Wikipedia talk:Naming conventions (settlements)/comma for all cities

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This is a discussion to determine whether there is support to change the naming convention for articles about cities, towns, and villages (settlements) so that all are named [[City, State]] like most Australian, Canadian and USA city articles are now.

Comments on preamble[edit]

Comment:To be accurate, most major Canadian cities, and a number of smaller ones, are at [[City]], not [[City, Province]]. Australian capital cities, which represent most of that country's major cities, are also at [[City]].Skeezix1000 14:22, 6 November 2006 (UTC)
"...mostly..." means there are some that are not. Some of the Australian capitals, a few significant US cities, some major Canadian cities and some special cases where they're not quite sure which province it's in. --Scott Davis Talk 07:59, 20 November 2006 (UTC)
Actually, not just "some" major Canadian cities, but almost all of its largest cities are at [[City]] (the only major ones that are not at [[City]] are places that are not the primary topic, like London and Victoria). And I don't believe that there are any Canadian cities that we are "not quite sure which province it's in" (Lloydminster and Flin Flon are each in two provinces, but we know which ones). And, unless I am mistaken, all but one Australian capital is at [[City]], meaning almost all of its major cities are at [[City]]. So, to be accurate, the "mostly" can only be applied to the USA without further explanation.Skeezix1000 12:49, 20 November 2006 (UTC)
The heading is above this part to keep the preamble short and clear. This discussion section will not be lost just by being in a section. The preamble is not part of the proposal, just an intro so that if somebody stumbles on this page, they understand what it is.
Having just checked over the subcategories of Category:Cities in Canada, it is still true that most cities in Canada are at [[City, Province]] - I haven't checked Category:Towns in Canada. The selection of cities that are not at [[City, Province]] appears to be somewhat arbitrary - some well-known cities appear to be named with a province, and some quite obscure ones are not. As I understand it, the "special cases" cannot be correctly described to be in either province. Isn't that correct? I haven't visited them yet, but I meant the city isn't sure which (single) province it's in, not that Canadians don't know which provinces they're in.
Six of the eight Australian capital articles are named without the state/territory. I've moved "most" to a more prominent position. If you feel the preamble still appears biased in some way, please help to make it neutral. --Scott Davis Talk 13:13, 22 November 2006 (UTC)
In every Canadian case, the determination of "city" vs. "city, province" is left to whether "city" alone can be taken as the primary topic for that name. Regina, Saskatchewan and Victoria, British Columbia have been left as is because Regina or Victoria alone have too many other significant meanings, but Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and Iqaluit, among others, are clearly the primary meanings of their names. Bearcat 22:28, 8 January 2007 (UTC)

Current convention[edit]

General rules[edit]

The general rule is to name an article about a city or town with a name that does not conflict with any other town or concept as city name. The rest of this naming convention contains guidelines about naming the articles where disambiguation is required. Articles about cities and towns in some countries should be "pre-disambiguated", by having the article named as if there is a name conflict, even if one is not known at the time of writing the article. In these cases, a redirect should usually be created at the primary name, pointing to the new article, until such time as a disambiguation page is actually required.

The most common way of disambiguating town and city names is to follow the name with a comma, a space and the name of the state, province, or county that it is in, or the name of the country if no second-level administrative region applies. Note that this is different to the common ways of disambiguating other kinds of places and objects, which usually place the disambiguating term in parentheses instead of after a comma.

The primary goal of this naming convention is to achieve consistency within each country. It does not necessarily achieve complete consistency across countries. Hence the remainder of the page is divided into specific guidelines for individual countries where required.

If disambiguation is needed this can be done

  • X, Y (currently the most used method)
  • X (Y)
  • X (city)

where Y is a higher level entity, e.g. a province or the country.

Using "X, Y" is a little bit like saying "X (city in Y)".

Proposed new convention[edit]

This is proposed to replace the "General rules" section of Wikipedia:Naming conventions (settlements).

General guidelines[edit]

The general guideline is to name an article about a city, town or village with a name that contains the name as it is commonly known in that country, followed by a comma, and the name of the state, province, territory, county or similar entity that contains it (City, state). For towns and cities in non-English speaking countries (this is the English Wikipedia and so is likely to cover many more smaller towns in English-speaking countries) and smaller countries with no significant smaller administrative boundaries, the name of the country itself should be used (City, country). This form of qualifying the names of articles provides the reader with a little more context when they move their mouse pointer over a link, and ensures that articles about cities have a consistent style. Editors are helped by the pipe trick, where they can enter the article name as [[city, state|]] and the wiki software will automatically insert the part before the comma again between the pipe and the closing brackets.

To assist searching (and editors who have not read or remembered this guideline), there should always be a redirect or link from an article with the title of just the unqualified cityname.

Note that this convention for a qualified name is different to the common ways of disambiguating other kinds of places and objects, which usually place the disambiguating term in parentheses instead of after a comma. Also notice that the name of the state, province or country should be written in full, not as an abbreviation (to avoid confusion between PA meaning both Pennsylvania and Panama, or WA meaning both Washington and Western Australia, for example).

The primary goal of this naming convention is to achieve consistency in naming articles about cities and towns, which tend to be linked to by lots of other articles compared to articles about other kinds of things.

The remainder of the page is divided into specific additional guidelines for individual countries and situations where required.

Article migration[edit]

Before the end of 2006, this naming convention in its current form was only broadly applied to articles about cities and towns in Australia, the USA and Canada. Articles on places in other countries sometimes followed this convention if required for disambiguation, but in general was not applied otherwise. Many (tens if not hundreds of) thousands of articles will need to be moved to make this convention be applied universally. At least initially, articles should not be moved wholesale without understanding and support of the regular editors and stakeholders of those articles. There may be good reasons why articles of a particular area should not be named according to this convention, which the people drafting it have not thought of.

Naming conflicts[edit]

Georgia refers to both Georgia (country) and Georgia (U.S. state), and thus towns in either of those will end up being named Town, Georgia. While odd, this is not a problem unless there are in fact a pair of towns in those places with the same names.

If there are two towns in the same state with the same name, the disambiguation should be done according to the local custom. For example Elgin, Lancaster County, South Carolina and Elgin, Kershaw County, South Carolina or Kingston-On-Murray, South Australia and Kingston SE, South Australia.


Please discuss the proposal here. This is a first attempt at seeking consensus towards this style of naming convention as the default for most of the world. It is partially a response to the continued bickering over naming articles for cities in the USA. Note that at the moment, this is a discussion, not a vote. --Scott Davis Talk 10:19, 3 November 2006 (UTC)

  • Strongly oppose. This proposal represents a wholesale change to the naming conventions for most countries. It is beyond me why anyone would think it necessary to start moving articles such as London, Paris, Berlin, etc. to new article names. Every country has its own particular city naming issues, and to try to impose an American-made one-size-fits-all solution makes absolutely no sense. And, from a practical perspective, the result of this proposal would be to drag the city names from the rest of the world into the never-ending quagmire that is the "debate" over the U.S. city naming convention -- spread the pain to everyone else, so to speak. If one is frustrated by "continued bickering" over the U.S. convention, I am not sure how trying to expand that bickering to all City articles in Wikipedia represents a logical solution. Skeezix1000 12:40, 3 November 2006 (UTC)
  • Comment, largely oppose: This is well-intentioned; but as expressed, it is misguided. Wikipedia should apply the comma convention in the United States, because it is English usage for American place names; so also for Canada and Australia - and much of the United Kingdom. It is not English usage for Germany: I don't think Frankfurt on the Oder should be at Frankfurt (Oder) as it is now; but to call it Frankfurt, Brandenburg isn't anybody's usage. For France, consider Saint-Germain#Related; renaming those to Saint Germain, Départment would be silly, and strongly opposed.

    The comma convention is, despite the insistence of some editors, the default when disambiguation is needed and it is not clear how English disambiguates: if Brixen needed to be disambiguated from Brixen im Thale (in Austria), it would be Brixen, Italy; it was there for a while. That should be stated somewhere; but this proposal is both vague and, naturally read, much stronger. Septentrionalis 15:11, 3 November 2006 (UTC)

Comment: the comma convention is an English usage for American or Canadian or Australian place names. It's not the only one that exists. People in all three countries will typically drop the state or province name whenever possible; it's only used when for whatever reason it has to be for disambiguation purposes. I'm obviously not suggesting that Rome, New York has even the vaguest glimmer of a "primary topic" claim to "Rome", for example, but people in Utica or Syracuse certainly don't call it anything more than just "Rome" most of the time. There's a point at which the semantic context of the conversation no longer inherently conveys whether they mean Rome, New York or Rome, Italy, and that's the point at which they need to start using the state name — but the comma convention is standard usage for American, Canadian and Australian place names when they require disambiguation from other places; it isn't invariable usage. So it doesn't make a convincing rationale for an invariable standard. Bearcat 12:35, 11 November 2006 (UTC)
  • Oppose. This is a poor naming convention even in the United States. For example, while San Francisco, California is a legitimate reference to the city of San Francisco, it is not the name of the city, which is simply, San Francisco. To indicate otherwise, like by naming the article about the city to be San Francisco, California rather than San Francisco, especially when there is no reason to disambiguate, is, simply, wrong. --Serge 15:24, 3 November 2006 (UTC)
  • I largely agree with Septentrionalis's comments. A one size fits all solution to disambiguation for cities in different countries is misguided. Furthermore, no provision is made for the fact that there will frequently be multiple cities in a single-non-English-speaking country with the same name. I also object, as I have before, to the idea of disambiguating major world cities for no reason but the need of some users for strict consistency. Rome, Italy and Moscow, Russia are stupid titles. So are Liverpool, Merseyside and Edinburgh, Midlothian (or is that Liverpool, England and Edinburgh, Scotland?) So, at any rate, I think a general convention here is unnecessary and misguided, and that the particular one presented here is fatally flawed. ETA: Were this a vote, I would certainly oppose, but for now I will respect the initiater's wish that this be a discussion rather than a vote. john k 16:02, 3 November 2006 (UTC)
  • It would simplify matters if followed, but it wouldn't be followed, and it's not a natural naming convention outside the US, Canada, and Australia. In Great Britain, the exact disambiguator for multiple names is more complex. However, Skeezix1000's and Serge's, objections are inaccurate in premise or misguided. Septentrionalis's concerns have enough weight that this shouldn't be a guideline, though. — Arthur Rubin | (talk) 17:05, 3 November 2006 (UTC)
Care to explain why I am so inaccurate and misguided? Skeezix1000 18:45, 3 November 2006 (UTC)
The bickering in the US is because we like to bicker. It would be worse if the convention didn't apply. Even under tariq's proposal, we would have indefinite arguments as to whether a city should be predisambiguated, and we'd probably have a number moved back and forth with apparent concensus each time. You are just inaccurate. Serge is misguided. — Arthur Rubin | (talk) 08:42, 5 November 2006 (UTC)
Not all discussion is the same. Bickering over conventions is different from discussion at a talk page as to where an article should be. There's no particular problem with the latter - it happens all the time. Where's the endless argument over Toronto and Montreal? john k 12:02, 5 November 2006 (UTC)
Arthur, the debate over the U.S. naming convention has been nothing short of torturous, and regardless of whether or not the City, State convention is kept or not, all indications are that the debate will continue to be a quagmire. Whether or not you "like" the debate is beside the point -- the rest of us do not want to be dragged into it. I'm not sure what is "inaccurate" about that. Skeezix1000 14:17, 6 November 2006 (UTC)
Arthur, care to explain what I wrote that makes you believe I am misguided? When Canada shared our naming guidelines that force predisambiguation, they had a lot of bickering. Then they changed their guidelines to no longer require predisambiguation, and the bickering stopped. In practically all categories where there are naming conflicts, the cause is a category-specific guideline that requires predisambiguation. Am I misguided to believe it is the guidelines that require predisambiguation that is the cause of the bickering? How? Why? How does your theory that the cause of the bickering is our "like to bicker" explain the strong positive correlation between category-specific guidelines that require predisambiguation and the level of bickering about naming in those categories? I know that correlation does not necessarily identify cause, but, in this case, what other explanation for the correlation is there other than the predisambiguation requirement being the cause? — Serge 17:15, 6 November 2006 (UTC)
  • I would also encourage making this US-specific first. The US naming convention covers the largest scope and number of articles and should be evaluated on it's own merit. One aspect is that not every country has the history of the strong identity that US States have with their cities. Agne 20:25, 3 November 2006 (UTC)
  • I suggest that the alleged "strong identity" that "US States have with their cities" is exaggerated as a justification for predisambiguation (by state) of U.S. cities, and is largely a false perception. Cities are cities and states are states. For example, in many ways, San Diego is more closely identified with Mexico, and Eureka with Oregon, then they are with each other just because they both happen to be located in the same state. At best, it's a contrived and artificial association. --Serge 20:52, 3 November 2006 (UTC)
I'm sorry to say this, but this seems like nonsense. Eureka and San Diego are both incorporated as cities under California state law, and both operate under the conditions of California state law more broadly. They both have Arnold Schwarzenegger as their governor, and they both elect state legislators who go to Sacramento to make laws that affect both cities. They both elect Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer to the United States Senate, and they both vote on a wide array of ridiculous ballot propositions every other year. They both choose between the same slates of electors for President of the United States every four years. Their mayors are both elected in the same kind of non-partisan California municipal elections system, and are probably both members of a mayoral association for cities in California. "happening to be located in the same state" is fairly serious business. I just don't see why the state needs to be listed in the article title. The fact that California is in the United States is equally serious business, but we don't have California, United States. john k 12:48, 4 November 2006 (UTC)
I do not deny that Eureka and San Diego have certain political realities in common, and that they are "fairly serious business". I'm just saying those aspects are not very important in determining the identity of each city, compared to everything else that contributes to their respective identities. In particular, if Eureka were annexed by Oregon, how much would its identity change? I'm not saying nothing would change, I'm just saying it wouldn't change the identity of the city very much, because the history and the people who live there determine the identity of a city much more than the political hierarchy. --Serge 17:15, 6 November 2006 (UTC)

Thankyou all for the comments so far. I understand this would be a big change for a lot of articles, so would need widespread support and fine-tuning. If it could achieve acceptance, then the bickering over US article names looking different to article names for cities in other places would go away. The comments so far demonstrate that the issues for Europe at least need to be redone somewhat. It is likely that there would be similar problems to be clarified for Asia, Africa and South America too.

To the people who object to "predisambiguation", this is a proposal for using "qualified names" for cities, a bit like using genus and species for plants, or first and last names for people. Yes, it is a change to the standard, but I would hope that it could make the encyclopaedia better (in the long run) by making it easier to recognise articles about towns, and making it look more professional due to the consistency it would introduce.

Scott, Genus and Species is the full scientific name of a plant species. the species name alone is simply a modifier to the genus name, which is the principal name. It is not simply non-standard, but actually incorrect to refer to the species of humans as "sapiens," for instance. The question of where we should locate an article when there is only one species in a genus is perhaps more aposite (and I'm not sure which of those two versions you were suggesting as the analogy), but even that doesn't work as most articles are located at the common name, rather than the scientific name. Also, the possibility of the discovery of a new species in a genus is always there. The possibility of the coming into existence of a new city of Paris that grabs primary topic status from the city in France is vanishingly small. In terms of personal names, it's more or less the same - the first and last name together are the full name, and the normal way that people are referred to. The full name of Chicago is the "City of Chicago." Illinois isn't part of the name. That doesn't necessarily speak against a "qualified name" for US cities, but we should keep in mind the inexact nature of the analogies in question. john k 12:35, 4 November 2006 (UTC)

I did not expect this proposal to be accepted without change or discussion. Thankyou for your help. There is a suggestion on Wikipedia talk:Naming conventions (settlements)#Cease_fire.3F to put all renaming on hold for a month to let the dust settle and allow people not regularly watching naming conventions the chance to realise. If there are people who think this could become a workable new convention and want to help improve the words and finer points, you are welcome. --Scott Davis Talk 04:35, 4 November 2006 (UTC)

  • Strongly oppose, Please don't try to impose a daft and highly controversial US convention on the rest of us. There is zero chance of anyone agreeing to move London to London, England or Paris to Paris, France for example, so frankly this discussion is pointless. G-Man * 16:59, 5 November 2006 (UTC)
  • Oppose even though this is not a vote. For Dutch settlements (the area I'm mostly interested in), this predisambiguation is not necessary for 80%, and would not be sufficient for 15%. I wouldn't be surprised if this were true of most of the countries in the world. And who would be helped by a title like Amsterdam, North Holland? Most people are not familiar with Dutch provinces. Eugène van der Pijll 17:16, 5 November 2006 (UTC)
  • Responding specifically to Serge's comment above about correlation between category-specific guidelines that require predisambiguation and the level of bickering, I'd like to point out that cities and towns in Australia have had a stable naming convention that requires all article names to be of the form town, state for almost two years with none of this incessant carry on. Perhaps it is that we think of these names as "qualified" rather than "predisambiguated". Perhaps it's that we think it's more important to create and improve the content of the articles rather than argue of the name. There are presently six exceptions to the comma rule for capital cities that are also the most populous in their state and have no major issue with primary topic claims. I would not anticipate a dispute to move those six articles if this proposal were adopted more widely. --Scott Davis Talk 01:42, 7 November 2006 (UTC)
Interesting, given that the population of Australia is about 20.6 million, while the population of the U.S. is about 300 million, the factor is 14.5. So if 6 is about right for the number of cities to not need disambiguation in a nation of 20.6 million, then about 87 would be the number in a nation of 300 million. You claim that there would be no major issue if someone tried to move those 6 key cities, but I suggest you try it. Remember, Canada had the issues mostly without about that number of cities too... I'll bet if we fixed the U.S. key 80 or so cities, as per the current ("Tariq's") proposal, we wouldn't have hardly any issues either. --Serge 02:05, 7 November 2006 (UTC)
Actually, to be honest, I don't really recall that we Canadians had that much bickering over the question of [[city]] vs. [[city, province]] itself — we had issues over how widely to extend the [[city]] convention; we had slapfights with British Wikipedians over how to define "primary topic" (i.e. should the Halifax in Nova Scotia be "primary topic" because it's by far the largest and most economically and politically significant place with that name, or should the Halifax in England be "primary topic" because it had the name a few hundred years earlier?); we had wankfests over whether to prioritize the common name or the official one in cases like Halifax Regional Municipality or Greater Sudbury or Quinte West where the actual legal name of the municipality isn't what people actually call it in practice. But if we actually had any fights about whether the city I live in should be at Toronto, Ontario or Toronto, I don't personally remember them. Bearcat 11:54, 11 November 2006 (UTC)
  • Oppose (coming in late) — I can't tell if this proposal is still active, but if it is I feel obliged to put my 2¢ in. This is a bad idea for all sorts of reasons — it's Americanocentric (is that a word?) and fetishizes consistency. I really don't understand the perspective that says that putting articles in a rigid naming format makes the encyclopedia look any more professional. Call it qualification, call it predisambiguation — either way, it's making article names longer than they need to be, and it's a bad idea. —Josiah Rowe (talkcontribs) 02:51, 20 November 2006 (UTC)
It's sort of lapsed, but is a useful discussion that helps to identify what might be the issues if a guideline like this were proposed again. It was created specifically to respond to a challenge to put our money where our mouth is. I'm curious though: Do you see it as Americanocentric vice other English-speaking countries, other continents, other local languages, or what? --Scott Davis Talk 07:59, 20 November 2006 (UTC)