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Wikitravel talk:Why Wikitravel doesn't use official names

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I think the official-names issue is one that could potentially turn into a can of worms but shouldn't. On this page, it says that "there are often difficulties with official names". This is a common misunderstanding that people have about official names. When we mean official names in Wikitravel, we don't actually native-language government-official names. For example, we can see this list below, for the names of Bucharest.

  • English-language common name: Bucharest.
  • English-language official name: Bucharest. Yes, it's still the same. This name is used by the government and by the Romanian media, and even though it's the same as the common name, it is still official (i.e. endorsed by Romania in this case).
  • Native-language official name: Bucureşti. This is what many people think of when we refer to official names, but it shouldn't be the case. This is an English-language guide, we shouldn't use native-language names.
  • Native-language long official name: Municipiul Bucureşti. Meaning the Municipality of Bucharest, this is the full name, as long as it gets. This is the stuff used in laws and forms, etc. This of couse, would be stupid to use in Wikitravel.

I'm not using Mumbai here because it would be strange just to constantly use this example when there are so many others around.

But, as we can see, using correct, official names does not mean we have to use Bangkok's 163 character name, it also doesn't mean we have to use City and County of San Francisco, because the "San Francisco" is still official.

That's simply untrue. "San Francisco" just isn't the official name. There's no official name for Germany except The Federal Republic of Germany. When we use Germany, we're using the common name -- the most common English name.
You also ignore that some places never bother to legislate an official English name. What do we do then? I found it interesting that the Romanian Wikitravel uses official names, since I find it highly doubtful that Las Cruces, New Mexico or Togo have ever legislated official names in the Romanian language.

Now onto more issues. It is said on the "meta page" that:

  • There is not, actually, any single body or organization that sets rules for the English language. True, but when using official names, we have to look at what the government/official media agency in that country uses... therefore what has been self-designated as the official English-language name. The correct name for Burma is Myanmar, because that's what the Myanmar government uses. Yes, Burma is what the USA government uses, but that does not mean that Burma is official. The official name is Burma, just like the official name of Bombay is Mumbai.
  • Then, there was the point on being insulting to locals. Yes, in most cases we are insulting locals when using common names. Tourists are also viewed as arrogant in many places when using "common" English names. It shows no empathy and association with the country being visited. These points aside, just because the majority of speakers use an incorrect naming does not mean we should too. If travellers can't find the article about a place, they won't be able to be respectful in person, anyways. I think this point is rather disinforming. Remember, there are still redirects. If an article is moved to Mumbai, and a traveller typed in Bombay, they will still go to the Mumbai article. Therefore, the whole argument on not finding a place is sort of knocked down. And yes, we should explain naming issues in the article.
  • If a name is disputed, or two different groups use two different names for the same place, which side should we fall on? Which one is "right"? OK, this is where we start getting into really controversial issues. In multilingual countries, what's official? Is Geneve or Genf official? But, the fact is, none of them are for Wikitravel. The official English-language name is Geneva, and we should use that. Although the two different groups use two different names issue is theoretically controversial, in practice it isn't - we use English name, not one of the names of the two different groups. But, there could still be chances where each group designated its own English-language name. Then, on a case-by-case basis, we decide which is the most popular, or we revert to a common name. But, can anyone give an example of such a place because I can't think of any...

Ronline 06:24, 17 May 2004 (EDT)

The names that have been problematic on Wikitravel are ones where there are two sides to the issue. It's been no problem using St. Petersburg, Belorus, Zimbabwe or Nunavut. When new names come around with no dispute, there's usually no problem using the new name, and they enter common usage quickly.
Where we've had problems is when the names are disputed. For Myanmar, the democratic groups there have asked that the name not be used, and English-language media in other countries have largely complied. For Mumbai, the name was chosen for political and religious reasons, and it's been changed back to Bombay once (in 1997), and has largely not been taken up by English-language press in other countries.
When we use these names because the government has changed them, but they haven't been universally accepted, we are taking sides in these disputes. We shouldn't do that based on a misguided notion of wanting to be current, to be respectful, or to be correct. We need to go with the flow, not try to direct it. --Evan 23:50, 17 May 2004 (EDT)