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Wikitravel talk:Naming conventions

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Revision as of 13:10, 12 May 2004 by Ronline (talk | contribs)
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Previous discussions have been moved to Wikitravel_talk:Article naming conventions/Archive.

Official name referendum

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?

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?

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?

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)

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

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?

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?

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)