All these people are missing the essential point: Name-changing increases ignorance. People lose the thread. The libraries are full of books referring to Bombay, not to Mumbai.
Most people in America had heard of Bombay and knew it was in India. Until this terrorist attack, most Americans had never heard of Mumbai and had no idea that it was in India or that it was the large, famous city they had once heard of as Bombay, where all the Bollywood movies are made. One woman told me that she assumed that Mumbai was just some village somewhere that was under terrorist attack, like the mud hut village the bad guys pillage in “Iron Man.” Now, most Americans have heard of Mumbai but still don’t know it used to be Bombay.
That name-changing increases ignorance is the precise attraction of name-changing to SWPL-type folks — it lets them feel superior to all those morons who haven’t heard the news.
Of course, name-changing only applies to the non-European world. Americans will never drop Germany for Deutschland or Greece for Hellas. And rightly so.
Steve, really? Really? You think that a Hindu nationalist party pushed through a contentious name change of a major world city for in order to allow educated white people in America to feel superior to less-educated white people in America? Or that “the essential point” about the name of one of the largest cities in the world is whether Americans know what library book to take out?
American usage has followed European name changes including Belarus, St. Petersburg, and Ukraine (rather than “the Ukraine”). You’re concerned with fighting some intra-American fight that you already know your side in— but that fight is basically irrelevant to the question at hand.
Yeah, I have to disagree with Levy’s take (except above, where he’s spot-on. I mean, for cyin’ out loud, Sailer, not a hell of a lot of Americans know jack about Bombay or “Bollywood” either, so that argument’s just a non-starter).
I’m not tremendously fond of the “Hindu nationalist” movement and have rubbed shoulders, angrily, with a few of its partisans, so I sort of toed the Levy line. But ove time it became clear that “Mumbai” was actually pretty accepted by a lot of the native speakers, for one, and for another thing that that name change sort of got folded in with a package of other name changes (e.g. Chennai for Madras) that made sense to me. Plus I guess long before the “Hindu nationalist” movement ever really came to be — and note you I grew up among people to whom it is repugnant — I was nonetheless a stickler for rejecting certain crappy Britishisms for native argot: “Sri Lanka” not “Ceylon,” and to this day “Him-AHHH-lee-ahs,” not the ignorant-sounding “HIM-a-LAY-ahs.”
So I ended up feeling like, I was being a dink to fight over the how people want to identify themselves in Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengalooru, Chennai, etc (and note the middle two of those I always found to be no-brainers on the nativist side). Shiv Sena be damned, the name change was one of many reflecting a necessary rethinking of how a people dealt with what is, in polyglot India, not a trivial issue.