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Extra letter inserted in foreign place names
Posted: 04 February 2011 05:27 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I would be interested to know why the traditional English spelling of some foreign place names includes an extra letter that is not in the native spelling, e.g. Lyon(s), Marseille(s), (O)porto.  I can see the reason for having an Anglicized version of places whose foreign spelling and pronunciation might be difficult for English speakers, e.g. Vienna (Wien), Cologne (Köln), but merely inserting an extra letter seems pointless.  Any explanations?

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Posted: 04 February 2011 05:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Oporto is rather straightforward. In Portuguese the name is usually coupled with the definite article O, thus o Porto became Oporto in English through metanalysis.

I’ve seen a suggestion on the web that Lyons is so spelled because of English confusion with Lyons-la-Forêt in Normandy. I don’t know about Marseilles.

Often an odd English spelling for a place name can be traced to an old spelling in the foreign language. Thus the English Leghorn for Livorno is based on the obsolete Italian spelling Legorno.

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Posted: 04 February 2011 06:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Cologne (Köln)

In Latin it was Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium (befor it was a colony, it was Oppidum Ubiorum ‘town of the Ubii) and in the local dialect (Kölsch) it is Kölle (older orthography Cölle). The French is Cologne from which the English borrowed the spelling if not the pronunciation. This reminds me of when Turin was host to the 2006 Winter Olympics, they wanted the English spelling changed to Torino (the modern Italian spelling and pronunciation), but the English spelling was closer to how it is pronounced in the local dialect (Piedmontese).

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Posted: 04 February 2011 07:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Your lumping these together as having an “extra letter” is artificial; the fact that these particular forms differ by one letter is coincidental.  “Moscow” has exactly as many letters as “Moskva,” yet is quite different.  The names you cite are simply examples of the general phenomenon that languages tend to have their own forms of foreign place names.  (For some reason, the fact that English does this arouses an irrational indignation in people who do not seem to care that French, Russian, Chinese, and in fact pretty much all languages do it as well.)

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Posted: 04 February 2011 09:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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languagehat - 04 February 2011 07:59 AM

The names you cite are simply examples of the general phenomenon that languages tend to have their own forms of foreign place names.  (For some reason, the fact that English does this arouses an irrational indignation in people who do not seem to care that French, Russian, Chinese, and in fact pretty much all languages do it as well.)

Indeed. I’ll stop writing “Marseilles” and “Lyons” the day the French stop calling London “Londres” and Dover “Douvres”.

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Posted: 04 February 2011 10:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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languagehat - 04 February 2011 07:59 AM

(For some reason, the fact that English does this arouses an irrational indignation in people who do not seem to care that French, Russian, Chinese, and in fact pretty much all languages do it as well.)

In many parts of Europe (and elsewhere, no doubt) almost everywhere has two different versions of the name.

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Posted: 04 February 2011 12:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I came across a really beautiful example of that a while ago in an article about the European legislation on national brand names (like feta can only be feta when it comes from Greece). It mentioned that jenever and genever were now protected names and could only be applied to liquor from Dutch and Flemish distillers with the exception of Pleimuider jenever which came from Britain. It took me a while to figure out that Pleimuiden is a now obsolete name for Plymouth. I also came across Jarmuiden for Yarmouth. BTW: -muiden is cognate with -mouth and is used in many Dutch place names in the same way.

Cologne is Keulen in Dutch. Aachen is Aken. Some other examples: Londen for London, Parijs for Paris, Berlijn for Berlin, Turijn for Turin. I guess all more or less reflecting the pronunciation of the names. Bear in mind that the Dutch –ij- used to be pronounced as English –ee-.

Not entirely on topic, but definitely related. The matter of Dutch spelling of Frisian place names has been a cause for great debate here, and often still is. For generations, only the Dutch spelling was considered official although the Frisians used very different spellings and pronunciations. Nowadays both spellings officially have the same status. Both names are now used on the name signs (some examples here).

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Posted: 04 February 2011 02:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Dutchtoo - 04 February 2011 12:55 PM

...Both names are now used on the name signs (some examples here).

I visited the link.  One of the signs was for “Quatrebras”.  Hmmm, that doesn’t look Dutch or Frisian to me. ;-)

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Posted: 04 February 2011 02:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I’ve always been puzzled by “Copenhagen”.  Given that the second element of København is quite recognisably the same word as English “haven”, you’d surely assume that that “Copenhaven” was the natural and obvious way of Anglicising it. Why the G?

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Posted: 04 February 2011 05:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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bayard - 04 February 2011 10:34 AM

In many parts of Europe (and elsewhere, no doubt) almost everywhere has two different versions of the name.

A curious example of this is Donostia/San Sebastián.  The two versions are respectively the Basque and Spanish names for “Saint Sebastian” (note the -stia in both versions).

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Posted: 05 February 2011 04:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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The English Copenhagen is from the Low German spelling of the name.

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Posted: 05 February 2011 08:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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The Hague (Den Haag) retains the article in English. Without ever looking it up until now I’d assumed The Hook of Holland was from the shape of a promontory but Hoek van Holland means corner.

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Posted: 05 February 2011 09:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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The Hague (Den Haag) retains the article in English.

Well, I was intrigued when I found “we need a virtual Hague” in a text where we would say “een virtueel Den Haag”, so with the definite article.

And Donkeyhotay is right of course. But Quatrebras (four arms) means ‘crossroads’ here. There are three places in the Netherlands called that. A heritage of the French domination of the Low Countries I suppose.

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Posted: 05 February 2011 12:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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bayard - 04 February 2011 10:34 AM

In many parts of Europe (and elsewhere, no doubt) almost everywhere has two different versions of the name.

In many parts of the British Isles too, of course, from the just about recognisable (Cardiff/Caerdydd, Edinburgh/Dunedin) to the completely different (Swansea/Abertawe, Dublin/Baile Atha Cliath).

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Posted: 06 February 2011 09:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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The Den in Den Haag seems to mean fur or pine. Haag means hedge. I resorted to looking it up which always helps :(
hoek is angle. accapareren, opkopen is corner. Who knew?

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Posted: 06 February 2011 09:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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The Den in Den Haag seems to mean fur or pine. Haag means hedge. I resorted to looking it up which always helps :(
hoek is angle. accapareren, opkopen is corner. Who knew? Not the Wikipedia entry

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