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Wikitravel talk:Article naming conventions/official names

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Official names[edit]

I've started a page on Wikitravel:Why Wikitravel doesn't use official names. I'd love to see some comments, editions, and changes to it. If we eventually decide to change to use official names, of course, that'd all be gone. --Evan 13:01, 15 May 2004 (EDT)

On Naming Conventions[edit]

Reading all this for the first time I think the disagreement is more on the surface than a deep one. A careful reading of the commentary below tells me that the consensus is the very good (and consistent) decision to use the most common English form of a name, the one most people would search on for example. So, for example, Czechia is out in favor of The Czech Republic for the simple reason that few English speakers would know what was meant if Czechia were to be used. If and when it is, then we'll change it. Even Ronline seems to agree on this. In the same way Mumbai is in and Bombay is out because Mumbai has in recent times become well known (this is arguable, but so are many things which we seem on the whole to be able to resolve). As someone once said (I hope this is a correct quote) "consistency is the refuge of small minds."

As to the benefits of voting or referenda, I haven't been here long enough to get to get a handle on the "wiki" method, so I won't express an opinion. I confess to being confused about it. William M Goetsch 09:06, 14 May 2004 (EDT)

Null and void[edit]

Can somebody please give me a clue as to how this referendum started? It's not official. We don't vote on Wikitravel. We come to agreement. See Meatball:VotingIsEvil for why. Sorry, but that's just the way it works. I know other wikis work other ways; this one works thing way.

I'd like to see some discussion about how official names help travelers better than the most common English name. Votes just don't count around here. --Evan 14:28, 13 May 2004 (EDT)

Can somebody tell you how this referendum started? It started by public concensus - many people liked the idea of a vote. If you don't, then that's OK, but if, say, 70% of Wikitravellers do, then you can't ignore that majority. "Votes just don't count around here." Yes they do. I think that's a very narrow view. Remember that Wikitravel is a group project - the majority decides. If you want it to be your project, then why did you use Wiki in the first place. Sorry for being so frank, but I find insulting that after so much constructive debate with so many users, you come here and "nullify" this vote for no actual reason. We've actually achieved something with this vote, not only in the forms of voting, but in the forms of a constructive debate with other users. Every major contributor has given their input about what they feel about this issue, as you can read below. See Meatball:VotingIsGood. I think you are leading Wikitravel down the wrong path, honestly. The "travellers first" policy was originally a good one but has now been corrupted by a very narrow view of serving travellers needs without paying any attention at all to anything else. Yes, Wikitravel is travel-oriented, but, no, that doesn't mean we can forget the rest of the world and that doesn't mean we can use improper names.
What I am angry at is your clear, uncompromising position on this vote being "null and void". Again, remember that Wikitravel is a community that works together to come up with answers. A lot of us prefer votes, that's why so many people voted in the referendum. Some people said YES, others said NO, but anyway, they voted and expressed their opinions in a democratic way. The reason in the first place why we have reached this discussion on official names is because, while the majority of users agree with using official names, mainly you and a few others do not agree.
If you want to totally impose your own point of view, that is not OK on Wikitravel. Sure, debate it. Sure, argue it as heavily as you want. But don't impose it without any compromise. Therefore, I think by nullifying this referendum you are not only insulting the Wikitravellers which actually took the time to contribute to the discussion and vote, but you are also making Wikitravel an undemocratic community that defeats the whole purpose of wiki. If you can't be rewarded for contributing to Wikitravel by at least having a voice in how it is conducted, then I ask, what is the purpose of contributing to this project? So, until then, it's back to Wikipedia and Wiktionary for me. Again, sorry if I'm being too harsh, but that's the truth. Ronline 02:20, 14 May 2004 (EDT)

I'd like to put my ditto in here. Voting is not going to work here. There's a whole bunch of reasons why, but the only one I'll mention is that a "majority" is not a consensus and we work by consesus-- it's worked great and we should stick with it. Now I'm going to try and get back to my vacation... Majnoona 15:12, 13 May 2004 (EDT)

See my comment above. Just some more points - majority is very important. In all democratic countries, voting is done by majority. This also applies in other aspects of society. Voting is the best way to gauge people's responses. Consensus might be better but we haven't reached any because none of you want to budge your stance on official names. If we had some compromise, maybe we could come to an agreement. But because we couldn't have any compromise, it has to come to this - a simple vote that determines things clearly. So, as a response, no, concensus has not worked great. It's done nothing to solve this official names problem. Voting will solve it. Ronline 02:20, 14 May 2004 (EDT)
Sorry, but I just don't see it that way. My feeling is this: we haven't ever had a vote on Wikitravel about anything. This referendum was created by one person who set up the terms of the referendum, the terms of voting, and the terms of settlement.
I personally think votes on wikis are a bad idea. They separate problems into yes-and-no decisions. They make winners and losers. They oversimplify issues. And they limit decision-makers to the N people who find the vote page at that time. Wikis live in a long WikiNow, and wiki discussions span months and years. Saying that only the few people who participate in a particular time span, on a particular page, get to make decisions for all and ever is kinda lame.
I also believe in the power of logical discussion and rational thought. I think we can come to some agreement about article naming, as well as any other issue. The history of Wikitravel shows this. We've done pretty good so far, and I think we can continue that way.
That all said, if people really want to set up a framework for voting, I think we can and should address that. If someone wants to start Wikitravel:Voting policy, let's do that. I'll oppose it, because I think it's a really bad idea, but I'd love to see it discussed.
Lastly, I hope you reconsider your decision about participating in Wikitravel. You've been a very important part of this project from very early on, and I'd like to see that relationship continue. --Evan 12:18, 15 May 2004 (EDT)
I understand that I probably did misinterpret what you said... I mean it was phrased maybe a bit too harshly, but anyway. The fact that is that what we did with this "poll" was rational thought and logical discussion - if you look at the very length of this page, you'll see that this was much more than just a vote, it was actually a very in-depth discussion. The only reason why the vote was put into place was because I (and many others) felt that logical discussions basically took things to a standstill - we just couldn't agree on something. Therefore, the vote was meant to be something of a valid way of saying "Look, we've argued about this issue, so many people have been split over it, now the majority of people agree to do this". The fact that we haven't had a vote before does not mean we should never start voting! What I do understand is Maj's point on voting and popularity. She said that it is not always the most popular concept that should be included, but rather the _best_, and I think that is a very valid point. But remember still that the whole reason why we got to this situation is due to gridlock on talks (I'm not blaming sides... both the pro-Mumbai and the pro-Bombay sides were basically not coming to resolutions). In times like these, I believe that simple, decisive things like voting work best, because they solve the problem much quicker, but once could argue, more superficially. Personally, I am not particularly fond of the vote... it wasn't the actual action of discounting the vote that got me angry but rather the fact that the vote was sort of stopped "dictatorially". If we go on towards the vote that would be OK. What we do need to consider is the overwhelming majority of people who actually voted YES, which means that the Mumbai change is a popular one, yet one which is also good due to Google hits, etc. I think there will always be people who will argue against Bombay, just as there will always be people to argue against Mumbai. That doesn't really matter. What matters is that we try to make the best travel guide possible yet the decision is something that people agree on (for example, we just couldn't introduce a change that it better than another alternative if only 10% of Wikitravellers actually support it).
Currently, I don't think we need a voting policy, since this is the first vote and . I think the Wikitravel community is still fairly small and the problem is things have really have got too emotional and a bit over-the-top for things that could be solved fairly easily.
The reason why I might have over-reacted at first is because, as you probably know, I do care a lot about Wikitravel and I don't want it going down the wrong path... the Bombay issue is important to me because it one of the parts of Wikitravel which I think should be changed.
So, in conclusion, it's OK for us to agree things by public concensus. The fact is that public consensus works, though it hasn't actually solved the Bombay problem, that's why we resorted to voting, the more "extreme" alternative. If we could make a return to public concensus, that would be fine, but only if it would work! Usually, not many people participate in the discussions and they end up breaking down. Hopefully, we have everyone here actually participate in the Bombay discussion and why/why not to change it to Mumbai.
I've decided to come back to Wikitravel since I feel it really was a bit of a misunderstanding between Evan and I on what I meant and what he meant (he probably interpreted "official name referendum" as the referendum itself being official, while I saw the null and void statement as an absolute closing down of the vote we had worked on). Just, let's solve this problem quickly and move on to actually extending the project further! Ronline 05:56, 17 May 2004 (EDT)
Wikitravel currently has over 1700 articles, there seems to be disagreement over, what, 5 or 6 names? I think our system has worked so far, and I think it would have worked for Bombay/Mumbai if the discussion hadn't got so emotional so fast (I still think it will work-- I was pretty convinced by the Google stats that Mumbai is the way to go...). Voting may work for politics-- people making choices about their own lives, etc, but would you want everyone in your town to vote on how surgery is carried out at your local hospital? Or even how to make a sandwich at a cafe? We're creating a product for users-- both contributors and reader-- and we should find the _best_ compromise to our conflicts, not just the most popular.
What I’d really like is for this to get settled, so we can all go back to working on making a great travel guide—-there’s a lot of other stuff to focus on and this has been a pretty negative experience. I’m going to go spend some time looking at all the great collaborative guides we have produced so far… We're doing great work, and I think this is just one of the growning pains that is going to happen with this many enthusiastic folks. Majnoona 12:37, 15 May 2004 (EDT)

What do you think?[edit]

I'd really like to know what everyone thinks about this unfair and stupid "Null and void" decision. I mean, we were this close to coming to a decision that everyone was happy with, and now it's been taken down . Makes you think what low point Wikitravel has reached. I think the Wikitravel community is excellent and all of you have done a great job not only on this page but also with this guide. Some people however, want to take that from us. I think, if this attitude from the Evan and Maj continues, Wikitravel will not work. Seriously, until now I saw Wikitravel as a much closer, more open-minded place to contribute than the Wikimedia projects. The contributors here are still great, but Evan especially has made this a hard place to contribute in. I mean, so many of us want to change to official names but due to him we're getting nowhere. What's the use of us contributing then? I used to think badly of Nils when he said he would refuse to contribute to Wikitravel any longer due to an issue he faced with copyright sometime ago. However, my opinion has seemed to change. I think we are facing more and more of these problems. The only way to form a happy, contributing Wikitravel community is by respecting public opinion. Ronline 03:04, 14 May 2004 (EDT)

My main thought is that the use of the words 'null and void' were probably ill-advised. I really just wanted to point out that we don't have any system for doing votes on Wikitravel, so some thrown-together referendum really wouldn't "count" as some kind of official decision.
I'm sorry that the phrasing made it sound that we don't have votes because Evan doesn't like voting. That's not the case. I think we don't have votes just because it's never come up before. --Evan 14:35, 15 May 2004 (EDT)

Official name referendum[edit]

There has been a lot of discussion recently on whether to use the official English-language name of a city, or whether to use the most common English name of that city. This discussion has mostly centered on Indian cities (Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata or Bombay, Madras and Calcutta). Due to many arguments, it is time to call a referendum on whether people agree with changing articles to official English-language names. You can read the FAQ beneath the votes for more clarification on what will be changed and what will not.

There are two questions in the referendum. To vote in the referendum, please place your username beside your desired answer.

1. Do you believe that Wikitravel should use the official English-language names of cities or places (YES), or the most common variant (NO)?



  • Huttite 07:25, 10 May 2004 (EDT)
  • phma 16:27, 10 May 2004 (EDT)


2. Do you believe Wikitravel should use the official short form "Czechia" rather than the common, officially-long form "Czech Republic"?




What exactly will be changed?[edit]

If a majority of YES votes are recorded, this would mean changing Bombay to Mumbai, Madras to Chennai and so on. It would not mean changing articles to their native language name, for example, Prague would not be changed to Praha, Bucharest would not be changed to Bucureşti and Lisbon would not be changed to Lisboa. If the result turns out to be positive, the Article naming conventions of Wikitravel will also be changed.

Will this affect Wikitravel in a major way?[edit]

No. This is a relatively minor decision regarding simple name changes. This does not however mean that your vote doesn't count, or is unimportant. It is an issue that constantly pops up, so we need to decide it once and for all.

Will the Czech Republic article be moved to Czechia?[edit]

Yes. If the vote for Czechia is approved, all places will use official English-language name. The official short name for Ceska republika in English is Czechia. If the referendum of official naming turns out a YES result, but the majority of people disagree with changing Czech Republic to Czechia, the article will remain at Czech Republic.

  • My dictionary does not have Czechia as a word. The nearest I get is Czech - of the Czech Republic. I would caution against using Czechia as it sounds like Chechnya and could cause confusion. Also what Official publication is the reference point for this "Official" name? - Huttite 07:25, 10 May 2004 (EDT)
    • I thought this issue would come up, and that's OK - I will explain it in detail. Firstly, the fact that Czechia sounds like Chechnya is a comparison I didn't think of, but, upon close thought, it can be argued (but then again, what grounds is that for not implementing a perfectly good name change!?). OK, now to the reasoning. Czech Republic is by quite a significant margin the most common name, and it is correct and official. However, there is one problem with it. Czech Republic is akin to The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, or to the Hellenic Republic. That is, Czech Republic is the long, official name of this country. The short name is Czechia, akin to the United Kingdom or Greece, using the examples above. This is because the Czech government declared Czechia the standard and official short form of the name. Yo u can read about this at Therefore, if the referendum were to pass, we should use Czechia, instead of the Czech Republic, unless we would decide to use long names for everything (like using the United Mexican States, People's Republic of China, Republic of China for Taiwan, etc.). However, I agree that, as of the current moment, Czechia is a fairly pedantic chance - it is, in strict matters, the most correct term, but again, I agree that it would be a bit strange to use it (I have accustomed myself to using it now, instead of the Czech Republic, but it isn't commonly accepted). Therefore, we can exempt this from the future official naming policy, if the majority of people want to do so. That would be fine. I have therefore placed a second question above relating to the Czechia issue. I know it may sound like a minor issue, but I think with this referendum we can finally sort out a problem that has been popping up all over the place for a long time. Ronline 08:08, 10 May 2004 (EDT)
  • Where is this "Czechia" thing coming from!? The CIA World Factbook (current as of Dec 18, 2003) gives "Czech Republic" as both long and short form. This referendum also says nothing about whether the long or short form should be used for naming articles, as I don't think any Czechs think saying "Czech Republic" is wrong -- it's a direct translation of Ceska republika! Jpatokal 06:30, 10 May 2004 (EDT)
    • I explained the reasoning behind Czechia above. CIA World Factbook is actually incorrect on this matter. Even though it is the one resource that I trust most usually, it gives Czech Republic incorrectly, for no apparent reason. You're right, the referendum doesn't talk about short or long, but it does talk about stadardisation, and, as I mentioned above, of course we could use Czech Republic, but then we would have to name all of the other countries to names such as Hellenic Republic, Commonwealth of Australia, etc. to conform to this long-name usage. Like Bombay, I think using Czech Republic is a bit discriminatory - I will ask the Czech Wikipedia about this since they are Czechs, but anyway, it is a bit discriminatory to use the long name of a country for no reason, when the short name is shorter, easier to pronounce, more logical and more standard. Ronline 08:16, 10 May 2004 (EDT)
      • Although in Dutch Tsjechië is used much more often than Tsjechische Republiek, I can't remember having encountered its equivalent in English. On the one hand, it sounds a bit weird and unfamiliar, but on the other hand, consistency is important. Right now, I haven't formed an opinion about it.
        • A number of countries have been refered to by the long form of their country's name for clarity. For example the Republic of Ireland is used for the country instead of Ireland because the latter can refer to the island of Ireland, including Northern Ireland. Similarly the United States of America is used because any lesser name is potentially confusing. I see using the long form of a country's name as acceptable when clarity is required. I consider the Czech Republic and Czechia to be in the same boat. While using Czechia is politically correct, the Czech Republic is clearer as the latter name is more widely known. Once Czechia is the popular name then is can be used as the article title. Meanwhile, a statement that Czechia is the official short English name should appear in the first paragraph of Czech Republic - (It wasn't stated there when I last looked - and that is the first place I would expect to find important information like this.) -- Huttite 08:27, 12 May 2004 (EDT)
          • Actually, there is quite a significant different between the examples you gave above and the Czechia issue. Names such the Republic of Ireland, the Republic of South Africa, the (former Yugoslav) Republic of Macedonia and the Republic of Moldova, USA, etc. are also used for disambiguative purposes - that is, so we do not cause confusion. For example, Moldova is also the name of a region in Romania, Macedonia is a region in Greece, Ireland can refer to the whole island and South Africa is also a geographical term for all of southern Africa. Czechia, on the other hand, is not less clear than Czech Republic, because there is no confusion over this term. Czech Republic is not used for disambiguation purposes, but rather arose for unknown reasons (in 1993, the Czechs already declared Czechia as the short name, but it didn't catch on). Also, you talked about politically-correct names. Well, Republic of Ireland, Republic of South Africa, etc are all more politically-correct than Ireland, South Africa, just like Czechia is more politically-correct than the Czech Republic. And, I think we shouldn't use Republic of Ireland and Republic of Moldova anyway because we are a travel guide after all, and while we need to be specific, we need to use general names for countries, not necessarily long political ones. When people type in South Africa, they are most likely to want to know information about RSA rather than, say, Lesotho. When people type in Ireland, they are less likely to look for information about Northern Ireland and so on. Anyway, even though this seems to contradict my whole point on Czechia (since I'm saying that we should use common name over official ones), it really doesn't. I'm in favour of using common, one-word names that are still politically-correct (like Mumbai) and, in the case of Czechia, that are a lot more practical and more logical. And, if we don't start the trend, who will? Ronline 08:55, 12 May 2004 (EDT)
  • Government of the CR has decided to officially stop using the one-word name Czechia as foreigners frequently confused it with Chechnya, which strongly harms Czech business abroad. Please avoid using Czechia; use the Czech Republic, the C.R. or the CR (like the United States, the U.S., the US). See also Czechinvest (a government business agency), Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the CR. -- August 15, 2004

If the YES vote is successful, will that mean that there will be no article named Bombay?[edit]

Yes and no. While there will be no actual article with the name of Bombay, users will still be able to access the article on Mumbai by typing in, or searching for, Bombay. This is due to the fact that Bombay, and all links to it, will redirect to Mumbai.

Does this referendum affect the Romanian and French Wikitravels?[edit]

No. The Romanian Wikitravel will not be holding a referendum on this issue because it already uses official names like Mumbai, etc. The French Wikitravel does not use official names, and can hold a referendum if it desires. Just because the English Wikitravel is using a certain policy does not mean the others have to follow. However, if a YES result is reached, then it would be beneficial if the French Wikitravel would also use official names, since then all of the Wikitravels would use the same naming scheme.

I only half-approve of the changes. What should I do?[edit]

Some people, for example, would like to see Bombay changed to Mumbai, but not the Czech Republic changed to Czechia, or Calcutta changed to Kolkata. That is perfectly fine, you can choose the best answer (YES or NO) and then explain it on this page.

Remember, this referendum is not a strict one - it would be great if people could give their opinion on this issue, give feedback on what and what not to change, etc.

I disagree with the idea that simply holding a referendum on this issue will resolve it. These sorts of guidelines should be reached or agreed upon by consensus, not a simple majority - (though I would accept >80% support as indicating a consensus). Using the official name, especially if it is not well known and there is a well known or historically accepted alternative name will confuse people. Also what Official publication is the reference point for the "Official" names that will be used? Currently the reference is a Google Search on the alternative names. The most used name, of the alternatives, then becomes the article name. Under the current scheme, once the official name becomes the most popular it can be accepted as the article name. This way a little known official name does not get used without careful thought and good reasons. There may be situations where there are good reasons not to use the official name - such as a native land dispute make the official name offensive. I think locking the policy down to the official name is undesirable. Where alternative names exist, the article title should be justified in some reasoned way. The official name and popular usage are factors in that justification process. Article name changes should be proven as valid and widely accepted with a well argued case. -- Huttite 07:25, 10 May 2004 (EDT)

I should've cleared these things up before the referendum, but anyway... this referendum is not binding in the sense that even if a simple majority says YES, changes will not necessarily take place absolutely. The referendum is here to validate the usage of official names by public concensus, so that it can be faired. This is because technically, we should be using official names because they are the most correct. No matter what Wikitravellers think, these names are the most correct. Now, this of course, sounds fairly aggressive, that's why we're holding a referendum. Again, "official" in this sense refers not to some obscure naming, but to the correct, fair name that countries set themselves, not some biased or old name that some English speakers use. It is by no means binding in the sense that we work by the rule of specificity. Eve after applying this rule, exceptions can be made to specific articles by reasoning and discussion. That is OK. But we still need a referendum to gauge Wikitravellers' response to this deeply dividing and controversial topic. Ronline 08:16, 10 May 2004 (EDT)
I think this referendum has been set up in a rather hasty manner. Thought has been given to the what, but not the how. Yes, Ronline, a number of things should have been cleared up beforehand. Things such as you indicate: is this referendum binding or indicative. But also, how long will the voting last -- two days? ten days? a month? unlimited? Shouldn't we first set out and reach a general agreement about these "practicalities" before hurrying into voting? Even though I am in favour of using the so-called official names, I will restrain from voting at this moment. I will try to come up with some ideas to start a framework for referenda, if that is what we want. Policies are too important to change without proper thought and organization. Akubra 16:21, 10 May 2004 (EDT)
well, though I incouraged everybody to plunge forward into a referendum, I have to say that I am in favor in general of being a bit less pedantic and more flexible about the individual cases. Otherwise I don't care much about place names, so long as we have redirects.
I suppose that in part my opinion is probably to do with the fact that I grew up with a common law system where caselaw is the law, as opposed to a system like that in the country where I live now, which goes by the letter of the law.
I'm trying to adjust, but I do find the later approache a bit pedantic. Also I find the unwillingness to let the name of each place have it's own rules a bit trying. Let's just try to concentrate on doing the right thing for a given city, page, user, whatever, not on how well we can follow some written guidlines that any one of us could change any time we like, OK?
Meanwhile let's not put Ronline down for trying to do something to resolve the impass. His effort seem to me to be totally in good faith. -- Mark 16:30, 10 May 2004 (EDT)
I never wanted to give the impression to put Ronline down. If I did, I apologize. I do think Ronline is trying to resolve something here, which I commend. I only wanted to make clear that we should be careful about the way we're doing it, otherwise we might create other problems. Akubra 16:50, 10 May 2004 (EDT)
It's my turn to apologise. I think that may have been a bit strongly worded as well... I think I was actually more worried that my little rant would come off as a put-down. I don't think there's anything wrong with anything you've written. -- Mark 01:39, 11 May 2004 (EDT)
Hi! No worries, I haven't felt as if anyone was putting me down - in fact, these sorts of discussions are what we want here at Wikitravel so we can actually resolve the matter in the most comprehensive way possible (not in a one-sided approach that then needs to be changed later!). Anyway, Akubra, you said you will refrain from voting. It's OK, but this refendum is indicative anyway, and it is a good decision to vote because then we can see general opinions. In fact, we should probably call this a poll' rather than a referendum - it is here to see what each user thinks, to get input from people, etc. Then, armed with the feedback and the results, we can make a good decision of changing the name.
As I mentioned once before, things will be monitored on a case-by-case basis. I mean, we can have exceptions anytime, so that's not a problem. As a final note, don't feel that by voting YES in this referendum, and the result turns out to be YES, we will now have a no-exceptions approach to naming, and everything will become ultra-restrictive. Therefore, as long as you're in agreement to "official" names, I think you can go ahead and vote... but you don't have to if you don't want. I think it's great just that people are contributing to the discussion! Ronline 03:21, 11 May 2004 (EDT)
I have been thinking it over and taking into account the latest comments of Ronline I have decided to vote. I will also try to work towards a guideline concerning referenda. Akubra 15:25, 11 May 2004 (EDT)
I hope to make a first guideline proposal/draft this coming weekend. Akubra 16:05, 11 May 2004 (EDT)


Some English names differ from the local names only in diacritics, because people in English-speaking countries can't type them or don't know how. I think these should be at the local spelling, since we have UTF-8, and the others should be redirects. For instance, Sao Paulo should redirect to São Paulo, and Gyor, Györ, and Gyõr (the result of using the wrong ISO-8859 encoding) should all redirect to Győr. -phma 16:27, 10 May 2004 (EDT)

This is a very important issue which I didn't think about now but crossed my mind many times before. I think, first of all, we need to understand that there is a difference between official names and official English-language names. A good example of this is Bucharest. In Romanian, the city is called Bucureşti. In English, the official name (the one used by the Romanian authorities) is Bucharest. Therefore, the article should go at Bucharest, not Bucureşti. In this sense, what we mean by official names still remains English, since it would be pointless to rename these cities to their native language official name (Moskva, Roma, Lisboa, Bucureşti, Beograd, etc.) Of course, implement redirects from these, but don't actually put the main article there.
However, there remains the grey area that you brought up - and that is relating to places that do not yet have a fixed English-language official name. For example, Sao Paulo or Győr. Placing the article at Gyor would be incorrect, because Gyor is not the official English language name. Therefore, it seems that the article should be placed at Győr, with a redirect from all those names you placed above, because, this city cannot be "translated" in English and therefore its official English language is still Győr, even though it contains a non-English letter (just how München is the official name of that city in Romanian, even though ü is a non-Romanian character).
Reading your comment again, you said that some cities only differ in the use of diacritical. Then, we would place the main article at the correct local name, as stated above, with redirects from names such as "Sao Paulo" that are easy to type. I think that would be a great way. However, it isn't directly related to the referendum (don't get that wrong - thanks for bringing the topic up because it's an important one!), so therefore, if the referendum result is YES, or NO, it wouldn't affect these articles. I think, however, the rule is, as above, that , for cities which use diacriticals and have no English official name, we should keep the article at the diacritical local name, with redirects from different ways that users could type the city.
That also begs the question - what do we do with cities that have obsolete English naming. This is because in the last few decades we have seen a reversal in history - names of cities were gradually Anglicised throughout history, but now we are actually seeing a greater usage of their local names. For example, the city of Iaşi in Romania was known historically, in English, as Jassy, but that usage has now disappeared nearly and been replaced by the native Romanian name. I think with these, we should use the most popular, current, official name as the base article, and redirect from the old name (for example, have a redirect from Jassy to Iaşi). Ronline 03:21, 11 May 2004 (EDT)
I feel like I am opposing everything Ronline is supporting, this is not intended to be personal, it just happens I appear to have an opposing viewpoint. I disagree with phma's proposal for the following reasons:
  1. English has 26 letters in its alphabet.
  2. Most English spelling is relatively phonetic, (or was when the word was first written down).
  3. Most English keyboards are not equipped with an alternative language character set, let alone the correct alternative language character set for the language concerned.
  4. Most search engines do not sort alternative language characters alongside the equivalent English language character according to phonetic sound, instead the sort is based on character code.
  5. Most English speakers do not know how to pronounce foreign character symbols. They do know how to pronounce an anglicised spelling - which may be better than mangling the local or official spelling in the foreign language.
Thus for those reasons, I maintain that English language article titles should be anglicised to use the 26 letters of the English alphabet and not use alternative language characters. However the alternative language specific spelling(s) should be given at the first opportunity in the article. Also the alternative spelling(s) should be redirects to the primary English language article. We are writing in English, after all. Yes I understand that many foreign names have been corrupted through anglicisation but most foreign place names are in foreign languages, not English, so anglicisation is necessary, if only to indicate pronounciation. That, after all is the purpose of a written language. -- Huttite 08:27, 12 May 2004 (EDT)
In theory, you're right. But, in practice, as I said in my statement above, there are many places which do not yet have English names. How are we then to anglicise them if they haven't been anglicised before? That would mean that we would basically have to introduce our own rules of standardisation, which would spell trouble. Also, it is fairly hard (it seems easy but it isn't) to anglicise foreign words into English. Just to give a few examples - how would you anglicise the following words: Luleå, Caransebeş, Győr, Jõgeva, Järva, Hafnarfjörður, Ólafsfjörður. Of course, we could go for the "amateur's approach" and just substitute letters with their closest English variant - therefore we would have Lulea, Caransebes, Gyor, Jogeva, Jarva, Hafnarfjordur, Olafsfjordur. But, to be more correct, we would have to use the real way, since 'õ' is different to 'o' and 'ð' is different to 'd'. Therefore, we would have to put: Luleaa, Caransebesh, Gyoer, ..., ..., Hafnarfjoerthur or -dhur, etc. The reason why those three dots are there for the Estonian places is because there is no standard way of representing 'õ' in English. So, as you can see, there will be many problems. If we just substitute, then we becoming politically-incorrect by using names that are really amateur, and by doing the proper way, things become complicated and may actually be harder to understand than the real name - Luleaa, for example, or Gyoer. No-one would associate with those names - many more would prefer Luleå and etc. I don't want to be imposing my own point of view too strongly, but in the Romanian Wikitravel, we use local names, and we're doing fine - no-one's had problems yet. Why shouldn't we do the same here? Ronline 09:06, 12 May 2004 (EDT)

Huttite's points 1, 3, and (maybe) 4 are not a problem because both native spelling and anglicised spellings will always direct to the article, and in fact most of them already do.
2. I can't think of any Latin-based written language that is less phonetic than English!
5. This line of argument, and its justification based on the "traveler comes first" is, in my opinion, a dumbing down of the travel guide, at best unhelpful, and at worst a hindrance. I don't think it's asking too much of the traveler to know how to read and pronounce "São Paulo". I don't see how pretending that 'ã' is equivalent to 'a' is in any way helpful or makes things easier for the traveler.
They do know how to pronounce an anglicised spelling - which may be better than mangling the local or official spelling in the foreign language.
With the correct local spelling (diacritics), there's a chance that the prepared traveler will prononunce it correctly. And even if not, it will "gracefully degrade" to an anglicised pronunciation. But starting with the anglicised spelling will almost guarantee it's pronounced incorrectly! anglicisation is necessary, if only to indicate pronounciation.
It's anglicisation that mangles pronunciation!
To pick an extreme example, look at Vietnamese. It uses the Latin alphabet but with lots and lots of diacritics, which are absolutely vital in pronunciation, and thus understanding. OK, you could probably get by by saying "nuh-TRANG" instead of "NYAH-chang" for Nha Trang, because the locals would be used to the mangled form, but in most places, I guarantee that reading a written Vietnamese word using English pronunciation will get blank stares.
And at the very least, asking a Swede for directions to "MAL-muh" instead of "MAL-moe" (Malmö) will probably elicit a friendlier response. -- Paul Richter 09:29, 12 May 2004 (EDT)
I agree with Paul Richter, Ronline and phma -- articles should use the correct diacritics. In addition to all the reasons given above, it's a fallacy to say that English doesn't support them, as it's perfectly valid English to say that there's a raison-d'être for your coöperation... I've never seen a guidebook that didn't include diacritics, why should Wikitravel be an exception? Especially since we can include redirects from the mangled forms. Jpatokal 22:02, 27 May 2004 (EDT)
Can I say "Me Too!" I like diacritics, especially the umlaut as used in English and French, even if the New Yorker is the only publication I've seen which uses them correctly in English (to signify a second fully pronounced vowel sound as in coöperation). -- Mark 03:36, 28 May 2004 (EDT)
Actually that's a diaeresis - the umlaut (which looks identical) indicates a different vowel sound, usually with the tongue fronted (though not Russian ë) and often as a result of a phonological rule. -phma 05:43, 28 May 2004 (EDT)
I disagree with this proposal, and agree with Huttite's remarks. The article name should be in English (or best approximation), but the correct-with-diacritics name should be used in the article. It's going to be hard for us English users to link to a place if the link itself requires more than our standard keyboards. (Yeah, I could link to the redirect page, but that's not right) -- Colin 03:47, 28 May 2004 (EDT)
You can cut and paste. -phma 05:43, 28 May 2004 (EDT)
Cut and paste only works if you have something to cut from. I have noticed that the same diaresis character can be represented in different ways, for different languages, and with different character codes sometimes. Use the wrong character code and it becomes a different word, in a different place in the computer alphabet, even though the word looks the same! This means someone else cannot find unless they search for the exact same character code. -- Huttite 07:49, 28 May 2004 (EDT)
P.S. I have never seen coöperation used. I have always seen it spelt like co-operation. And coöp as co-op as in co-operative company. This may be a New Zealand English usage of course as ö indicates a long vowel in Maori words, for those whose computer keyboards don't have macrons yet. But when the same Maori words are used in (New Zealand) English they do not have any diacritics. To me, using diacritic means the word is not English. -- Huttite 07:49, 28 May 2004 (EDT)
I spell it coöperation. My keyboard is standard American English, but I use dead-keys to get the diacritics. It isn't particularly hard. Anyhow, as previously mentioned the 'New Yorker' uses the "ö", as does
PS. Not that I actually much care, just being argumentative. ;) -- Mark 08:15, 28 May 2004 (EDT)
Interesting, I wonder how long it will take the rest of the world to catch up with these trend setters? Or have they turned down a blind alley and will be knocked down and walked over by the great unwashed computer user because the Standard Keyboard does not have an ö marked on a key? It will not be the first time that technology has locked in certain ways of doing things. Printing gave us standardised (or is it standardized?) spellings, Webster's Dictionary gave us American Spelling, telephone keys gave us word numbers and text messaging. Will the standard keyboard stop the use of diacritics in English because it only has 26 printed letters and you cannot buy one with an ö key in a standard place? -- Huttite 05:13, 29 May 2004 (EDT)

Huttite, the use of a diaeresis for separately pronounced vowels in English is borrowed from French, it used to be common practice in the 1800s but has pretty much died out except in some old-school circles. But this is getting pretty far off topic...

So. I think that diacritics available in ISO 8559-1 (aka ISO Latin-1, the default encoding of Wiki pages) should be used: they're pretty much guaranteed to show up correctly, even a completely monolingual author can conjure them up through Windows' Character Map (variants of which are included on Macs and Linux too), and we have redirects for diacriticless searches. At best diacritics will help users pronounce names right, at worst they do no harm. Using the actual name also neatly solves the problem of filing cases like Zürich (Zurich/Zuerich?), München (Munchen/Muenchen?), Malmö (Malmo/Malmoe?), etc.

And note that this means that Tokyo will continue to be under Tokyo (not Tōkyō) and so will Ho Chi Minh City (not Hồ Chí Minh City), because macrons and VISCII aren't Latin-1. Jpatokal 09:52, 29 May 2004 (EDT)

Huttite, your issue is the lack of extended Latin characters on an English keyboard. Then let me ask you this: How often do you have to type Latin characters when reading (not writing) Wikitravel? For that matter, how often do you have to use the keyboard at all? -- Paul Richter 10:35, 29 May 2004 (EDT)

I've written a summary and my opinions on the issue at Wikitravel talk:Foreign-language names and would like to continue the discussion there. -- Paul Richter 15:46, 29 May 2004 (EDT)

So, my two cents: we need to use the most common English name for a place, regardless of whether or not it has non-English characters. I don't think we should reject common names for places just because they have accented characters. I think we need to remove this requirement. --Evan 15:57, 29 May 2004 (EDT)

Summary of most common English name problem[edit]

So, we have some problems with the choice of the use of the most common English name for article names. Here's how I see it: we've got some pretty straightforward goals, and some straightforward policies and guidelines to try to achieve those goals. The article naming conventions are one such guideline.

In general, this guideline has worked out splendidly. We haven't really had much of a problem with the majority of articles that follow these guidelines. We all seem pretty happy calling Germany Germany.

But in some cases, we've had problems. If I can characterize them, they're mostly places whose names have been changed by the local government, but which haven't been picked up very quickly by the international English-language press. They are:

The problem we're running into is that our most common English name rule is coming up with the older name (since it's the one more often used), whereas a lot of intelligent Wikitravellers find the new names more palatable. If I can maybe characterize the arguments for new names, it's that:

  • The local government has the right to decide what name is correct. We should use correct names, even if they're not (yet) popular.
  • Using old names makes Wikitravel stick out and look backward.
  • Using old names makes it look like we prefer more colonial names to names chosen by locals.

(I'd like to hear more, btw.)

In the case of Myanmar, a lot of research seems to have turned up that that name has become more common, and the article was changed. In the case of Mumbai, it's not clear that that's the case. An additional problem is that we don't really have a clearcut metric for what the most official English name is. Google results, news searches, and other factors have come up, but we're still not quite sure what's definitive.

So, we're kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place. We've got some rules that work well for the vast majority of our articles, but that come up with distasteful results for a small minority of guides. I think we have a few options:

  1. The people who find the old names distasteful learn to hold their nose and live with them. It is, after all, part of doing a collaborative work: not 100% of everything is going to be exactly like we like it.
  2. We change the most common English name rule to something else, like official name or official name minus wordy claptrap. We need to make sure that this preserves most of the uncontroversial article titles we have now, and that it serves our goals of making a good guide for travellers.
  3. We make an exception to the rule for the Indian cities. I find this disconcerting, and probably sets a bad precedent.
  4. We change our goals so that they fit our rules, which in turn make the names how we like them. This one bothers me a lot.

I hope folks see that this is a pretty important point. I, personally, really respect a lot of the people who find Bombay just wrong, and I want to make things right for them. But I also want to make sure that we do the right thing for the project. So, what do we do? --Evan 01:12, 18 May 2004 (EDT)

This is a controversial issue. First of all, I think we should center our discussion on this page - all the arguments are now all over the place, at Talk:Bombay, at the other page on why Wikitravel uses official names, etc. I think Evan sort of summed up the problems very well above. When referring to official names, we should never use the long official name. But, as Evan said in another page, there are sometimes no official names at all - so then, what do we use? Well, I think setting rules or guidelines for Wikitravel, even the article naming convetion itself, is a bit narrow. Even though it seems to actuall be better to set guidelines, in reality, as we can see now, it's turning out to be worse. In my opinion, we should assess things on a case-by-case basis. Making an Indian-city exception would be OK. Remember that Wikitravel is there for the travellers and it doesn't really matter if we don't match our own conventions (honestly, I would sort of like to see some of the Article naming conventions gone - they cause too much controversy!) Secondly, it is arguable whether Myanmar is more popular than Mumbai. I think Mumbai is just as used as Myanmar. Anyway, I think not doing anything will not solve anything. Personally, I can live with the article being at Bombay, even though it would be bad for it and bad for Wikitravel with the article being there. But, anyway, this issue is bound to pop up many times. The problem is that we are turning something oh-so-simple into something artificially controversial. The issue is that we should use Mumbai hands-down. It would be enough for us to use it just because it is the official name and appears on the City of Mumbai web page (someone gave a link to this somewhere). We are even more convinced to use it when it is used by other travel guides, and even more so when we see that it is in some cases more popular than Mumbai. That's how the whole referendum thing started - it was too sort of say: "Look, Mumbai is a better alternative to Bombay due to the reasons above, now the poll/referendum will see whether it's more popular." And it actually turned out to be more popular anyway. Therefore, I think the decision is simple and I think all of these different arguments will amount to nothing. Just as we changed Myanmar without much controversy, we should change Mumbai. It shouldn't be something so major - for two reasons: one, there are so many reasons why we should change it, and two, with all due respect to Mumbai and Indians, I don't think Mumbai is such an important tourist destination that it would dramatically change the face of Wikitravel if we changed it. I think the majority of visitors wouldn't even notice it probably (although this begs the question: "If they don't care about/notice it, then why change it anyway to Mumbai?" - well the answer for that is that it is a better name for the reasons explained above). But, anyway, this is probably my last attempt at this issue. It has gone way past where it should've gone, it's basically taken up so much of our time and it's sort of brought Wikitravel to a standstill. Therefore, I'd like to see the article at Mumbai, and I've just said why, but, from now on, it's back to contributing ;-) Ronline 03:49, 18 May 2004 (EDT)
My prime objection to renaming the Bombay article as Mumbai was that the first word on the first line was Bombay and always refered to the place as if it was called Bombay, not Mumbai. The article was therefore not consistent with its title. Had the article been rewritten to use Mumbai wherever Bombay was used, I could live with it. Simply moving the page did not fix the problem. The article needs to be rewritten to maintain internal consistency with its title if it gets moved to Mumbai. In other words - it should read right, not just be politically correct. By all means call the article Mumbai, but make sure you also write the article about Mumbai, not a place called Bombay that is also known as Mumbai.
BTW: Changing Burma to Myanmar was controversial but somebody cared enough about the place being called by its official name to rewrite the article appropriately and change all the links, not just change its title to be politically correct. In other words they did it right and were internally consistent, rather than argue about its political correctness.
Provided you can prove that the name you give to a place is its currently accepted English language name, I am not too concerned about the naming of an article. If there is a choice of names, you should be able to show why your chosen name is the best choice. Merely claiming it is the official name is not enough - demonstrate it is the best name to use for travel purposes and then write the article for the chosen name, not some other name. -- Huttite 05:49, 29 May 2004 (EDT)

Revive discussion on using old, discontinued names vs new official names[edit]

I personally feel that using old discontinued names rather than the new official one makes articles appear out of date. Likewise, deciding which name is the most popular one in English is subjective. Of course, if we google the name, the older one will show more articles because there have been more years over which to accumulate them, but that doesn't mean that the newer name is not presently the one favored in the English speaking world, especially by people who will be visiting the places to conduct business. Personally, I think that it would be easier if official names were used in the main article with a redirect link from the page with the old name. In this way, those who still use the discontinued name can find the article and, in addition, it would save the trouble of having to continuously reasses which name is the more popular in English - just a suggestion.

There has been a lot of discussion of this issue, especially for the handful of places with disputed name changes like Myanmar and Kolkata. Our policy right now is to stay exactly "in date", using the most common name in current use. There's an article that describes why Wikitravel doesn't use official names, which is probably of interest to you.
Determining current use is usually pretty easy, but there are sometimes tough calls. Google hits is only one of the ways we make the decision. Another way has been news hits, dictionaries, other travel guides, local signs and airport codes, and several other options. --Evan 10:57, 2 Dec 2005 (EST)
Thanks Evan. The info on why Wikitravel doesn't use official names was informative. Still, however, I believe that because Wikitravel has the advantage of using a redirect it would be preferable to use the official name. As I stated earlier, this would eliminate the need for constant reassesment of the name's useage in English and would conform with the name that visitors will see when traveling in the country/city in question. Furthermore, this would make it easier to standardize the titles used. Lacking the redirect option, conventional book guides may need to keep the old name as potential buyers may not be aware of the new name. Wikitravel does not have this problem. Anyway, just throwing out thoughts here. I'm happy to conform with the current policy.
I agree with the anon writer's argument (above) that Wikitravel should use official names. As the writer stated, Wikitravel has the advantage of redirect that printed guides do not have. Furthermore, I don't believe that the 'traveler comes first' argument holds here. If I were a traveler and first time user logging on to an article titled 'Calcutta,' (a name that was officially changed to Kolkata five years ago), I would have strong doubts about whether the article was up-to-date and therefore reservations about relying on it. Very few people will trawl through Wikitravels inner archives to search for the explanation on why Wikitravel doesn't use official names. Furthermore, another reason for using the official title is that it is very difficult to continuously access which name is the most commonly used. Of course, Google will show more hits for the old name because it has been on the web longer, but that doesn't mean that it is the most common at the present time. Using airport codes doesn't hold as they do not generally change to reflect a new name. For example, Guangzhou's airport code is still CAN in reference to its fomer English name, Canton. Flight destinations at airports might, though, be a better indication. Local signs usually change as quickly as money is available to purchase new sign boards. My recommendation is therefore to use the official title on the main page of the article with a referrence to the previous name in the introduction, coupled, of course, with a redirect link. Anyway, these are just my very humble opinions. I'm more than happy to follow the majority ruling. WindHorse 17 Feb 06
Majority rule is the very reason we use the most common English name. The majority of our contributors and readers will expect to use the most common name for a place, by definition, so we try to accommodate them. We try not to be obscurantist just to show how hip and in-the-know we are.
Blindly using the official name for every destination, regardless of current usage in English, seems unreasonable. The official name for Germany is Bundesrepublik Deutschland. The official name for Bangkok is Krung Thep Mahanakhon. They're practically meaningless for any English speaker. Why on earth would we use them in our travel guide? What purpose is served?
I think the most common English name rule is so remarkably natural and reasonable that most people don't even think about it. We call Japan Japan and China China and Norway Norway and we don't even think, "do those places have other names?" We don't blink at Taiwan or Saint Petersburg or Belarus or Nunavut. But when we hit these edge cases -- a handful of Indian cities and a Southeast Asian country that teeter somewhere around a 40/60 split on name popularity -- people are so vehement about using one name or another that they want to throw out the baby with the bathwater.
It may be worth noting that of the difficult cases I can think of (Madras/Chennai, Cochin/Kochi, Bombay/Mumbai, Calcutta/Kolkata, New Delhi/Nai Dili, and Burma/Myanmar), some are at the older name and others at the newer name. I expect that some of those names will change over the next few years, and some just won't. All of the names above are disputed (Bombay/Mumbai has changed officially 3 times in the last 10 years, as far as I know), which is why their penetration into common English usage has been slow. By choosing to side with the current ruling government in whichever city or country on the naming issue, we are not being neutral. We must be fair, and fairness means following the current usage, not trying to force the "newest" or "most official" one.
As for figuring out the most common name: we don't use Google hits as our only metric. We also check gazetteers, geographical thesauruses, and news searches (for current usage), usage in other travel guides, as well as firsthand reports about use of different names at the location, in airports, on street signs, etc. And of course the "official" name that travellers will use to deal with train conductors and customs officials is a factor too. You can look at Talk:Chennai, Talk:Myanmar and Talk:Burma, and Talk:Bombay for some examples. Eventually, it is a discussion that happens on Wikitravel, not in the city council chambers of Madras.
I think the best way we can impress someone with a Wikitravel article is with the quality of the writing, with the depth and currency of the information, and with the utility of its maps and directions. --Evan 12:02, 17 Feb 2006 (EST)