What’s the world coming to?

Man, Uncle Bardie must be getting past his prime. Hate to complain but first Rand McNally, you know the Atlas people, they changed an easily identifiable Siam to Thailand and Rhodesia to Zimbabwe. But they didn’t stop there. Suddenly Ceylon was Sri Lanka Dutch Guiana was Suriname. Then Burma became Myamar, Nanking was Nanjing and Peking was Beijing. Pretty soon there will be no more Peking Duck. It will be Beijing Duck. Kind of takes the romance out of the dish, don’t you think? Talk about taking the romance out of a name. Now Ireland’s King’s County is County Offaly. Hope that isn’t pronounced awfully.

And those are the easily pronounceable ones. In the olden days, it was so much easier to lump all those countries into one big Soviet Union than to have to call them by their real names, names like Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and all the other stanleys. Makes me wonder where Oliver Hardy is these days. Some of those stanleys are three miles long. And what about Canton becoming Guangzhou, Sian now Xi’an and just plain Bolivia changing to the Plurinational State of Bolivia. It’s enough to make a map dizzy.

Next thing you know they’ll be changing Bombay to Mumbai. Oh, they did that. Thank God, they didn’t change Constantinople to Istanbul. Wouldn’t that be something.

Used to, we dealt with leaders who had sensible names like Stalin, Gandhi, Churchill, DeGaule, Wilson, Meir, Nehru, Castro, U Thant. We even figured out how to pronounce Adenauer and Pompidou. What a haircut. Oh, that was a pompadour. Kinda like matador, only with hair. Everybody ignored Mussolini cause they knew the man with the more easily pronounceable Hitler was in charge.

And the fellow in Canada, Trudeau, ran things so long we finally got his name down right. It helped that he had a great looking wife. Even Maotse tung was Chairman Mao. Nobody ever said his buddy’s name, you know Chou Enlai. The last sensible name in recent memory was a President of Mexico named Fox. Who can even remember the new guy down there now?

Sometime in the seventies, leaders started cropping up that required a translator to get the name straight. Names like Gaddafi. We ignored Osama bin Loden for a long time just because Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather couldn’t figure out how to pronounce his name. Nobody was sure how his name went. It took 9/11 to get the newscaster to say his name.

Now look what we have to deal with François Hollande, a guy named after a country; Kim Jong-un, just one of a long line of Jongs; that guy in Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki and Israel’s Netanyahu. Now that is some name. At least, the new sheriff in Pakistan Nawaz Sharif isn’t the previous guy, Mir Hazar Khan Khoso. And I do like the name of the new guy from Iran, Hassan Rouhani. Easier to pronounce than the previous guy’s name, Mahmoud Abba-dabba-who. Then there was that Russian president who replaced a perfectly good name like Putin. Well, the new guy’s gone now anyway. Only a prime minister and he’s not really of any consequence anyhow. What’s his name? Oh, yeah. Medvedev, and only God knows the name of those fellows in Georgia and Ukraine. The country, not the state. At least the guy from Japan has a good old fashioned American name, Abe. Isn’t that nice?

I mean, just what is the world coming to?

By the way, have you noticed that every time the anchor of NBC News, Brian Williams, leaves the country there is a disaster like a earthquake or a war? He should be banned from travelling, sealed into an NBC studio in Washington, DC and not let out.

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7 thoughts on “What’s the world coming to?

  1. True story! I used to work in radio news… The AP would always follow each foreign name with a phonetic breakdown. I was a quick study because words are my thing, but I’m sure this was sheer necessity for the Talking Heads of TV. Looking good and having a brain shouldn’t be mutually exclusive.

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