Pedro  (Rodríguez), Chicharito (Javier Hernández). Míchel (Miguel González) and many others.  In Spain, many footballers (like their Brazilian counterparts) like to be known by their nicknames (Isco, Koke, Juanfran) even if their surnames are not of the common type, but this doesn’t seem to be the case in Hispanic America.

 

More on Saudis

February 2, 2016

The English historian Suzannah Lipscomb, in her BBC Documentary Hidden Killers of the Tudor Home, frequently  uses “the Tudors” to mean the people of Tudor England, not just the Welsh family that ruled over them. But the reference is meant to specify the historical period in which they lived, as distinct from English people at other times. I doubt that she would refer to her present-day compatriots as “the Windsors.”

In a like manner, “the Soviets” is often used to mean the people of the Soviet Union and not to the councils (ranging up to the Supreme Soviet) which governed them.

But it is quite common to see and hear the people of “Saudi” Arabia, and not only members of the royal family, called Saudis. Much of the time, when discussion focuses on the effects of the regime on the people, this designation may be justified, although I think “Saudi Arabians” would be better (as would Soviet Russians if the discussion is restricted to Russians). But in general, just as I wrote recently about the name of the country, I think they should be called just Arabians. The other inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsula — the Yemenis, Kuwaitis etc. — have demonyms of their own.

Sicilian terrorism? Islamic mafia?

January 22, 2016

In preparing for an upcoming trip to Sicily, I have been struck by number of places in the island — streets, squares, schools, stadiums even the Palermo airport — that are named for Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, the magistrates who so bravely prosecuted the leaders of the Sicilian Mafia and who were killed in what can be justly called acts of terroristm: Falcone by a motorway explosion, Borsellino by a car bomb.

Once upon a time it was not necessary to modify “Mafia” with “Sicilian.” Mafia-like organizations in other parts of Italy had their own traditional names — Camorra, Ndrangheta — and those in other countries had designations of their own (e.g. “the Mob” in the US, with its specifically Italian-originated segment also known as “la Cosa Nostra”). But these days one hears so much of Russian, Albanian and other “mafias” that it does become necessary to say “Sicilian Mafia.”

But I’ve never heard any objection to this designation as being somehow insulting to the Sicilian people, or to Sicily as a place. It is well known that most of the Mafia’s victims have been Sicilians, including the aforementioned Falcone and Borsellino.

It seems strange, then, that many well-meaning people object to the term “Islamic Terrorism” as insulting to Muslims or to Islam.

In fact, criminal gangs like al-Qaida, Daesh (aka IS, ISIL or ISIS), al-Shobab, the Taliban and Boko Haram — who may at times be in conflict with one another but pursue the same cause — are reminiscent of the various “families” (cosche) that make up the Mafia. They are motivated by (Sunni) Islamic fundamentalism in the face of the West and other forms of Islam, similarly to the way the cosche were originally motivated by Sicilian patriotism in the face of the centralized Italian state and those Sicilians who favored it. And in both cases the ideology has served as a cover for the recruitment of criminal-minded young men with predictable results.

So let’s not shrink from calling Islamic terrorism what it is.

(Saudi?) Arabia

January 7, 2016

Saudi Arabia has been in the news a lot lately. And what I hear in oral news reports is, first, a variety of pronunciations of “Saudi” (/sɔːdiː)/, /’sdi:/, /sa’u:di:/) and, second, a certain laziness in giving the kingdom its full name, so that one hears “the Saudis” or just “Saudi”, which is actually an adjective. It reminds me of the time when Madagascar was officially called République Malgache (as a calque of République Française), which was translated into English as “Malagasy Republic” and led American journalists to call the country “Malagasy”.

Why is the name of the ruling dynasty an integral part of the country’s name? Shouldn’t the UK, then, be called the United Windsor Kingdom? Well, dynasties change, don’t they?

Jordan is officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, but we don’t call it “Hashemite Jordan”. In fact, the Arabic names of the two Arab kingdoms are exactly parallel: Jordan is Al-Mamlakah al-Urduniyah al-Hashimiyah and Saudi Arabia is Al-Mamlakah al-‘Arabiyah as-Sa’ūdiyah, which is officially translated as “Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” but could just as well be “Saudi Kingdom of Arabia”. So why don’t we just call it “Arabia”?

A possible answer may that the kingdom does not occupy the whole land known as the Arabian Peninsula, or simply Arabia. But, as I have written before, the name of a state — especially when preceded by “Republic (or Kingdom or United States or Grand Duchy) of…” — is often the same as that of a larger territory that it’s a part of (a usage known as synecdoche). The Republic of Ireland (which officially often calls itself simply “Ireland”) does not occupy all of the island of Ireland, only a large part thereof (five-sixths), just as Saudi Arabia occupies a large part (two-thirds) of the peninsula. The Republic of Macedonia (pace the Greeks) occupies only a small part of historic Macedonia, and of course the United States of America is a small part of what is geographically known as America, which has been pluralized to “the Americas” in order to differentiate it from “America” as a synonym for the US. (In Dutch, going the other way, de Nederlanden (the Netherlands) was singularized to Nederland when Belgium split off.) There are a good many other examples.

Besides, the Arabian Peninsula is rarely, nowadays, referred to as Arabia, anyway. If necessary, it could also be called “the Arabias”, since in Roman days the peninsula was divided into three regions: Arabia Deserta, Arabia Felix, and Arabia Petraea, and there are many historical references to “the three Arabias”.

So, for myself, I will henceforth refer to what is now the Saudi kingdom (but may in the future be transformed into another, hopefully better, regime) as Arabia. My decision will probably influence people no more than does my calling the Czech Republic simply Czechia, though I’m far from alone in this last regard.

 

BPL?

December 21, 2015

I have just watched an exciting match between two of England’s best soccer teams, Arsenal and Manchester City. But if someone unfamiliar with the game were to tune in and try to determine what was going on by looking on the fronts of the players’ jerseys, they might think that it was a contest between teams representing the two competing airlines of the United Arab Emirates, Emirates (Arsenal) and Etihad (Man City). It is not that either team is owned by the respective airline. But it may surprise Americans to learn that in Europe corporate influence on professional sports is far more extensive than in the US and goes well beyond stadium naming rights. We don’t, after all, see the San Francisco 49ers or Giants players to show up with “Levi’s” or “AT&T” emblazoned on their uniforms.

Sometimes that stadium’s name and the company advertised on the jersey are different. Bayern Munich’s stadium, for example, is named for Allianz (the insurance giant), while their jerseys feature T-Mobile. In other cases the stadium keeps its old sponsor-free name, but the jerseys still act as billboards: Emirates (again) for Real Madrid, Milan and Paris Saint-Germain; Qatar Airways for Barcelona: Jeep for Juventus; Chevrolet for Manchester United; and so on.

Several professional clubs in Europe actually are or were owned by local companies, and carry their names: Bayer Leverkusen (Germany), Philips Eindhoven (Holland). The reason that Volkswagen’s team, VfL Wolfsburg, doesn’t carry the company’s name is that it doesn’t seem necessary: everybody knows what Wolfsburg stands for.

And then, of course there are the leagues themselves. Spain’s major league, commonly called La Liga, is officially Liga BBVA, named for Spain’s second-largest bank. And in England the Premier League is officially the Barclays Premier League, similarly named for the country’s second-largest bank.

Outside of England, however, we call it the English Premier League, or EPL. To get information about it on Yahoo or Google, you can enter either EPL or BPL. And as long as EPL works, I choose to forget about BPL.

Chelsea musings

October 16, 2015

Perhaps because so many English female names, especially in their diminutive form, end in unstrssed /i/ (“ee”) — Mary, Margie, Betty, Lizzie… — since about the second half of the 20th century almost any name (place-name or surname) having such an ending has been potentially a female first name: Ashley, Brittany, Chelsea…

For reference, when I was a graduate student at Columbia, one of my professors was named Shirley Quimby (male, born 1893). The actor Leslie Nielsen was born in 1926.

A few such names have resisted being feminized, for example Bradley and Stanley, perhaps because their abbreviated forms (Brad, Stan) have a strong masculine association; thus, for example, Bradley Manning, on becoming a woman, took the name Chelsea Manning.

“Chelsea Manning” has a certain assonance with Chelsea Morning, the Joni Mitchell song that was enormously popular around 1970, about the time that Bill Clinton met Hillary Rodham. It is well known that it was the song that inspired them to name their daughter Chelsea. But there are female Chelseas born well before Chelsea Clinton; for example the writer Chelsea Quinn Yarbro (born 1942). Chelsea Morning, by the way, was inspired by the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan (where Joni Mitchell was living at the time), which in turn got its name from the district (formerly borough) of Chelsea in London, over the centuries home to many celebrities from Anne of Cleves and Sir Thomas More to Mary Quant and Mick Jagger by way of J. M. W. Turner, T. S. Eliot, J. R. R. Tolkien and Ava Gardner.

Perhaps the most famous entity bearing the name Chelsea is not a person but the Chelsea F(ootball) C(lub), a club not located in Chelsea but in the neighboring (to the west) district of Fulham. At the time of the club’s founding, in 1905, Fulham was a working-class area which already had a football club (Fulham FC). The new club’s adoption of the name of a tonier neighboring district is reminiscent of the way Sarah Lawrence College, located in the working-class city of Yonkers (near New York), gives its address as being in the posh village of Bronxville.

My own relation to Chelsea FC is one that I hinted at previously: I would watch their games in the hope that (1) the team would lose (something that didn’t often happen last season, when they won the League title convincingly), (2) one of its players would be injured, not severely, but enough to have the lovely team doctor, Eva Carneiro, come out onto the pitch. Alas, in the wake of the incident referred to in that post, Dr. Carneiro is no longer with the team.

In that incident, one of the team’s top players, the Belgian international Eden Hazard, was injured in stoppage time of the season’s first game, with the scored tied 2-2 with Swansea FC in stoppage time. The referee called the medical team (Dr. Carneiro and a physical therapist) to the field, with the result that Hazard had to get off the field — a fact that angered Chelsea’s coach, the arrogant and misanthropic José Mourinho, enough to shout what may have been filha da puta (literally ‘daughter of the whore,’ in effect the female equivalent of ‘son of a bitch’) at the doctor. (Eva Carneiro, despite her name, is not Portuguese but a Gibraltar-born daughter of a Spaniard and an Englishwoman, but she is said to know the language.)  Mourinho claimed that the words had been filho da puta, supposed an impersonal curse word equivalent to ‘son of a bitch,’ and his claim was upheld by Portuguese linguists, so that no disciplinary action was taken against him, though he was urged to apologize to Eva Carneiro (which he of course didn’t do) by the President of the Football Association. In fact, he suspended her from further action with the team, despite her having followed the referee’s order. But then Mourinho is no great respecter of officials — he has just been fined £50,000 for having made a derogatory remark about a referee. Needless to say, his reaction to the fine was not gracious.

I will miss Eva Carneiro, but I am enjoying Chelsea’s current record of two wins, two draws and four losses — good for 16th place. And tomorrow morning, while I will mainly focus on Everton vs. Man U, I will check in on the Chelsea vs. Aston Villa game and cheer on Brad Guzan’s team.

 

 

 

Latin?

January 23, 2015

When I first read about the car-sharing entity called Uber, I assumed that the name would be pronounced as Yuber, in accordance with the usual English way of pronouncing word-initial “long u“: union, usage, uterus, utopia,… But I’ve never heard it pronounced as anything but oober, which makes me think that this is how the company calls itself, and that the name is meant to be interpreted as Latin. Now uber as a Latin adjective means ‘fertile’ or ‘productive’ and as a noun it can mean something like ‘fertile ground,’ but by far the most common meaning is that of ‘(female) breast’ or ‘teat.’ Why a company whose goal is to transport people would call itself that, I don’t know.

And whenever I think of Latin, I think of the many terms used to denote a person of (at least partly) sub-Saharan African descent, especially in America. Such people have been called darkies, Negroes, colored, black, Afro-American, African-American, and in the more distant past also Moors, Abyssinian, and Ethiopian. The geographic inaccuracy of the last three designations doesn’t really matter, any more than the actual color described as black (or, for that matter, white; chessboards and chessmen are not always strictly black and white either). Of course, negro is just the Spanish or Portuguese word for  black.

But then there is the Latin word for black: niger. This, two was commonly used in English to designate people in or from Africa from about the end of the 16th century onward (as was pater for father — it must have been a kind of affectation by educated Britons). Around the end of the 18th century some (but not all) writers began adding a second g, presumably in order to insure a pronunciation closer to the Latin one, rhyming with bigger and not, at least in English, with tiger (though Robert Burns rhymes nigger, vigour and tiger).

And, around the same time as the spelling change, the Latin word became offensive, both in the mouths of those saying it and in the ears of those hearing it. What is it about Latin?

Incidentally, the word nègre plays a similarly offensive role in French, but perhaps not to the same extent. The English version of Jean Genêt’s play provocatively titled Les Nègres  was given the inoffensive title The Blacks. (Conversely, black is now an OK word in French for referring to people of African origin or descent.)

CHSR, MLS

January 7, 2015

Yesterday (January 6, 2015) was, according to the media, a momentous day for California. A hole was dug that represents Jerry Brown’s long-time wet dream: the groundbreaking of the California High-Speed Rail line. I will call it CHSR for now, though I’m sure that in time a more speaker-friendly moniker will be made up.

Don’t get me wrong: I like Jerry Brown. I liked him in the 1970s as Governor Moonbeam, and I like him in the 2010s as Mr. Pragmatic, a role he prepared for in the 2000s as mayor of Oakland and Attorney General.

I also like high-speed rail. 25 years ago I rode the Tokaido Shinkansen from Kyoto to Osaka, and since then I have ridden the TGV in France and the AVE in Spain several times. But, as far as I remember, in none of those trips did I simply go from one high-speed rail station to another. For example, when a few years ago my wife and I traveled on the AVE from Zaragoza to Barcelona, we first took a bus from Jaca that took us directly to the intermodal Delicias station Delicias(where the bus station is integrated with the rail station), and after arriving at Barcelona Sants it was a simple matter to go to another track and board a suburban train (Cercanías/Rodalies) to Barcelona Estació de França, from where we had a pleasant walk to our hotel.

What I am saying is that in the countries that have working high-speed rail lines, these lines are part of an integrated rail system that includes long-distance lines, regional lines and suburban lines, and bus lines as well. California has no such system, and none is being planned, as far as I know. There is a hodgepodge of individual rail lines with little or no connectivity, the nearest thing being Amtrak’s bus service. Even when several lines meet at the same station, the frequency of trains is so low (some run only once a day) and their punctuality so abysmal (since most passenger trains share tracks with, and give way to, freight trains) that making connections is, for the most part, out of the question.

Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, the only station where our suburban system (BART) connects with other rail lines is Richmond, a location that’s convenient for me (I live in El Cerrito) but not for the bulk of Bay Area residents. And, of course, Richmond is not along the planned route of CHSR. If I am still around when CHSR is complete, as is its full extension to the Transbay Transit Center in San Francisco (scheduled for completion in 2029 — I was born in 1935 — and we know what scheduled completion dates mean in California), then I could, in principle, take BART to Embarcadero, walk to Transbay and take CSHR to Los Angeles. Otherwise I might have to go to Richmond and take the Capitol Corridor to the San Jose Diridon station — a 54-mile (87-km) trip that takes an hour and three quarters. High-speed rail indeed!

The planning of a high-speed line that is not an integral part of an interconnected system reminds me of a similar situation in North American soccer.

There is an organization, called Major League Soccer (MLS), which functions as the Division I equivalent of the likes of the Premier League, La Liga and the like. There is also a Division II North American Soccer League (NASL) and a Division III USL Pro. But, unlike most other soccer-playing countries, these entities don’t form a league system, with promotion and relegation as a key ingredient (though there has been some “self-relegation” from NASL to USL Pro). The system of promotion and relegation is what makes it interesting to follow games in the lower divisions and those involving low-ranking teams  (at least for people who are not fans of the teams). Without it, one quickly loses interest. Since its lousy record over the past two seasons I have not followed the team that, by dint of geography, I should be a fan of — the San Jose Earthquakes. (I have actually been a fan of the LA Galaxy, partly because I grew up in Los Angeles and partly because their star was my namesake Cobi Jones [the fact that I write my name Coby is an arbitrary choice on my part], though my loyalty faded when he retired and David Beckham joined the team.)

There is also the matter of MLS’s name. With sports leagues in the English-speaking world, if the word league is part of the name, it generally comes at the end (no need to give examples), even when the “league” is not actually a league but a tournament (e.g. Champions’ League). Why does MLS have it in the middle?

My guess is that Major League Soccer is a calque of the very prestigious Major League Baseball (MLB). But MLB is, at least historically, an umbrella organization for the two major leagues, the American League and the National League, which until 2000 were separate legal entities; it was only then that MLB actually became a league.

MLS was formed well before that, in 1995. But then it isn’t really a league either, at least in the conventional sense of “an association of teams or clubs that compete chiefly among themselves” (American Heritage Dictionary); the “teams or clubs” of MLS are not entities that are voluntarily associated with one another, but units of “a single-entity structure in which teams and player contracts are centrally owned” (Wikipedia) by it. So perhaps Major League Soccer should be read as “Major-League” Soccer; a soccer organization that wants to look like a major league but isn’t really.

The Wikipedia article also notes that “one aspect that had alienated fans was that MLS experimented with rules deviations in its early years in an attempt to ‘Americanize’ the sport.” It isn’t just rules deviations; it’s the fact that a 20-team “league” does not, as do other such leagues, play a standard home-and-home schedule of 38 games with the winner as champion, but follows other American sports in dividing itself into “conferences” with post-season playoffs for the championship, and not allowing (as I mentioned above) relegation and promotion. Since real soccer fans like me can follow European and Mexican football on television, it’s no wonder we feel alienated by MLS.

The San Francisco Chronicle’s columnist Jon Carroll wrote in his column today that, as he was riding the TGV, “[he] thought: Wasn’t this supposed to be our future? Wasn’t the United States supposed to produce the best ideas in commercial transportation? Those are rhetorical questions.”

Perhaps smilar questions can be asked about professional sports organizations.

 

 

More yanking

September 23, 2014

I live in El Cerrito, California, and I often drive through the adjacent city of Richmond. One of the exits on Interstate 580, along the way to the Richmond–San Rafael Bridge, is Harbour Way. Yes, that’s Harbour, spelled the British way, not Harbor. It’s the name of a street, coined in that form for some reason or other, and the freeway sign reflects it faithfully.

It’s the same way with Centre (not Center) Street in Lower Manhattan, New York. In English, one does not change form or spelling of proper names. If a woman’s name is written Katherine or Kathryn, we don’t change it to Catherine (or vice versa), any more than we would change Antwan to Antoine (or vice versa).

But I am now reading the American edition of a novel by Tana French, titled Broken Harbor. The original title was, of course, Broken Harbour. It is not about a harbor that’s broken; it’s about a murder that took place in a locality that was once called Broken Harbour. The title is, in other words, a proper name, just like that of Tana French’s previous novel, Faithful Place (the name of a street). Why in the world would an American publisher (in this case Viking) change a place name in a novel that takes place in Ireland, not the United States?

I have written about this before, in connection with the Americanization of the texts of the novels of Ian Rankin, which I called yanking so that I could title the post “Yankin’ Rankin.” The process ranges from routine changes of spelling to significant word changes. The extreme was reached in the retitling of Fleshmarket Close by its American publisher (Little, Brown) as Fleshmarket Alley. Now, close is a Scottish word that means, more or less, alley. But Fleshmarket Close is, for God’s sake, the name of an actual alley in Edinburgh. (Tana French’s placenames are fictitious, not that it matters.) If an American tourist tried to find the place and asked someone for the location of Fleshmarket Alley, they might have a hard time getting the information.

As Elizabeth George has shown, it doesn’t have to be this way. She is American, and has gone through several American publishers (Bantam, HarperCollins, Dutton), but they all respect her chosen British usage and even spelling; the only things that marks her original editions as American is the punctuation (double rather single quotes, period before end quote, closed em dash rather than open en dash).

For myself, I prefer to read the original British editions, if I can get them, or else American ones that leave the text intact. Just as I prefer Chinese food cooked by Chinese for Chinese (something that El Cerrito has plenty of) rather than Chinese-American. There’s something about the flavor (or flavour)…