Wikipedia:Naming policy poll

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NOTE - Do not vote here. This poll has long since ended.


There are cases when the official name of a location (generally cities) is different than what most English speakers call it. Current wikipedia policy is that the more common name should be used. ("Generally, article naming should give priority to what the majority of English speakers would most easily recognize with a reasonable minimum of ambiguity, while at the same time making linking to those articles easy and second nature. -- Wikipedia:Naming conventions) The purpose of this poll is to reaffirm or change this policy, in those situations where the common nameEnglish spelling is currently more popular than the official nameEnglish spelling. For additional background and relevant discussions of this issue, please refer to Talk:Kiev, Talk:Kolkata, and Talk:Mecca. Also see Wikipedia:Naming policy poll/FAQ.

Affected articles (Note - this is not an exhaustive list)[edit]

(More common English spelling/officially declared by governments of countries where cities are located as official English spelling)

Not clear-cut enough - the poll does not apply to these[edit]

Not at issue - the poll does not apply to these[edit]

A number of other cities and countries have been referred to in the discussion. However, since no one is proposing changing their official English name, these places are not at issue. This was perhaps due to confusion prior to the clarification and rewording of the poll question.

  • Londres/London (for
  • Germany/Deutschland
  • Rome/Roma
  • Russia/Росси́я
  • Japan/日本
  • Munich/München
  • Moscow/Moskva
  • Saint Petersburg/Sankt Petersburg/ Sankt Peterburg
  • Cologne/Köln (Koln, Koeln)
  • Côte d'Ivoire/ Cote d'Ivoire/ Ivory Coast [1] 369,000 for "Cote d'Ivoire" from UK

[2] 303,000 for "Ivory Coast" from UK [3] 53,200 for "Côte d'Ivoire" from UK [4] 1,910,000 English pages for "Cote d'Ivoire" [5] 854,000 English pages for "Côte d'Ivoire [6] 2,460,000 English pages for "Ivory Coast"

[8] 1,670,000 English pages for Düsseldorf [9] 493,000 for Düsseldorf from UK [10] 614,000 for dusseldorf from UK

Please mention any articles you think that this poll should or should not apply to.


Do not add new poll options - they will be summarily removed. Polling will last for two weeks; it ends at midnight UTC, May 7. →Raul654 04:35, Apr 23, 2004 (UTC). Please leave comments about your vote in the comments section, where people can reply to them without messing up the vote. Nohat 19:32, 2004 Apr 23 (UTC)

Agree with current policy[edit]

I agree with current wikipedia policy. Geographic articles should be named after what most English speakers would call them, even if that is different than the official English spelling. The official English spelling should still be mentioned in the article.

  1. →Raul654 04:16, Apr 23, 2004 (UTC)
  2. RickK 04:23, 23 Apr 2004 (UTC). This is the English Wikipedia. If this vote loses, I will go to the Spanish Wikipedia and demand that Londres be renamed London, since Londres is offensive to English speakers.
  3. Nohat 04:25, 2004 Apr 23 (UTC). See my comments at Wikipedia talk:Naming policy poll
  4. chris_73 04:27, 23 Apr 2004 (UTC) Wikipedia is there to provide information, not to please some foreign governments.
  5. RedWolf 05:58, Apr 23, 2004 (UTC)
  6. If and when the most common English usage changes, then we will change. --mav 07:26, 23 Apr 2004 (UTC)
  7. Agree. -- Karada 09:59, 23 Apr 2004 (UTC)
  8. john 07:57, 23 Apr 2004 (UTC). English is so silly. Other languages don't let the people who live in places tell them how to name those places. (On the other hand, Calcutta/Kolkata is rather an odd case, since India is a partially anglophone country).
  9. Vanderesch 08:44, 23 Apr 2004 (UTC)
  10. --ALargeElk 08:47, 23 Apr 2004 (UTC)
  11. Arvindn 10:19, 23 Apr 2004 (UTC)
  12. This is an English encyclopedia. Use of the official name would imply changing Germany→Deutschland, Rome→Roma, Russia→Росси́я, Japan→日本 and so on. Gdr 12:23, 2004 Apr 23 (UTC)
  13. MGM 13:17, Apr 23, 2004 (UTC) You can always make redirects in some cases if necessary.
  14. Radicalsubversiv 19:16, 23 Apr 2004 (UTC) Although I wonder about cases like Seville / Sevilla, where both are commonly used by English speakers.
  15. DJ Clayworth 19:44, 23 Apr 2004 (UTC) Our first purpose is to be useful. Local names should be given secondarily wherever possible. DJ Clayworth 19:44, 23 Apr 2004 (UTC)
  16. Michael Snow 21:45, 23 Apr 2004 (UTC)
  17. ugen64 02:41, Apr 24, 2004 (UTC)
  18. Andris 02:43, Apr 24, 2004 (UTC)
  19. Etaoin 03:23, 24 Apr 2004 (UTC) - Redirect either way, so it doesn't matter too much, but in the English version we should use the English name.
  20. Tuf-Kat 11:59, Apr 24, 2004 (UTC)
  21. Daeron 13:30, 24 Apr 2004 (UTC)
  22. Ruhrjung 18:58, 24 Apr 2004 (UTC) although some (moderate) consideration ought to be given sentiments among the locals
  23. Nunh-huh 20:17, 24 Apr 2004 (UTC) Wikipedia must reflect what is, not what should be.
  24. Danny 00:48, 25 Apr 2004 (UTC)
  25. Dmn 00:53, 25 Apr 2004 (UTC) Kiev all the way
  26. llywrch 01:11, 25 Apr 2004 (UTC) Let's use the most common English names
  27. Fujairah 25 Apr 2004
  28. Proteus 09:44, 25 Apr 2004 (UTC) Place names are just as much a part of a language as normal words. "Rome" isn't a commonly used but less correct version of "Roma", it *is* the English word for that city and is completely correct when using the English language.
  29. Chris Ducat 17:51, Apr 25, 2004 (UTC) As some have said, because this is an English wikipedia, English terms should be used for all items.
  30. Zundark 21:12, 25 Apr 2004 (UTC) The English Wikipedia should use the usual English names.
  31. — Matt 10:51, 26 Apr 2004 (UTC)
  32. Jwrosenzweig 22:18, 26 Apr 2004 (UTC) I agree with the general sentiment that no other language (to my knowledge) bends over so far to accomodate "official names" and I see no reason for English to be the exception, and with the general sentiment that, as both names will get you to the article (one via redirect), this shouldn't be a big deal.
  33. Vardion 23:08, 26 Apr 2004 (UTC)
  34. Sean 08:33, 27 Apr 2004 (UTC)
  35. Lou I 18:33, 27 Apr 2004 (UTC)
  36. MerovingianTalk 18:30, Apr 28, 2004 (UTC)
  37. Uncle Ed 12:30, 29 Apr 2004 (UTC) This only affects the Article Name and the first bold mention of the place, right? We can put the official name, when different, immediately afterwards. Like Cambodia (official: Kampuchea); Mecca (official: Makkah). Wikipedia should not respond to campaigns of any sort to change its terminology, other than to note that such campaigns are afoot. (Cambodia has not officially been Kampuchea since 1989. john 18:33, 1 May 2004 (UTC))
  38. Andrew 18:33, Apr 30, 2004 (UTC) Largely irrelevant due to redirects; article text is a bigger question; if debate exists over what a place should be called it should be explained in the article. Wikipedia should be descriptive not prescriptive.
  39. Cribcage 21:13, 1 May 2004 (UTC)
  40. Rmhermen 06:16, May 2, 2004 (UTC)
  41. Lowellian 08:53, May 2, 2004 (UTC)
  42. James F. (talk) 13:04, 4 May 2004 (UTC)
  43. Fred Bauder 18:52, May 4, 2004 (UTC)
  44. this issue is more complicated really, i will elaborate below. in short, en: = english. Badanedwa 19:59, May 5, 2004 (UTC)
  45. Rasmus (talk) 22:22, 6 May 2004 (UTC) English language is not governed by any governments.

Disagree with current Wikipedia policy[edit]

I disagree with current Wikipedia policy. Geographic articles should match the official English spelling, even if another English spelling is currently more common. Name changes requested through diplomatic channels should be honored by Wikipedia when honored by the United Nations. The more common name should still be mentioned.

  1. Luis Dantas Wikipedia, unlike paper media, has the benefit of redirections and a fluidity of content. I feel that it also has something of a responsibility to help in promoting vocabulary change.
  2. Michaelfavia 16:53, 23 Apr 2004 (UTC) The purpose of this encyclopedia is to provide a free source of information to the general public. We arent guaging public sentiment here and as a result shouldnt refer to "popular" but instead "official" names. Be they english or native (use Getty Thesaurus of Geographical Names or the like as a reference)
  3. Inhvar For native forms - as supported by United Nations + British, Indian, Australian and Canadian Embassies are very clearly located in Kyiv.
  4. Halibutt The popularity of a name is not equal to correctness. Halibutt 13:05, 24 Apr 2004 (UTC)
  5. Crculver 17:03, 24 Apr 2004 (UTC) The capital of Ukraine should be at Kyiv, because the government of that country uses that spelling in its English-language materials. Plus, calling it "Kiev" uses the Russian language name, and that is quite offensive to a country where Russian isn't even an official language.
  6. older wiser 19:38, 24 Apr 2004 (UTC) Changing my vote from too early. Nohat makes a good case, but I don't think mobocracy is sufficient reason to disrespect others where there is no real harm to English users in using an alternate spelling.
  7. Davodd 01:00, Apr 25, 2004 (UTC)
  8. Hajor Only if the official name comes with a recommendation for its use in English. We're not talking about Germany vs. Deutschland here. (Are we? Or was that just a strawman?)
    Yes, Germany vs. Deutschland is not seriously considered by anyone and is just a red herring thrown in by folks who want to muddy the waters. older wiser
    Successfully, it would appear. Along with references to München, Roma, & Londres, which I don't think are at issue here either. Hajor
  9. Mkweise Wikipedia should use correct names, even in cases where a former name is still commonly used due to force of habit or lack of better knowledge.
  10. BL: Official English names are better. Deutschland is afaik, not the official English name for Germany and therefore doesn't apply.
  11. User:LordSuryaofShropshire: By relegating offical names to secondary status based on 'popular' convention, we open up a whole slew of new issues. I will personally begin renaming/moving to rename various articles based on this, because the wording allows for more popular names, like America or 'The US' to replace the official United States of America title, or Zaire for Congo. We allow for a reversion of the natural historical processes that gradually led to changes in earlier-prevalent nomenclature, like Persia to Iran, Hindoo to Indian (and using Hindu for the religion alone) and Mohammadan to Muslim. If we had not had dictionaries and encyclopedias amended, and schools/academia reflecting such changes, we would still be calling Istanbul 'Constantinople.' We're representing fact here, not popular sentiment.
  12. Zoney: I'm changing my vote to against current policy - Wikipedia should reflect official line, where possible. I do beleive that such a policy shouldn't have to be strictly enforced - different cases warrant different measures.
  13. Taku 07:19, Apr 29, 2004 (UTC): Using a common name might be POV. But I do disagree to use the uncommon name.
  14. Frazzydee 15:44, 1 May 2004 (UTC): Wikipedia aims to be an NPOV encyclopedia, with THE FACTS, not whatever the public has modified it to. However, in the interests of making the Wikipedia available and helpful for as many people as possible, I believe that the popular name should redirect to the real name. For example, if London is really supposed to be Londres, the Londres article should be the real article, but the London article should simply redirect the user to Londres. I believe that this would be a solution benefiting both sides.
    I don't think anyone's disputing that there should be redirects, so that's not a compromise. I think the problem is that you assume that there is a "real name" which can be determined. When dealing with cities with names in foreign languages, this is pretty clearly not the case. john 18:30, 1 May 2004 (UTC)
    I think that we should call countries, cities, and the like by whatever they decide their official name is. For instance, if the Chinese decide their official name is now Cheena, then who are we to make up another name for them? -Frazzydee 20:03, 2 May 2004 (UTC)
  15. Joshuapaquin 02:15, 3 May 2004 (UTC) : If the name is wrong, it's wrong... and wrongness should not be in an encyclopedia.
  16. User:Omegium 19:34, 3 May 2004 (GMT) : To make it surely neutral, the name the inhabitants of the country/place should be used. A reference page should of course be made so it can be found by people who don't know the original name.
  17. Denni 04:47, 2004 May 4 (UTC) Where English spelling is accepted, use. Where requested spelling has become standard (Beijing), use. Where English spelling is preferred, but requested spelling is non-trivial, use English spelling followed by requested spelling in brackets (Bombay (Mumbai)). Where requested spelling is becoming standard but English spelling may be needed for clarification, use requested spelling followed by English spelling in brackets (Kyiv (Kiev)). As always, common sense, discretion, and don't be anal about it.
  18. Troll Silent, Troll Deep 04:53, 4 May 2004 (UTC) : We should not perpetuate common mistakes.
  19. We should use what current name is, rather than what was in past, past belong to history and not future/current, so we should follow what is current, than what was. KuwarOnline Talk 06:57, 19 November 2010 (UTC)

Too Early to Vote[edit]

  1. Kokiri 08:54, 23 Apr 2004 (UTC) (see below)
  2. There should not be a poll before a discussion. Otherwise people commit to a decision without considering all the issues, are unlikely to change that decision since they made it public, and the overall quality of decisions drops. There should be a poll on a procedure for conducting polls :) --Voodoo 09:40, 23 Apr 2004 (UTC)
    1. Im sure you meant a discussion right Vodoo? ;)
  3. Tannin 09:48, 23 Apr 2004 (UTC) This scares me a little. Setting blanket policies like this (either way) is a recipe for problems.
  4. calexico 11:45, 23 Apr 2004 (UTC) In order to understand the topic, first we need to define a) where the common policy is stated, perhaps have a link there, b) personally i would like a definition of the term more common name - once these things are in place, i may be more comfortable with voting on the matter
    • Changing vote to oppose. older wiser 12:56, 23 Apr 2004 (UTC) I am inclined to oppose, but I think that except for the people who have been actively following the various discussion, many people coming to this poll won't understand what all the issues are.
  5. Zoney The vote is flawed. I view it that Kiev should be moved to Kyiv under current policy as the former name is offensive to those trying to escape the long arm of a stronger neighbour. I don't agree with the arbitrary lumping together of names 'affected' by the decision, as these probably all have their own debates re: offensiveness, etc. (Or not, who knows? This poll is really stupid!) Changing vote to against current policy.
  6. Wikimol 19:17, 24 Apr 2004 (UTC) Wikipedia should follow the UN UNGEGN guidelines and have convention reflecting UNGEGN reccomendations.
  7. Adam Bishop 15:26, 26 Apr 2004 (UTC) - I'm not sure either side even agrees to what they are voting on here.


Moved votes[edit]

  1. Chancemill 08:16, Apr 23, 2004 (UTC) I would prefer a convention, where both names - the widely-known and the official ones appear in the title. (As in Kolkata (Calcutta)) Changing my vote to Neutral/Undecided. This issue is now bigger and seems to touch upon many other outstanding issues than than I thought at first. There have been opinions and points raised in the past few days - about which I am yet to frame a definite opinion. For now, I opt out of the poll. Chancemill 11:32, Apr 27, 2004 (UTC)

Invalid votes[edit]

  1. Gutsul For native forms - Kyiv must be Kyiv not Kiev, München not Munich, Moskva not Moscov...
    ***(Note: User login is for ukrainian wikipedia -- Chris 73 | (New) Talk 06:21, 27 Apr 2004 (UTC))
  2. Sicheslav 18:48, 25 Apr 2004 (UTC) Unfortunaly I know whole world get usted on "russian" version of spelling of our cities, names & surnames, because russian was officialy on whole ex-SSSR teritory ... Kyiv is officialy so it should be Kyiv ...
    ***(Note: User has one contribution - which is the above line -- Chris 73 | (New) Talk 06:21, 27 Apr 2004 (UTC))
  3. Olexiy Kyiv and just Kyiv.
    ***(Note: User has one contribution - which is the above line -- Chris 73 | (New) Talk 06:21, 27 Apr 2004 (UTC))
  4. User:Sergi:Must be Kyiv not Kiev
    ***(Note: User has two contributions - which is his user page and the above line -- Chris 73 | (New) Talk 06:21, 27 Apr 2004 (UTC))
  5. Macurest 08:09, 3 May 2004 (UTC)
    ***(Note: User has two contributions - his user page and the above line -- Proteus (Talk) 08:30, 3 May 2004 (UTC))

As I understand it, there will be always all used names mentioned in the title, but only one name is used for the main text. For example in Kolkata, both names are listed at the top, but the city is called Kolkata for the rest of the article and the article is located at The question is, which name is used throughout the article and for the location of the article page, and which name is the add-on -- chris_73 08:40, 23 Apr 2004 (UTC)

If I understand what you say correctly (which is that this issue is more about the main text references and less about the title), I would still prefer the usage of Kolkata over Calcutta. It is not the question of discounting the whims of the governments, but analysing the impact that such renamings will have and the popularity of the new names among the local population. And of course, one needs to consider the mass appeal of the place. For example, Kolkata/Calcutta attracts less international attention than Mecca/Makkah every year. In which case,it is indeed in the interest of information, that the new names be used over the old ones, while reminding the reader that this is indeed the city that was formerly known as < >. The same may not be true of Mecca because of the renown of the latter - as a global pilgrimage spot, and the decision to rename the place may not find favour/popularity among people who do visit the place every year. My point here may be prejudiced by the specific instance of Kolkata (as John has observed in the comments section), as I think the continued reference to Calcutta in the main article, will only involve more and more people (perhaps unwittingly) trying to correct the reference - because from an Indian (Anglophone or otherwise) perspective, it sounds rather antiquated. Chancemill 09:07, Apr 23, 2004 (UTC)
That's exactly the main problem. Usually, locals have a big preference of the new name, and may fight tooth and nail for it (see Talk:Gdansk), whereas non-locals prefer what they are used to, also often vigorously stating their point. I am sure, people from Mecca have similar arguments why Makkah is the right name. The poll is an attempt to see what the majority wants. -- chris_73 09:45, 23 Apr 2004 (UTC)
Funny you should say that Calcutta is antiquated from an Indian perspective, because I call it 'Calcutta', and so does everyone I know, except for exactly one person, and when he says 'Kolkata' he gets funny looks. Arvindn 10:30, 23 Apr 2004 (UTC)
Re Kolkata, that article seems to have been hijacked by someone trying to argue that the city has "always" been known locally as Kolkata (Britannica gives a completely different Bengali name for the city), and given to inserting "under British rule" whenever possible. I believe it was generally agreed in the past that Calcutta should be used for historical references, at least. To say "Kolkata was the capital of British India" is just bizarre. john 09:04, 26 Apr 2004 (UTC)

I wanted to suggest that Kolkata/Calcutta is not quite the same as the other two. India is a sort of anglophone country, and anglophone Indians to some extent, at least, use the new names. (The Anglophone Indian press, for instance, uses Kolkata). This is not really the same as the Kiev/Kyiv or Mecca/Makkah issue, which involves translation and transliteration. john 08:19, 23 Apr 2004 (UTC)

However, many locations throughout the world have a number of names that are used concurrently (not just 2). Inthis spirit the Getty TGN (Thesaurus of Geographical Names) lists all of the known names and allows you to search by any of them but places emphasis on the “Preferred” name. This is normally the locally adopted name (after all it is their city). See Example:

Getty TGN query for Corfu

Preference of any nominal representation of the location other thanthe locally preferred name is arbitrary at best (especially in anglephonic countries). I have spent quite some time dealing with the issues of internationalization and this is the solution i use personally and propose for you:

Using the locally-preferred name is just as arbitrary. We have to be arbitrary. However, we can choose a policy that uses a criterion that makes the choices consistent. Nohat 18:59, 2004 Apr 23 (UTC)
  • Use the "preferred" name as the article name and throughout the article.
  • For each place that has commonly used english alternatives:
    • Create an alias redirect
    • Add a subheading that contains:
      • the possible multitude of english names used throughout the world
      • a link to an article that explains the reasoning behind our geographic naming conventions
      • an explanation that the “preferred” name will be used throughout the article.

In my opinion this is a small price to pay and helps unify and inform the general public. The same model can be applied for each language (global rule) and maybe someday we will all refer to places uniformly. Let's not forget please that the purpose of an encyclopedia is to inform and educate. I think that this format will embrace those goals. Michaelfavia 16:53, 23 Apr 2004 (UTC)

This is an interesting resource, it lists Kiev as the prefered English name, Kyiev as the preferred name, Calcutta as the preferred name (and no English preferred name,) Makkah as preferred and Mecca as English preferred.--Voodoo 17:22, 23 Apr 2004 (UTC)
I don't see that there is a clear benefit to referring to places uniformly cross-linguistically. In fact, I'd say it's bad because it introduces non-native-sounding words into languages which can be hard to pronounce, but it also eliminates part of the linguistic diversity which makes each language unique. Nohat 19:02, 2004 Apr 23 (UTC)

Where does the Zurich/Zürich case come in? The poll on Talk:Zürich favours Zürich, although Google prefers Zurich over Zürich by about 5 to 1 [11] [12]

Maybe we should collect the different cases and different arguments first before rushing to have a poll. Kokiri 08:54, 23 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Too right we should. Tannin

Do not add new poll options - they will be summarily removed. Sez who? Are you God? Tannin 09:48, 23 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Yes... yes I am. Seroiusly though, the first poll I conducted started with two options and ended with 8. After that nonsense, I put that in there to prevent that. →Raul654 15:17, Apr 23, 2004 (UTC)

Could someone put a link to the above reference Current wikipedia policy is that the more common name should be used. so we can all see the basis for this poll. Perhaps it might also explain what the term more common name actually means? 11:41, 23 Apr 2004 (UTC)

The policy is perhaps vaguely illustrated in Wikipedia:History (See the transliteration issue) , but there is a lot of ambiguity in the scope of the article. Firstly, does historical/common name come under the purview of this project page? Chancemill 12:05, Apr 23, 2004 (UTC)
The Topical index page has a list of naming conventions pages, there is also this Wikipedia_talk:Naming_conventions_(disputed_place_names) talk page, though there is no corresponding project page. Voodoo

What is the basis that distinguishes the list of "Affected articles" versus "Not clear-cut enough"? I don't see that explained here. older wiser 14:28, 23 Apr 2004 (UTC)

It is based on whether or not the Google hit ratio is greater than 2 to 1 or not. Nohat 19:32, 2004 Apr 23 (UTC)

To those people who are saying there has not been enough discussion on this topic, the reason I started this poll in the first was because this has been discussed *AT LENGTH* at various times on Wikipedia:Village pump, Talk:Mecca, and Talk:Kiev. →Raul654 15:19, Apr 23, 2004 (UTC)

Well, that's good to know Raul654. But those were primarily discussions of specific instances -- here we are deciding what policy should be. And not everyone has had the benefit of participating in those discussions. I think it would be helpful to lay out the issue and impacts clearly for the benefit of people who have not watched those discussions closely before taking a vote on it. older wiser 15:35, 23 Apr 2004 (UTC)

If there is is some reasonable authority issuing some reasonable recommendations, I'd preffer to follow them. In this case, in my oppinion United Nations is such organization. Note: I had neither studied their documents nor asked, so I actually don't know, what exactly they recommend. Certainly it favours pro-local (standard) names more than current Wikipedia convention. I'm not sure what in case of selected examples, I just say it would be good to change Wikipedia convention to be in line with UNGEGN. Wikimol 19:46, 24 Apr 2004 (UTC)

UNGEGN's goal is for every country to decide on its own nationally standardized names through the creation of national names authorities or recognized administrative processes. With the wide dissemination of the nationally standardized forms through gazetteers, atlases, web-based data bases, toponymic guidelines, etc., UNGEGN can promote the use of these names internationally. --Inhvar 16:12, 26 Apr 2004 (UTC)

A related, but not identical, point is that of usage of non-English characters in a/ the article titles and b/ in the text — in those cases when there are no particular English variant of the name. For instance, there is a small town not far from where I live called Hörby, if that name were to be Americanized to "Horby" it would get a literal meaning of "Hookers' town". It would surely disturb one or another wikipedian knowledgeable in the local language, sooner or later. As far as I can tell, there has evolved a de-facto convention to use more common non-English characters in titles for articles on foreign places and persons, but avoid less common characters in the titles. Of course it's not defined which characters are common and which aren't, but it seems as Gdansk is preferred for Gdańsk.
--Ruhrjung 19:58, 24 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Well the use of unusual characters in article titles is actually limited for technical reasons. Article titles on the English Wikipedia have to conform to the Latin-1 character set, which includes, for example umlauted vowels (like ö), but not acute accent marks on consonants (like ń). The are some other limitations to article names, such as not being to have certain characters that have special meanings in URLs, which is why the article on C++ is at C Plus Plus. Nohat 15:48, 2004 Apr 25 (UTC)
KOLKATA: In response to John and Arvind (& co.): I am a native Bengali. I would like to say that as a speaker and reader of the language, I see that Bengalis themselves have always spoken of Kolkata as Kolkata when speaking in Bengali. When I spoke to my grandfather he always spoke of it as Kolkata. In literature, the word is KOlkata, and in older and current vernacular, it is Kolkata. This is to demonstrate that this name change is not merely an artificial moving away from Colonialism but a reflection of a long-standing local name. Non-Bengali, hence outsider, perspective, which is common in India, is natural, and so other Indians may indeed feel odd saying Kolkata. The point is that official and public consideration has chosen to rename the English Calcutta with Kolkata, the native appelation. If we want to use English references, better known usages through out the Western world, then we defeat the purpose of an encyclopedia.
An encyclopedia is supposed to reflect current scholarship as well as fact, and to perpetuate one name as opposed to the official one seems to be less 'politically correct' than indulgent. How does one expect to institute and honor a country's self-determined name change otherwise? We shall note that CNN as opposed to BBC utilizes the new name. Let's take a man named Frederick who has been referred to as Freddie by his friends. His family knows him as Frederick, and he prefers Frederick, but all acquaintances insist on Freddie against his own protestations. It may sound like a facetious (and crudely worded) example, but the point remains. To spread awareness about the official name is an important aspect of news and journalism. In the same vein, perhaps again an example would serve to illustrate: if a majority of people in an area of South knows African-Americans as a foul pejorative, and we publish a dictionary in the South post-Civil Rights, will we continue to use that reference, or revert to a more politically correct and acceptable term to both the African-Americans and people at large? It's not different here. Bengalis, the residents of Kolkata itself, prefer this name. It was not a Central Government (of India)-pushed decision, nor religious since it was initiated by a socialist government. So if people living in Bangalore and New Delhi or English-speakers elsewhere thumb their noses at this official change of name back to a natively-favored appelation, what hope do we have for integrity of knowledge and cross-cultural/linguistic diplomacy in other fields?
My opinion is that a sort of "Elastic Clause" should be initiated for this, and that no extreme policy be enacted. Otherwise, the whole point of educating people is completely eradicated. Will you now insist on calling Congo its former and still better-known name "Zaire?" WOuld you foist upon the Czechs and Slovaks the collective name Czechoslovakia for their countries, since more people are familiar with that name? What happens if encyclopedias had stuck to USSR instead of Russia? It's not much different, since the city of Kolkata, too, has changed radically with the removal of British imperialist governance. What of Iran and Persia a couple of years back? What if people back at that time had insisted on calling it Persia, since that was what the world was at that point far more familiar with, as opposed to Iranians who remembered the more ancient name of Iran and decided to use it? What about (as someone else pointed out) United States of America? Who calls it that in daily speech? We all know it as America, or the US. Let's change the article title! We should use the appelation that is most commonly used in the English-speaking world. If this policy goes into effect, I will petition to change that name. Half the names that we employ today for use with different racial and geographic groupings were slowly phased in at the expense of other more popular terms in common use in the 'english-speaking world'. What about Istanbul and Constantinople? At one stage, all Indians were known as Hindoos, even in encyclopedias. This was changed, and the usage slowly phased into the more restricted use as descrbing the Vedic religious tradition. Muslims were at one time called Mohammedans, even in dictionaries, by most of the English-speaking world. With political and social consciousness, we realized that this was very offensive to Muslims, since they dislike the implication that they worship Mohammad, since only Allah is god. SHould we, a couple of years ago, continued using the world Mohammadan? How else would incorrect and often offensive usages (to the natives or subjects of reference) have been expunged if not in the official forum with trickling down into the masses?--LordSuryaofShropshire 15:00, Apr 26, 2004 (UTC)
Your examples are almost all red herrings. We use "The United States of America" because it's unambiguous. "Czech Republic" and "Slovakia" refer to different things than "Czechoslovakia". "Congo" is already more common than "Zaire". "Istanbul" is already more common than "Constantinople". "Russia" and "USSR" don't refer to the same things. Do your research before you make invalid examples.
Second, you are failing to appreciate that language does change, it just doesn't do so at the behest of government proclamations. "Hindoo" has gone by the wayside not because some government said "Hindoo shall no longer be the name" but because the language changed and that name is no longer used. The purpose of Wikipedia is not to be an "official forum" to explain to "the masses" what the official name is. It is supposed to reflect knowledge without deferring to an authority. If we accept the authority of some government to declare the English names of cities, then why don't we also accept the authority of the Catholic Church that Jesus is Lord?
I want to be clear: this is not about thumbing our noses at name changes. In fact, the point of the current policy is that Wikipedia does not take a stance on name changes one way or the other. It is very important for the English Wikipedia to remain neutral in the area of name changes, and the only way to be truly neutral is to choose names without reference to what is or isn't the "official name", but to ONLY choose names with reference to what is used by the majority of English speakers. By only using names which are official, we compromise our neutrality because we have to acknowledge that some particular organization or government has authority in defining what the official name of something is. What about name changes which are instituted by an illegitimate government against the wishes of those who live there? Presumably we wouldn't want to use those names, but if we institute an "official name" policy, we would either have to use the undesirable name or have to put ourselves in the business of deciding which governments are legitimate and which are not. The current policy is the best policy because it avoids getting Wikipedia entangled in political debates. Mark my words: if Wikipedia adopts a policy of making name choices based on "official names", it marks a major step in a long slide away from neutrality. Nohat 15:27, 2004 Apr 26 (UTC)
How did these changes come about? Do you recognize that? I would hope, also, that you not make snide comments about my needing to do research, and simply stick to what you did quite well: making an argument. Now, Kolkata, I would believe, is a largely different entity than it was back in the British Raj. It has a different government, the city has changed, the policy about naming and writing the name has changed. Secondly, how do you think terms like Mohammadan and Hindoo were gradually phased out? It's not that the whole world suddenly realized that it was inappropriate. Various mediums of diffusion were employed, such as official missives, government memos, encyclopedias and journalists amending references. Names didn't change overnight. As for 'illegitimate governments', you've answered your question. We can safely say that most governments in the world recognize the Indian (and consequently West Bengal state) governments as legitimate, so that's not an issue. The whole reason names like Congo and Istanbul are more in use is because encyclopedias and books and people began honoring the official name change and employing it. How else do you think the laity and people not actually living in the Congo learned about these changes? Maps and globes were changed to official names; they did not insouciantly retain 'more popular' names of the time.
"It is very important for the English Wikipedia to remain neutral in the area of name changes, and the only way to be truly neutral is to choose names without reference to what is or isn't the "official name", but to ONLY choose names with reference to what is used by the majority of English speakers." That is the most nonsensical statement I have heard. How does one remain neutral if one decides to completely shut out the other viewpoint and the feeling of people in governance? If you had used this faulty logic, we'd still be calling the Congo 'Zaire' since at the time the name-change was implemented, 'neutral' encyclopedias and journals (according to your statement) should have ignored the Congo's unreasonable change and stuck to what the majority of English speakers at the time knew. The same holds for Hindoo/Hindu, by the way. You're assuming this magical and spontaneous metamorphosis of language and usages, whereas the very medium of this change was through publications and articles that had to actually recognize these new changes. Wikipedia is one such publication. --LordSuryaofShropshire 18:02, Apr 26, 2004 (UTC)
As I've previously explained the "Hindoo" and "Zaire" examples are irrelevant because "Indian" and "Congo" are more common right now. The key here is what's the most common name right now---not what will be the most common in 5 years, not what was common 5 years ago, not what was comon 100 years ago---it's what's the most common right now. Nohat 22:16, 2004 Apr 26 (UTC)
By the way, as for Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, God's own begotten Son who sacrificed Himself for the sins of Mankind, that is religion. It is an inappopriate and incommensurate comparison to bring in faith-based belief as a counter to secularly-based nomenclature regarding politics. I don't recall Jesus filing a name change to Lord Jesus Christ. Besides, calling him Lord implies belief in him, whereas he is a quasi-mythical character to many non-Christians. Governments are real and their paperwork is accepted by large organizations like the U.N.; universal sentiment recognizes these governments, like the Congo or India or Turkey, and honors their naming conventions, slowly spreading awareness around the world about the official name. Also, on another note: a parent, for example, has the right to name his/her child whatever he/she wants. The child's official name is used on passports, contracts, documents, etc. Sir Ruffmeup Blasworth Pillington II may be referred to casually as Ruffy, but we're not going to refer to him officially as Ruffy. Get it? --LordSuryaofShropshire 18:12, Apr 26, 2004 (UTC)
Erm, about your last point: that's exactly what we do do on Wikipedia. Hence Bill Clinton, not "William Jefferson Clinton", Tony Blair, not "Anthony Charles Lynton Blair", Lewis Carroll, not "Charles Lutwidge Dodgson", Pelé, not "Edson Arantes do Nascimento", and Pliny the Younger, not "Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus", even though the last of those people was never known by that name while alive. That's the entire basis of Wikipedia naming policy: "use the most common name of a person or thing that does not conflict with the names of other people or things". Proteus 19:14, 26 Apr 2004 (UTC)
True enough. But this doesn't change what has been stated about cities and nations. How do you respond to the other examples and arguments posited regarding the gradual diffusion of official names through academic mediums into the public consciousness? --LordSuryaofShropshire 19:18, Apr 26, 2004 (UTC)
You're just saying the same thing as the person who commented "I feel that it also has something of a responsibility to help in promoting vocabulary change" in the votes above. It is not Wikipedia's aim to promote any agenda, no matter how valuable to society you think this one is. Wikipedia is an encyclopaedia. It's supposed to help people who want to find information out about things. No English speaker (except someone who has some association with such a city) is going to search for "Kyiv" or "Kolkata", and so it's being deliberately obscure and unhelpful to name articles with those names. Obviously, there are (and should be) redirects from those names, and they should be mentioned very prominently at the beginning of the article as the local and official name, but that's not what's at issue here. If anyone who reads, even glances at, the article on Kiev will see that its official name has now changed to Kyiv, what could possibly be gained from having the article at a name that no-one will look for? Proteus 19:37, 26 Apr 2004 (UTC)
Because the redirect serves to bring the person looking for the popular name to the right page but informs him/her about the actual, official, internationally recognized name change that has been adopted. I personally know several people who have learned of the official name change of Kolkata and who make an effort to adopt that name. My point is that information should be accurately represented. I wish you would address the historical parallel of transitions from Zaire to Congo and Constantinople to Istanbul and Persia to Iran. Those situations are similar, and I know Encyclopedias and Journals addressed these issues. I may sound like a broken record, but no one's addressing the important fact that these name changes are fact, they are real, and similar changes in the past have resulted in a gradual change to the newly approved standard. As a fact-bearing encyclopedia, "it's supposed to help people who want to information out about things" and it succeeds splendidly in that regard through redirect and informs the researcher of the actual current world status of the name, that Calcutta or Zaire are old names that are being discarded by legitimate governments of those respective places. Respond to the examples aforementioned.--LordSuryaofShropshire 19:47, Apr 26, 2004 (UTC)
To respond to your points in order: 1) Here we go again with the "people using the English names are wrong" line. "Calcutta" is not wrong, it's the current English usage. The government of India does not have the authority to change the English language, no matter how legitimate it is. 2) Whether people want to adopt the official name when they've read the Wikipedia article is up to them. Presumably the change is well documented in it. However, it is not NPOV (not to mention incorrect) to say "This is the new name. If you don't use it, you're wrong." 3) Indeed information should be accurately represented. The current accurate depiction of that information is "Kolkata is the official name, while Calcutta is the usual English name". It is attempting to portray Kolkata as the correct English name when it is not that is inaccurate, not the other way around. 4) To be honest, I find it quite amusing that you think people call those places by their new names because of encyclopaediae. Newspapers, perhaps, but Wikipedia most certainly isn't a newspaper. 5) The name changes may be fact, and similar changes in the past may have resulted in a change, but in these cases that change hasn't happened yet, and until it does the correct way to refer to those cities in English will be the most common English name. As I, and several other people, have already pointed out, it is not Wikpedia's aim or policy to promote any agenda. Increasing the world-wide use of a new name is an agenda, and is contrary to our NPOV policy. 6) The current world status of these names is completely irrelevant. We are only concerned with their current English language status, which at this time is that they are not the normal form of those cities' names. And the governments of those countries can discard as many names as they like, but, as I've pointed out again and again, a government edict has no authority to change the English language. For the English language to discard them as names requires the willing consent of the speakers of the English language, and at the moment it doesn't have that. When it does, I'll be quite happy to move the articles to Kolkata and Kyiv myself, but I don't think that'll be happening for quite a while. Proteus 20:14, 26 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Surya, your case would be more convincing if you quit pretending that the name change occurred at independence. Is Kolkata today a practically different city than it was ten years ago, when it was still Calcutta, and was part of independent India? john 18:17, 26 Apr 2004 (UTC)

I've never pretended such. Indeed, the name has been used in complete parallel to Calcutta for centuries by people in Kolkata/Calcutta. You have also failed to address other concerns I raised. 10 years ago, as 100 years ago, people speaking Bengali (the majority, by the way, in West Bengal) called the city Kolkata. In Bengali lettering, it was always Kolkata. This is not some new-fangled identity. The original name itself derives from Kalikata. Anyway, besides all this, you are now going into a ridiculous argument about the right of national and state governments to officially institute name changes. I have repeatedly used different examples, and if you applied your logic, it would become absurd. What about Congo, Istanbul? Are you now assuming some political theorist's status on deciding what appropriate name changes are? Are you saying that the whole governmental diplomatic circle around the world is wrong to accept Kolkata's name change and that therefore this official change be reversed? This is applying double-standards for different areas of the world! --LordSuryaofShropshire 18:25, Apr 26, 2004 (UTC)


I'm just curious: how is this any different from Kolkata and Calcutta? --LordSuryaofShropshire 00:46, Apr 30, 2004 (UTC)

Mumbai is more commonly used than Kolkata. john 07:30, 2 May 2004 (UTC)

That's a heck of an unsubstantiated declaration! Kolkata actually has a long, centuries-old history of usage, and was a much more natural switch than Mumbai. Where are your figures to make such a sweeping statement? --LordSuryaofShropshire 19:51, May 3, 2004 (UTC)
(By the way, Google hits are not appropriate... they are subject to major search tweaks and do not represent a reliable statistic for usage of a name in common English)--LordSuryaofShropshire 19:54, May 3, 2004 (UTC)
Wrong on both counts. (1) Wikipedia does use google as a rough heuristic to guage popularity (See google test). (2) While individual placement (IE, 1st, 3rd, 145th, etc) is subject to googlebombing, total hit count is not. →Raul654 21:17, May 3, 2004 (UTC)
Well, I guess Wikipedia's dedicated to reflecting subjective public bias over encyclopedic fact. I've registered my vote, spoke more than my fair share. Let the public vote prevail.--LordSuryaofShropshire 20:25, May 4, 2004 (UTC)
I run into this one all the time. Ten thousand hits on Google is supposed to mean something. Sorry. See how many hits you get for "Astronomy" and how many you get for "Astrology". Is this a clue? Are a million flies right? Should we eat shit? Hmmm......... Denni 06:57, 2004 May 5 (UTC)
Astrology gets 5.4 million, astronomy gets just shy of 9 million. As a rough heuristic, Google seems to indicate that astronomy is significantly more popular than astrology. →Raul654 07:00, May 5, 2004 (UTC)

Offending Names[edit]

The current naming convention says: (a) use English (b) use the most common name (c) don't use offending names (example given there is Inuit/Eskimo). I think this is all fine, only that we don't have a rule how to find out what is common or what constitutes offending. I think we should focus on that bit rather than (1) voting or (2) and more conventions. Kokiri 10:02, 24 Apr 2004 (UTC)

I think pragmatism is the right way. If the offended can live with the offence, then the usability wins over political correctness. If the offended are too many and too disturbed, it's better to achieve wiki-peace to the price of somewhat decreased usability (and fewer google-hits). But, of course there is an educational value too, ...for what that's worth.
--Ruhrjung 19:06, 24 Apr 2004 (UTC)
Hmm...a problem is, of course, that there are some situations where either name could be seen as offensive (i can't think of any right now, but there must be instances). Is there any way in which we can judge the reasonableness of the offense taken? john 19:10, 24 Apr 2004 (UTC)
Gdansk/Danzig edit warfield is IMO good example. -- Wikimol 19:54, 24 Apr 2004 (UTC)
Relevant is if the people living there are offended, or not, and this seems unfortunately to be the case. The question is: to what degree? -- Ruhrjung 12:02, 2 May 2004 (UTC)
I think that that rule should be removed, as it's too easy a get-out clause for anyone who wants to force the use of a particular name. Having read debates on the Gdansk talk page, lots of people seem to be claiming that any use of Danzig is offensive to them, but I don't see why this should affect Wikipedia policy in any way. We should strive for accuracy in all cases, not political correctness, and in the issue of names, which are fundamentally "what something is called", the most accurate policy in an English encyclopaedia is "use what most English-speakers call it". As an example of names offending everyone, what about Derry/Londonderry? It could easily be argued that the former offends Unionists and the latter offends Nationalists, but we have to use one of them. I see no reason why the "most common name in English" shouldn't apply here, as for all places. Proteus 09:56, 25 Apr 2004 (UTC)
I disagree. Rather than what "most English-speakers call it" (cause lets face it, English, US, whatever us English-speakers can be arrogant) it should be called what most people living there refer to it as in English. Much fairer. Sure the usual discussion of the name and other names mentioned (even alternated thru article, see Derry/Londonderry or County Londonderry/County Derry. But it should always come down to the local preferred Anglicisation.
Zoney 14:07, 25 Apr 2004 (UTC)
"Arrogant"? How using English place names in an English encyclopaedia could possibly be described as "arrogant" is beyond me. Are the French "arrogant" for calling London "Londres"? Of course they aren't; they're just using the name of that city in French, which they're perfectly entitled to do - it's their language and they can call it whatever they want and put their article on it wherever they want. And "what most people living there refer to it as in English" is a completely ridiculous compromise (if it's even intended to be a compromise), because most people living in a country will call its cities by their local name no matter what language they are speaking. (When I last went to Italy, for instance, whenever an Italian was speaking in English to me about Rome or Naples they called them "Roma" or "Napoli".) Proteus 14:50, 25 Apr 2004 (UTC)
Do you suggest we switch to using Maryborough (Portlaoise) and Kingstown (Dún Laoghaire) (two places in Ireland) then? The latter names are in Irish, not English - there's no local anglicisation at all.
English speakers have given us real beauts of placenames in Ireland, like Cork, Limerick, Galway, Kilkenny. We even have a Tubbercurry and Oola, not to mention Inane (though the 'Inane road scheme' amuses me), Birr, Dingle, Gaggin, Swords, Nenagh, Boyle, Gorey, I could go on...
Tá sé úafásach ar fad, truailliú na hainmneacha - sure its awful the mangling of the placenames.
Zoney 23:34, 25 Apr 2004 (UTC)
What are you arguing here? Just because the names Portlaoise and Dún Laoghaire come out of Irish doesn't mean they aren't the English names of the city, any more than Istanbul isn't the English name of that city because it comes out of Turkish. The point isn't to use original English names of places (in which case we'd have to join A.J.P. Taylor in referring to Sleswick), but to use the name most commonly used in English. Presumably, Irish Anglophones no longer use Maryborough or Kingstown at all, and other Anglophones simply use the name the locals use, because these are tiny places. Things are more complicated with larger places, though. john 07:43, 26 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Agree with Proteus, generally. I've also removed the additional section, which seems to imply that all the Italian government need do is launch a request with the UN and all English-language publications will have to start referring to Italian cities by their Italian names. john 21:57, 25 Apr 2004 (UTC)

So that was your objection. I have reinstated that section without the final line; let the readers reach their own conclusion. Note: at the top of the poll, it says Please mention any articles you think that this poll should or should not apply to. I think my addition was a useful clarification. Hajor 22:06, 25 Apr 2004 (UTC)

User:Evertype [[User:Everyking]] argues In English Sami is preferred to Saami and holds that the latter is a "fennicism", which is strange to my eyes, but as long as the article isn't renamed to *Laplanders, I think many Sámis can live with this situation without loss of their night sleep. But, in any case, isn't that article's name a clear candidate for examples of well grounded concerns for the locals' feelings? /Tuomas 07:13, 26 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Say what? You must mean someone else; I'm involved in no such dispute. Everyking 03:29, 27 Apr 2004 (UTC)
Does it have to be a fullblown war of Wik's kind to qualify for candidacy as an example? Please see. It wasn't you, Everyking that was intended. Ruhrjung 11:57, 2 May 2004 (UTC)

I'm not voting, but I think this is too complicated to try and form a concrete policy on. Let's judge each case on its own merits. Like Cote D'Ivoire. It's known by that internationally, is what its government has requested it be known as, and is used by the UN, among others. Yet it's probably more widely known by its original English translation of Ivory Coast - even though this is no longer particularly correct. While I'd vote yes in a lot of cases, there are some like this where it really makes sense to use the official name. Ambivalenthysteria 08:38, 26 Apr 2004 (UTC)


both a specific policy per each name, and a strict uniform policy have been suggested.

however, an appropriate policy is formed by the linguistic influences on english. all influences, as this is the en:, i.e. english, wikipedia, resultantly it must be both usable and useful.


  1. ...uses the expanded/modern latin alphabet.
  2. ...lacks the expanded accent system however.
  3. ...has had terms added by the conquering british empire for foreign matters.
  4. a language used by the commons, and so has acquired generally consented modifications.
  5. ...derives from german.
  6. overlaid with a subsequent heavy influence of french.
  7. ...lately derives from greek and latin for especially new/technical/complex/precise language.
  8. ...has incorporated fashionable/novel/amusing terms from other languages due to increased communication.

to be usable, general forms...

  1. ...must be in the extended/modern latin alphabet.
  2. ...can frequently use the accented version.
  3. ...should be the most commonly used non-ambiguous form.

to be useful in understanding materials the reader has read, and will read, general forms must be accompanied in the first instance by every...

  1. ...alternate spelling in english.
  2. ...transliteration in the modern latin alphabet.
  3. ...alphabetical form in common use in the location.
  4. ...language version in common use in the location.
  5. ...ambiguous form.
  6. ...official form.
  7. ...dissident-preferred spelling form.
  8. ...ethnic-minority-preferred form.
  9. ...linguistic-minority-preferred form.
  10. ...historical form.
  11. ...colloquial form.

Badanedwa 21:09, May 5, 2004 (UTC)

Interwiki votes[edit]

Am I the only one who is uncomfortable with the new and interwiki users voting on en.wikipedia's policies? →Raul654 13:34, Apr 26, 2004 (UTC)

Well, I presume interwiki means people such as myself that edit on another language version of Wikipedia. Considering I started on en.wikipedia it's not that applicable though. I'm sure those who started on other languages but are established editors on en.wikipedia have every right to vote too. I agree on the new members thing, but how do you draw a line on that? Plus its perfectly possible for established users to vote lightly and you can't stop it!!!
But I do think the poll is ill-conceived - rather than an either-or choice between two wordings on Naming Policy - there should instead perhaps be debate on wording of the policy, with a few options brought to poll.
I also feel that there's a tendency for folks to blindly vote for the affirmative - the page is a mess (OK I helped with that - sorry!) and I can imagine some users have taken less time to read through the debate/comments. It seems there's been a need for debate before the poll rather than during. Someone mentioned stuff being debated to death already - but is that not referring to choice of title for specific articles rather than debate on policy?
Zoney 14:01, 26 Apr 2004 (UTC)
The Ukrainian Wikipedia needs to set their own policies -- I would recommend using the most common name in Ukrainian if they asked my opinion, but they haven't and it doesn't seem lightly. I believe the policy is that Wikipedians must be active on en for three months in order to vote in polls; Ukrainian Wikipedians must meet the same standard. Tuf-Kat 20:40, Apr 28, 2004 (UTC)

Frankly, at the moment I feel that this entire debate is completely absurd. I'm sorry if I offend you, but I'm completely frustrated by the ignorance displayed here (and also rather offended myself at being told that I'm using the English language incorrectly). Practically everyone supporting the change is basing their arguments on a faulty understanding of how language, and in particular the naming of places, works. The name of a city is a word in a language just as much as "chair" or "house". A government cannot just decide to change an English name for a place any more than it can change the word "chair" to "sedentary implement", because words in languages are defined not by governments but by the speakers of that language (a fact which the Académie française has singularly failed to realise, and which has made a mockery of its attempts to impose rules on French speakers). The Ukrainian government may well have changed the official name of Kiev, but it can't change the English word for Kiev, because it has no power over the English language or speakers of the English language.

Also, using the phrase "official English name" is misleading and incorrect, because it implies that there is even an "official English name" for any place. A city can have an "official name", of course, as defined by the powers controlling it, but it can't have an "official English name" because there is no authority over the English language by which such "official status" can derive. There can only ever be a "correct English name" for a place, and that is merely the name which most English speakers regard as correct (not necessarily "use", as most people know that the "correct name" of the US is "the United States of America" and not "America", even though it is often shortened to that for convenience. This is fundamentally different to this situation, since people aren't simply using "Kiev" or "Calcutta" as convenient shorthand for their local names.) Governments regularly demand that people start calling their cities or country by a different name, but their demands are no more than requests, sometimes ignored (like that of the Czech Republic to be called "Czechia"), sometimes taken on board by nearly everyone (like that of the PRC to call the former Peking "Beijing"), and sometimes taken on board by governments but ignored by everyone else (like most of the cities here, as well as the Ivory Coast). Only the second type should be reflected in an English language encyclopaedia, as it's the only type of situation where the language obeys the command of the foreign government. Recognition of a name-change by governments is no evidence for the actual change of the name of a place in a language, as the only evidence for that is if the speakers of that language actually start using a new name.

Then there's the fact that people seem to be implying not only that the "official" version of a name is completely correct for use in English, but that the normal English names are somehow "incorrect" or "wrong". This is just rude, insulting and arrogant. "Wikipedia should use correct names, even in cases where a former name is still commonly used due to force of habit or lack of better knowledge." I don't call Kiev "Kiev" because I'm used to calling it that or because I don't know that the Ukrainian government wants me to call it "Kyiv". I call it "Kiev" because that's the normal, correct, current English name for it, and I don't recognise the power of the Ukrainian government to order me to change the words I use. I'm no more incorrect in saying "Kiev" than I am in saying "Rome" or "Moscow", or than I am for calling Cheshire "Cheshire" when its official name is "The County Palatine of Chester".

Then of course we have the people who seem to understand exactly what this is all about and yet want to change it. "I feel that it also has something of a responsibility to help in promoting vocabulary change." An encyclopaedia is supposed to present an unbiased representation of the facts, not pursue some form of strange linguistic crusade culminating in every city and country in the world being pronounced the same everywhere, regardless of how absurd their name looks or sounds in foreign languages.

As I said, I apologise if that offended anyone, but I refuse to be arrogantly informed by people who aren't even native speakers of my language that I'm using it incorrectly and am obviously either a stick-in-the-mud or an ignoramus. As someone who studies linguistics, I feel that this peculiar linguistic political correctness that people seem to be advocating has no logical basis and is certainly not a sensible way of determining how we write English in an English language encyclopaedia. Proteus 15:19, 26 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Exactly! You and I should combine our collective arguments into a single definitive statement of why the proposed policy change is a terrible idea. Nohat 15:33, 2004 Apr 26 (UTC)
Exactly wrong. I am a native speaker, by the way, of English, so your bluster about being insulted by secondary speakers does not apply. Facts involve official status as well, and official status of certain states and cities are important. Since you may have missed this, and the page is confused, I will reprint here something I feel strongly about, as a fellow linguist:
My opinion is that a sort of "Elastic Clause" should be initiated for this, and that no extreme policy be enacted. Otherwise, the whole point of educating people is completely eradicated. Will you now insist on calling Congo its former and still better-known name "Zaire?" WOuld you foist upon the Czechs and Slovaks the collective name Czechoslovakia for their countries, since more people are familiar with that name? What happens if encyclopedias had stuck to USSR instead of Russia? It's not much different, since the city of Kolkata, too, has changed radically with the removal of British imperialist governance. What of Iran and Persia a couple of years back? What if people back at that time had insisted on calling it Persia, since that was what the world was at that point far more familiar with, as opposed to Iranians who remembered the more ancient name of Iran and decided to use it? What about (as someone else pointed out) United States of America? Who calls it that in daily speech? We all know it as America, or the US. Let's change the article title! We should use the appelation that is most commonly used in the English-speaking world. If this policy goes into effect, I will petition to change that name. Half the names that we employ today for use with different racial and geographic groupings were slowly phased in at the expense of other more popular terms in common use in the 'english-speaking world'. What about Istanbul and Constantinople? At one stage, all Indians were known as Hindoos, even in encyclopedias. This was changed, and the usage slowly phased into the more restricted use as descrbing the Vedic religious tradition. Muslims were at one time called Mohammedans, even in dictionaries, by most of the English-speaking world. With political and social consciousness, we realized that this was very offensive to Muslims, since they dislike the implication that they worship Mohammad, since only Allah is god. SHould we, a couple of years ago, continued using the world Mohammadan? How else would incorrect and often offensive usages (to the natives or subjects of reference) have been expunged if not in the official forum with trickling down into the masses? --LordSuryaofShropshire 15:41, Apr 26, 2004 (UTC)

Surya, could you quit with the same examples over and over again? Usage changes, of course, and I don't think anyone disagrees that Wikipedia should reflect that. It should also be noted that, with things like America vs United States, the former is not to be used because it is ambiguous, even if it is commonly used to refer to the US. So both of these issues are red herrings. The question is whether Wikipedia should try to lead usage, or whether it should merely reflect it. I generally feel it should be the latter. Of course, this can be ambiguous. For Kolkata/Calcutta, for instance, we have 1) the worldwide usage, which remains Calcutta, with some exceptions; 2) the national Indian usage (in English), which seems to be fairly mixed, with official usage, and usage in the media, largely at "Kolkata", and usage by the general population mixed; and 3) the local usage of the population of West Bengal and Kolkata, which, apparently, is generally to use "Kolkata", but which is rather ambiguous because this could be considered to simply be a usage of the Bengali name in English, rather than an English name. So, where are we at from this? How do we balance the importance of these three levels of usage? I don't think it's clear cut at all. john 04:10, 27 Apr 2004 (UTC)

John: For your info, I reiterate the same examples because you have consistently failed to give decent rebuttals. As for name changes, I have stated my point, and the majority vote will eventually have its way. I think an encyclopedia should present official facts as well as giving room to other understandings. The fact should come first and then common usages second. So, Burma would actually fall under Myanmar as a redirect. --LordSuryaofShropshire 15:41, Apr 27, 2004 (UTC)

What nonsense. Almost all of your examples are complete straw men. Myanmar, Iran, and Istanbul are more commonly used than Burma, Persia, and Constantinople. And America can't be used because it's ambiguous (and I think it's arguable whether or not it's even more commonly used than United States, which is where the article is). This has repeatedly been noted, and you repeatedly go back to these same examples. john 18:13, 27 Apr 2004 (UTC)

I don't think the examples above are straw men at all - the point is that the other name used to be more common, and encyclopedias, by reflecting fact helped establish the change.
The argument goes that as Kyiv is presented as an official English version instead of Kiev, it should be used (and so on for other articles).
My examples are not invalid either - Maryborough and Kingstown used to be popular for Portlaoise and Dún Laoghaire, it was only recognition of the new official names that changed usage of them. (Most people in Ireland would have used the English inventions).
Zoney 16:00, 28 Apr 2004 (UTC)
No one is debating whether or not encyclopedias have influence on common usage. What is under debate is whether THIS encyclopedia should be setting usage or reflecting usage. The current policy says that we should reflect usage, not set it, and that's the way it should stay, as explained on /FAQ Nohat 16:13, 2004 Apr 28 (UTC)
I'd like to point out that print encyclopedias are written with the authority of its authors, which Wikipedia doesn't have. If somebody reads in the Encyclopedia Brittanica that Kolkata should be used, they can assume that some knowledgeable people believe this. Seeing the same thing in Wikipedia will put users off, because they don't know whose opinion it is that the new name should be adopted. Having Wikipedia try to sway public opinion will make the entire project less trustworthy -- why should a handful of Internet users with nothing better to do than write articles on Kiev and Calcutta have the authority to tell users to switch to Kyiv and Kolkata? The present situation follows the principle of least astonishment by placing articles at their most common name, and explaining variations and foreign language forms somewhere in the article. I'd also like to point out that the policy to use common names does not apply as rigidly to article text. IIRC, Pennsylvania Dutch explains why Pennsylvania German is better, and then uses the more precise term throughout. Tuf-Kat 20:40, Apr 28, 2004 (UTC)
I agree with most of what you've said, but as I enjoy quibbling, I shall quibble. While "Pennsylvania German" may be more accurate, it is almost certainly less precise than "Pennsylvania Dutch". john 01:13, 30 Apr 2004 (UTC)
I stand corrected... Tuf-Kat 05:20, Apr 30, 2004 (UTC)

Surya, these are the comparisons with rebuttals. If you have responded to these concerns as you claim, please do so here so that everyone can clearly see your counter-arguments.

  • Czech Rep., Slovakia - Czechoslovakia
    • This comparison is faulty because the Czech Republic and Slovakia are not the same thing as Czechoslovakia -- all three articles are located at the most commonly-used word for these subjects
    • Czech Rep. - Czechoslovakia is nonsense. Good case would be Czech Republic vs. Czechia. Note - first is more common, second officialy recommended. Wikimol 20:42, 29 Apr 2004 (UTC)
  • Russia - USSR
    • This comparison is faulty because Russia is not the same thing as the USSR -- both articles are located at the most commonly-used word for these subjects
  • Persia - Iran; Istanbul - Constantinople
    • This comparison is faulty because Iran is the most commonly used name. Other encyclopedias in the past may have taken the POV that Persia should become known as Iran. That is their choice -- note that even as recently as 1911, material imported from an encyclopedia was full of racial bias (see old versions of Andaman Islands) that we are right to filter out. Just because other encyclopedias don't follow our NPOV policy doesn't mean we have to abandon it too.
  • US - America
    • Whether America is more common or not, it is ambiguous. The most common name for the United States of America is United States, and that is where the article is located.
  • Hindoos and Mohammedans
    • Once again, Wikipedia uses the most common name in English for these. In the unlikely event that Wikipedia comes to have existed when Hindoo and Mohammedan were common, our current policies would not require articles at those titles. Hindoo is ambiguous, meaning a person from India or a Hindu person. Mohammedan is unreasonably offensive, and an exception to the policy for this reason already exists. This same principle applies with the nigger canard that has been tossed out in this debate -- it's irrelevant, as Wikipedia policy need not take into consideration what Wikipedia would have done fifty, one hundred or one thousand years ago.
Wikipedia:Naming policy poll/FAQ written by Nohat say:

"Wikipedia is beholden to no government or organization's demands about what to call different things. To make a naming policy based on some outside authority would be a violation of the NPOV policy." and "We have to be arbitrary. However, we can choose a policy that uses a criterion that makes the choices consistent."

If some higher authorithy like UN will not be respected will it mean that Wikipedia will reflect personal opinions of Wikipedians? Why is new contraversal Flag_of_Iraq accepted as standard for Wikipedia? Will Wikipedia continue to use officilly declared Jerusalem as Israel capital, or internationally recognised Tel Aviv and how can there be NPOV in this case? Why is Cyprus main entry for "Republic of Cyprus" and isn't this also violation of NPOV? What will count as English preferred name/word Düsseldorf or Dusseldorf, Zurich or Zürich, Côte d'Ivoire or Cote d'Ivoire or Ivory Coast? Who will judge what names are offensive for some peoples/individuals? UK pages still preffer name Eskimo[13](56,900) over Inuit[14] (18,900) 3:1. Will there be a list of names that have status of "English preffered" and will Turin by this criterion be redirected to Torino?--Inhvar 14:14, 29 Apr 2004 (UTC)
It is indeed true that it is impossible for Wikipedia to remain absolutely neutral regarding some issues, like the Iraqi flag and Israel's capital. I don't know what this has to do with naming conventions. I would imagine that Cyprus has an article at Republic of Cyprus because the word Cyprus effectively refers to two different countries. I would vote to move the article, as I believe was done at Ireland. Regarding Dusseldorf, Zurich, Turin and the Ivory Coast, these articles should be placed at their most common spelling in English language documents. The issue of who decides which names are grossly offensive is relevant, but is a smaller issue than deciding which official body to side with on naming disputes. Tuf-Kat 05:20, Apr 30, 2004 (UTC)
It is possible to respect opinions without agreeing with them. Nohat 18:58, 2004 May 4 (UTC)

Reminder - poll closes in 1.5 hours[edit]

Just to let everyone know - the poll closes in 1.5 hours. →Raul654 21:57, May 6, 2004 (UTC)

Polling closed[edit]

Polling is now closed - page is temporarily protected. →Raul654 00:10, May 7, 2004 (UTC)

  • Temporary protection removed; there seems no further need of it. Radiant_>|< 07:04, Jun 10, 2005 (UTC)