Thursday, December 04, 2008

A great city, whatever you call it

Bombay or Mumbai?

I've been wondering that quite a bit lately as we've been talking about the horrible terrorist attacks in that great city. News writers call it Mumbai, but many of the local papers call the city Bombay. They're really variations on the same word- it was originally called Mumbai by some residents and Bombai by others. The Portuguese called it Bombaim and the city was later named Bombay by the British. It was later changed to the Marathi pronounciation Mumbai in 1996. What you'll notice if you watch the interviews on the news is that most people in the city still call it Bombay.

And, according to one of the professors in our department, who was born and grew up in the city, it should be called Bombay. She argues that this is what all the locals call it and the name is more evocative of its status as, in her words, ''a city that belongs to the world''. And of course it is. It still is; a handful of psychos with machine guns can't change that.

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