Mumbai, Bombay, and Imperialism

Christopher Hitchens has started a campaign to call Mumbai Bombay again,  generating responses from Ezra Klein , Tim Fernholz, Isaac Chotiner, DJW and others.  The debate surrounds the history of colonialism and religious intolerance prompting Jim Henley to note, via a Google Reader comment, “Fellow doesn’t get that the imperialism part is where he assume it’s his business one way or the other.”

There is that.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Dave Schuler says:

    I’ll happily follow whatever the OTB writing standards are on the subject.

  2. James Joyner says:

    I’ve been calling it Mumbai the last week or so but had previously called it Bombay mostly on the grounds that I think it’s silly to keep changing the names of well-established places.

  3. DC Loser says:

    Who’s to decide? Shall we revert St. Petersburg back to Leningrad? That was perfectly fine name for many years, as I recall.

  4. Dave Schuler says:

    The argument is a little different, DCL. When the city was built it was called “Saint Petersburg” and it remained that way for a couple of hundred years. The Bolsheviks changed it to Leningrad. After the USSR collapsed the Russians changed it back.

    The city in India had never been called “Mumbai” except in the imaginations of a few nationalists. Bombay comes from the Portuguese for a “good port”.

    I see no particular reason for English speakers to try to call foreign places by the names the people who live there use when we’ve got accepted English names for them. Otherwise we’d be saying “Sankt Pehtehrsboorg” (to use the example above), “Paree”, and “Roma”.

  5. xbat says:

    Are any of these guys listed above Indians? If not, then who gives a f*** what they want to call the city? Indians decide what they want to call it. How about Indians starting a campaign to call USA….United States of A**holes?

  6. Dave Schuler says:

    I don’t care what the Indians call their cities and I don’t think any of the commenters who commented above or bloggers cited above do, either. That’s not what’s being discussed. What’s being discussed is what Britons, Americans, Australians, and Canadians call Indian cities.

  7. anjin-san says:

    If the folks in India want to use Mumbai, what is the problem with us respecting that? I don’t think they should have any say in naming our cities, or we in theirs…

  8. hln says:

    Beijing duck anyone?

  9. How about TICFKAS (the Indian City Formerly Known as Bombay)?

  10. Bithead says:

    Barack Obama Way, anyone?

  11. Joe R. says:

    I’ve been calling it Mumbai the last week or so but had previously called it Bombay mostly on the grounds that I think it’s silly to keep changing the names of well-established places.

    That pretty much nails it. Or, looking at it another way, we don’t call other cities by their local names.

    The argument is a little different, DCL. When the city was built it was called “Saint Petersburg” and it remained that way for a couple of hundred years. The Bolsheviks changed it to Leningrad. After the USSR collapsed the Russians changed it back.

    The city in India had never been called “Mumbai” except in the imaginations of a few nationalists. Bombay comes from the Portuguese for a “good port”.

    You’ve actually come across the best solution, which is to use “St. Petersburg” and “Bombay” so that Sympathy For The Devil still makes sense.