The Linguist

The Linguist 57,4 - August/September 2018

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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@Linguist_CIOL AUgUST/SEPTEMBEr The Linguist 29 OPINION & COMMENT As Swaziland becomes eSwatini, we consider why nations rebrand themselves In April, Swaziland officially became eSwatini to mark 50 years of independence from British rule. The change has moved the country's name away from the old Colonial style, which gave the impression that areas were either unpopulated or ungoverned at the time of colonisation. According to King Mswati III, people confuse 'Swaziland' with 'Switzerland', and the new name simply means 'land of the Swazis' in Swati, the local language. The initial lowercase 'e' is something of a novelty for those unfamiliar with the language, and could be confused with electronic abbreviations. Changing a nation's name on independence has been commonplace since decolonisation began, largely after the Second world war. The gold Coast became ghana in 1957 (incorporating Togoland) and French Somaliland became Djibouti, although Ivory Coast kept its westernised name. Some have changed their name more than once, with Zaire reverting to the Democratic republic of Congo in 1997. Such changes are not unique to Africa. Also in April, the Czech republic (formerly Czechoslovakia) adopted the name Czechia on the grounds that one word was better than two. Unfortunately, this came as a surprise even to a lot of local people, who were happy with a name that was coined in 1992 when Slovakia (a term first recorded in 1586) split following the Velvet revolution. They were not convinced by the argument that a shorter name was more commercially viable (not least because gB and UK have always worked). oddly enough, the London Diplomatic List still has both 'Swaziland' and 'Czech republic', while 'Myanmar' is followed by 'Burma' in brackets. A country, of course, is entitled to change its name, but this needs to be lodged with the United Nations. In the UK, such matters have to pass through the Permanent Committee on geographical Names (PCgN), which has existed since 1919, following the break-up of the old empires. The spelling and correct form of usage must be accepted by the national authorities, in accordance with what are termed 'national toponymic policies'. The PCgN, in turn, has to liaise with the UN What's in a name? group of Experts on geographical Names, which meets every two years, with the aim of achieving international standardisation. Things get more complicated with Antarctica, for which there are special committees to decide on names for geographical features. The region is terra nullius in international law, though it is largely covered by the Antarctic Treaty of 1959. In the UK, there is an Antarctic Place-names Committee, which can approve names up to 12 miles offshore. over 37,000 names have been contributed by 24 states, with the US, Britain and russia predictably heading the list. Names can also indicate ownership, which can cause friction, as with the Senkaku Islands, claimed by China, which Japan calls the Diaoyu Islands; and the Falklands/Malvinas off the coast of Argentina. So names can certainly be significant. TIM CONNELL Professor Tim Connell HonFCIL is a CIOL Vice-President TL A LAND BY ANY OTHER NAME Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary in eSwatini/Swaziland © SHUTTErSToCK

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