July 20, 2011

Foreign words for foreign places

It's interesting that languages often have their own names for foreign places. They can be well-known substitutes for the native original--English "Germany" and French "Allemagne" mean "Deutschland." They can be obscure--English "Leghorn" for Italian "Livorno." The pairs can be quite similar--"Belgium" for "Belgique"; French "Londre" and Spanish "Londres" for "London"; or far off from each other--the old "Pressburg" in English and German for the local "Bratislava." I'd like to compile a list of these; any suggestions?

My favorite came to my attention during the 2006 World Cup--the Ivory Coast, officially Côte d'Ivoire, was called on German television Elfenbeinküste. The players were referred to in sports advertising as "Elefanten," the elephants. This is a knowing pun. "Elfenbein" for ivory is shortened from "Elefantbein," elephant bone, according to the classic dictionary written by the brothers Grimm.

If Germans might call the people "Elefanten," Americans are supposed to say "Ivoirian"; how you pronounce that is anyone's guess!

1 comment:

  1. Germany is Dok-il in Korean;

    Korea = Hanguk (or Dae hanminguk) in Korean, Core'e in French, Ha'nguou' in Chinese.