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An Important question about Naming Conventions There are a million cities/tourist attractions with duplicate names in this world. What are we going to do about naming their articles? I just wrote a stub for Victoria the state of Australia and I just called it Victoria because it's a state, which I assume takes precedence over Victoria the city/ies. I'd put that under Victoria(Canada)... As more is written this is going to come up more - there is only one Kakadu National Park in the world, but how many hundred Ribbon Falls or Rainbow Falls etc are there? They can't ALL have the same article name.

I'd suggest that since this is a travel wiki ALL articles on places are cross-referenced with the country name eg.Ribbon Falls(Zimbabwe) - that way there can be no future confusion when somebody comes along and wants to write on Ribbon Falls(Antarctica)... KJ 01:32, 6 Aug 2003 (PDT)
I've used links like "State of Morelos, Mexico" in the Mexico City article. Personally, I prefer something that's as conversational as possible. If it's easy to write, but hard to pronounce (parantheses count here), it might not be such a great title. JZ 09:55, 6 Aug 2003
OK, so, I did a first pass at naming conventions. The examples you guys gave would be the following:
-- Evan 09:47, 6 Aug 2003 (PDT)
What about that larger locations (Mexico City, London, Kakadu National Park) can be entered with only their name, while smaller locations (such as the mentioned Ribbon Falls) are given in the form "Keyword (Country)" or maybe "Keyword, Country". But then again who decides which locations that are large and which are small? Andreas Holstenson 14:50, 6 Aug 2003 (PDT)
So, doesn't the disambiguation section pretty much say this? -- Evan 21:38, 10 Aug 2003 (PDT)

One more comment. You say to use the commonest English name for a given place... use the magic of wiki and redirect the 'other' common names for it to that article eg. the article is under Burma but somebody might come along and search Google for Myanmar, and it can redirect them to Burma when they click on the 'article'. KJ 15:46, 6 Aug 2003 (PDT)

The following was copied from Talk:List of Brazilian states:

Thanks. A question though: in Portuguese, accents and diacritics are used in quite a few place names (eg. Pará, São Paulo) - are these also present in English or not? D.D. 12:48, 8 Oct 2003 (PDT)

I've looked a bit how other sites spelled them (including Wikipedia). Apparently they're written with diacritics. I've adapted the list accordingly. D.D. 12:43, 9 Oct 2003 (PDT)

What about for other languages (like French?) Mostly in english people write "Montreal" and not "Montréal", same with "Quebec" and not "Québec" ... It doesn't matter to me, but it will matter to the software (for links...) Of course, maybe our convention can be to use accents (and diacritics) in some languages and not others? However, maybe it is better to write everything the english way, using only the english alphabet/symbols. Otherwise, things can get complex (I would guess that many eastern european place names have a spelling using Cyrillic characters ... right?) -- CL 13:01, 9 Oct 2003 (PDT)

I think the article naming conventions are pretty clear: we want to use the most common English names for places. I don't think there are very common English names for most of the states in Brazil. Sao Paolo, though, is usually spelled in English without the accent marks. And the English spellings of Montreal and Quebec would be correct. When places are so remote that there's not really a common English name for them, though... I dunno. It's kind of an open question. Can we move this discussion to Wikitravel talk:article naming conventions? -- Evan 14:37, 9 Oct 2003 (PDT)

OK, for the Brazilian states we can follow the general rule: article titles without accents/diacritics if they're not used in English. But I'm convinced there should be a reference to the local spelling(s) and name(s) in the article itself, especially if the local name differs substantially from its English equivalent. If there exists no English form, what other options do we have than to use the local form (transliterated into the Latin alphabet if needed)? D.D. 09:08, 10 Oct 2003 (PDT)

So I have to pipe up here. This might be a good place to use a current standard for Geographic names. According to the AACR2

"Use the English form of the name of a place if there is one in general use."--23.2A1. "Use the form of the official language if there is no Engligh form in general use."--23.2B1. "If the country has more than one official language, use the form most commonly found in English language sources."--23.2B1."

So if there is no English for it, certainly use whatever the place most commonly refers to itself as. For example, São Paulo shouldn't ever be called "St Paul" or something, but Geneva shouldnt be Geneve or Genf or Genebra. Maybe the alternative names should always be mentioned in the "Know" section in the same way that full offical names are listed in the CIA info (ie Loas is offically Peoples Something Something Repulic of Loas]]). Majnoona

I think I updated this to be a little more clear and specify that you should ESPECIALLY give the local name. -- Evan 10:42, 10 Oct 2003 (PDT)

An additional question: what do we do with non-Latin alphabets? (Cyrillic, Chinese, Hindi, etc...) I'd like to see those places mentioned as such in the article, but I don't know in how far the software can support that. D.D. 12:04, 13 Oct 2003 (PDT)

Yeah, I don't know. That's going to take some experimentation. We're set up to use the UTF-8 character set, so supposedly that stuff should work. But I don't have the input availability to add Chinese or Hindi or Arabic to the site. I also doubt that, for an English-language site, there's much point in having a bunch of gobbledy-gook on the screen. No offense intended, but the greater part of English speakers have no clue what the scribbles mean. -- Evan 09:56, 14 Oct 2003 (PDT)
Not all foreign names that can't be written in Latin-1 are scribbles. Poland and Hungary have place names with accented z's and n's and double accented vowels, respectively. Most Polish places (exceptions are Warsaw and maybe some places with German names) and AFAIK all Hungarian places except rivers have the same name in English, but some can't be typed on a Latin-1 keyboard. So for example Győr should also be reachable at Györ (ő is alphabetized the same as ö in Hungarian) and Gyõr (the result of misinterpreting the Latin-2 code as Latin-1; ű turns into û). -phma 22:44, 17 Apr 2004 (EDT)

I realize that the English speakers themselves generally do not know what these characters mean, but the can be very helpful while traveling. I found that out while taking local buses and trains in India (and other places with non-Latin script). I was fortunate to have the names of the destinations in both the local and the English script. In certain remote places (or places not yet geared to travelers) you might be very lucky if you find someone who speaks enough English to direct you to the right bus, train or whatever other mode of transport you've chosen. If you don't find such a person, it might be very helpful to have the names in local script, so you can compare character by character with what's on the board or the vehicle. But this is just my experience. D.D. 12:28, 14 Oct 2003 (PDT)

Another reason to write the native name in the local script (as well as transliterated, of course) is that you can't always be sure how to pronounce a name from the transliteration. For example, Indic languages have a letter for the diphthong ai as well as two each for a and i. Usually when ai appears in an Indic word, it's the diphthong, but there are exceptions, at least two of which are cities in this guide: Nai Dilli (nuh-ee DILL-ee) and Mumbai (MOOM-buh-ee). (I think I got those right; the only book I have with Indic writing is a Bible in Gujarati, published in Benglor.) The local scripts will be explained in the phrasebooks. -phma 10:25, 26 Dec 2003 (PST)

So, what's the official Wikitravel position on abbreviations in article names? Specifically, should I use "Saint", "St." or "That Guy"? Ckape 12:09, 8 Nov 2003 (PST)

Ha! I was just thinking about that (with respect to St. Paul, of course).

I think the first principle, most common English name, would favor "St.", but another principle, clean urls, would favor using "Saint". I'm not sure, frankly, but I'm leaning towards "St.". -- Evan 12:28, 8 Nov 2003 (PST)

I think Saint Paul is better as it is unambiguous. Also it means the links work correctly. When I checked the what links here for St. Paul, I could not find all the linking pages. Also St. could be spelt as St without the period. Interestingly, St. Paul is also spelt Saint Paul in the related articles. I think that the name should be spelt out in full and a redirect added for the abbreviation to the name in full. BTW: The abreviation St. could also mean street if at the other end of the article. -- Huttite 06:46, 25 Feb 2004 (EST)

As promised in Talk:Chennai I'd like to comment on a certain aspect of the article naming conventions. We state that the most common English name should be used for article titles. I don't think this is a watertight criterium.

  1. Do we mean the English name as used by native English speakers or by speakers all over the world who use English (without making a distinction between native and non-native speakers)? If we mean the former then we don't take into account a large percentage of travellers.
  2. How do we decide what exactly is the most common English name? The article naming conventions give a few examples, one of which says we prefer Burma over Myanmar. A quick search on Google (English sites only) give 3,300,000 hits for Myanmar and 1,630,000 for Burma. The May 1997 National Geographic map South Asia already shows the country as Myanmar (Burma). I can give other examples, but I think my point is clear enough. (BTW, while reading this article for the first time I thought: Oh boy, are they still using Burma? This site must be really out of date. ;-)
  3. Travellers especially are faced with "new" names, such as Chennai (Madras) or Mumbai (Bombay) - which, incidentally, also feature on the same National Geagraphic map. Since Wikitravel is destined to travellers, I think we should use those names.
  4. We'd like Wikitravel to be an up-to-date travel guide, much more than printed guides can dream of. We'd like to give information on the most recent hotels, restaurants, and anything else that is travel-related. Not doing this when a name officially changes is not being consistent. Using the correct name can help us to be taken seriously.

Comments? Thoughts? I'm really interested. D.D. 14:18, 8 Nov 2003 (PST)

DD, let's take two of the examples you give: Burma and Bombay. Burma was renamed by its government, for some unspecified reasons I won't get into. The Western press and most other governments still refer to the country as "Burma". Technically, "Myanmar" is probably more correct, since it's the official name of the country, but the more common colloquial name, in my experience, for the country is still "Burma".
Bombay (Mumbai) is another good example. The city's official designation is Mumbai, but most residents and other Indians still call it "Bombay". Most people in the rest of the world also call it "Bombay".
That all said, in particular cases I'm willing to bend. I'm not sure the Google test you did is a fair one, since many things on the Web will either be produced by official governments or by international organizations that cater to their official designations. But I could be wrong on the popularity of the names "Burma" and "Bombay", and I'm totally willing to bend on these or any other specifics.
I think the principle remains the same: use the names that English-speaking travelers worldwide will most probably expect to see. That gives them a better chance of finding and using our information.
Names are powerful things; governments and other groups have strong reasons to use different ones. In the USA, for example, some Latino advocacy groups call Mexico and the parts of the US that were formerly Mexican territory Aztlan. While this gives a strong perspective on the cultural map of North America, would it serve travelers to have this be our most common designation? I think not. People are going to be expecting to find information on Texas, not Aztlan del norte.
I think the guiding principle here is, as usual, that the traveller comes first. We're not under the same obligations as national governments or other groups to bow to the official or unofficial designations given by people with a political or cultural agenda. It doesn't seem to me that that would serve travelers better. And that is an obligation we have. -- Evan 08:23, 10 Nov 2003 (PST)

Evan, I took your contention that the Western press mostly referred to "Myanmar" as "Burma", and did some research on it. I was pretty sure that I would find that "Myanmar" would come out on top. These are the results:

  • The New York Times (USA, since 1996): 728 hits for Burma / 864 hits for Myanmar
  • Time (USA, past 30 days): 5-Burma / 1-Myanmar
  • The Times (UK, unspecified period): 22-Burma / 3-Myanmar
  • BBC (UK, unspecified period): 237-Burma / 802-Myanmar
  • The Economist (UK, unspecified period): 38-Burma / 180-Myanmar
  • The Australian (Australia, unspecified period): Burma-858 / Myanmar-113
  • Le Monde (France, past year): Birmanie-64 / Myanmar-0
  • Der Spiegel (Germany, past year): 19-Burma / Myanmar-9
  • El Pais (Spain, past 5 years): 174-Birmania / 67-Myanmar

As you can see (and to my horror), only in the New York Times, the BBC and The Economist did "Myanmar" come out on top.

I did the same tests for Madras vs. Chennai and Bombay vs. Mumbai. Both Madras and Bombay are still much more used than Chennai and Mumbai (except in The Economist).

Well, uhm, I guess you're right... You know, this is funny and interesting at the same time, because it shows that the way we see the world is rooted in our environment. I was convinced that "Myanmar" was used more then "Burma" nowadays because many sources I have access to use the name "Myanmar".

I propose to do the following: the main articles come under Burma, Madras and Bombay, with redirects from Myanmar, Chennai and Mumbai (at least until I do another test in 2008 or so ;-) Agreed? DhDh 14:51, 10 Nov 2003 (PST)

Absolutely! The new names should also be noted on the pages. I hope we kind of agree on the principle of using the most common name, too. -- Evan 15:11, 10 Nov 2003 (PST)

Sure. It would be a bit silly to have a rule for one place and another rule for another place, wouldn't it? DhDh 15:17, 10 Nov 2003 (PST)

Here's another case. A name is most commonly used for place A, but is not the most common name for A, and is also the name of place B. In Chaco, there is a Formosa, but if anyone had asked me where Formosa is, I'd have said it's near China - it's another name for Taiwan. -phma 20:35, 25 Dec 2003 (PST)

What about Formosa (province) which contains the article about the Argentine province of Formosa and Formosa (island) which redirects to Taiwan? DhDh 15:00, 26 Dec 2003 (PST)

I have added a disambiguation rule if there are several places with the same name in different countries. Do we agree on this or has someone a better idea? DhDh 16:39, 25 Dec 2003 (PST)

I agree. I also added a paragraph about disambiguation pages (I made the one about Georgia when I found a link redirected to the wrong Georgia, and there's another one somewhere). -phma 20:04, 25 Dec 2003 (PST)
Can we maybe start a Wikitravel:Disambiguation pages article? --Evan
I don't like the commas. Also, the example you gave is already covered by the previous rules, as "Santa Cruz (department)" (department of Bolivia), "Santa Cruz (province)" (province of Argentina), "Santa Cruz (Bolivia)" (could be "city", but clashes with city in Argentina, so up one level on the hierarchy, still the same, up another level to the country), "Santa Cruz (Argentina)" (same rule). If the department and the province weren't different, though, we'd have a problem. I really strongly dislike the commas, though, and I really, really don't want to get in the habit of having articles named "Santa Cruz (city in the Blablabla Region of the Foofaraw Department of the Wigwam province of Bolivia)"? Can we make this "department of Foo" or something? --Evan 20:51, 25 Dec 2003 (PST)
Oh, and also: I don't like a rule that gives any particular level of the hierarchy ("name of the country"). Could we make that more general, like, "next level up the hierarchy"? --Evan 20:53, 25 Dec 2003 (PST)

Re. disambiguation pages: good idea to start a separate page about this.

Re. commas: My first idea was to use something like Santa Cruz (department of Bolivia). But I doubted that this would sound OK for different levels (can you say "city of Bolivia", "region of Bolivia", etc...) But this is probably due to my linguistic feeling of English which isn't good enough to judge this. I have no problem with the use of the word "of".

Re. previous rules: I agree that my example is technically covered by the previous rules. But there are so many places called Santa Cruz (a quick count in my atlas gives the number of 35), and I think we're going to end up with an obscure mix. I propose doing the exercise of trying to organize all the Santa Cruzes and see what problems surface. I'll do that on my user page shortly.

Re. "department of Foo". I don't like that one, because we were in the habit of naming the place and disambiguate it between parentheses. I think that's a good rule and we should stick to it.

Re. the reference ta a particular level of hierarchy (country). I know but I wasn't able to formulate it otherwise.

I'm taking out this rule temporarily until we agree on a workable solution.

  1. If there are several places with the same name in different countries and they cannot be clearly disambiguated as above, we write both the geographical unit and the country they belong to between parentheses. Examples: Santa Cruz (department, Bolivia), Santa Cruz (city, Bolivia), Santa Cruz (province, Argentina) and Santa Cruz (city, Argentina).

Oh and BTW, there is no Santa Cruz (city of Argentina). It's called Puerto Santa Cruz. Shame on me! DhDh 00:24, 26 Dec 2003 (PST)

I think that there is a problem in using "the most common name in English". First, the guide books use the official name, Second, if a name was changed 4 years ago, than now the old name isn't widley used yet (especially outside of that country), but in a few years that WILL be the more common name - than we'll have to go and change the name of the article? and how do you decided what's used more? what you and I heard?

It should always be the official name, and in bracets state the former name or other names it's known by (and also a redirect will be in order...). F16

Let me respond point by point. First, this is a guide book.
Second, you're correct, the "most common English name" will change over time. But so will "official" names; after all, we wouldn't have problems with official names if they'd never changed.
Also, there are many places with "official" names that have had English names for centuries -- The Hague, for instance, or Geneva, or Prague, or Spain, or Athens. There's no indication that English speakers are going to start using the local names ("Den Haag", "Geneve", "Praha", "España", "Athyny") any time soon.
It's a matter of seconds to change the name of an article, if we feel the need. If, say, "Mumbai" becomes more commonly known and used than "Bombay", then we can switch it easily.
As to how we decide: many are pretty easy (like "Spain"), but some are harder cases. The hardest are places where the local governments have changed the "official" name of a place for political reasons. Burma and Bombay are two major examples that haven't stuck; Belorus and St. Petersburg are examples that have.
Burma and Bombay we decided on based on doing Google searches on the different variations, and seeing what major newspapers, magazines, etc., used.
The point here is that the traveller comes first. Officials in the city or country may want everyone to use the official name, but if it makes finding information harder for travellers and contributors, then we're not serving travellers well by using by using it. --Evan 17:40, 28 Mar 2004 (EST)

I have added some general comments about using abbreviations, numbers spaces, special characters and foreign language characters with some explanations. These rules seem to be unwritten conventions so far and are generally common sense. The only controversial bit may be spelling out abbreviations like St. and Mt. in full, though I think it is a more formal approach that is consistent with other conventions. - Huttite 19:10, 17 Apr 2004 (EDT)

We haven't been consistent on that. I also don't think the non-English characters one is accurate; sometimes the most common English name for a place has an accented character. --Evan 20:24, 17 Apr 2004 (EDT)
I know we haven't been consistent, but I am expressing what I see as an unwritten convention when people move page names as well as what is common sense. For example there are a lot of country articles that were imported as Saint, thus the convention was established that Saint be spelt in full. To overcome the inconsistency I have said use the abbreviation if it is officially spelt that way. Also people can use those special foreign characters but need to be aware of the problems they cause. That is why I imply having a redirect page for the alternative spellings, but the prime article title has the abbreviation spelled in full or anglicised spelling. -- Huttite 20:37, 17 Apr 2004 (EDT)
w/r/t numbers, Nurg and Pierre had the following to say in response to a question of mine (See User talk:Nurg):
Yes, the rule is that if a sentence begins with a number it should be spelt out. The exception to this is years. It is ok for a sentence to begin:
  • 2001 was the dawn of a new millennium.
The rule applies even to long numbers, but there is another rule that says you should try to reword the sentence so that it does not start with a long number.
  • 838 Wikitravel articles have been written. - Wrong.
  • Eight hundred and thirty-eight Wikitravel articles have been written. - Better but still not good.
  • There have been 838 Wikitravel articles written. - Best.
As to when you should spell out numbers that are not at the start of the sentence, this varies from one style manual to another. Some say spell out one to nine. Others one to ten. Some say one to ninety-nine. Some say to do it differently depending on the context. I think ten should be spelt as ten is only one more character than 10. I have my own idiosyncratic view that we should spell out one to twelve. Why? Because they are unique words. After twelve the numbers are -teen, -ty and combination numbers (except for the round ones like hundred, thousand etc.) Nurg.
If a sentence begins with two numbers connected by a conjunction (or "to", as in "Eight to 12"), and one is written in digits and the other is spelled out, it looks weird. Spell both out or write both as digits. -phma 11:16, 9 Dec 2003 (PST)
Akubra 05:30, 18 Apr 2004 (EDT)