Burma/Myanmar
Posted: 19 November 2012 11:11 AM   [ Ignore ]
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But, after widespread pro-democracy protests in 1988, things changed and Burma became Myanmar, or, more specifically, the Republic of the Union of Myanmar; Rangoon became Yangon.

Some countries recognised the change. Others, such as the US and the UK, did not. As both names are used in the country – Burma is more popular, Myanmar is more literary – the decision was rooted more in a desire to show disapproval for the noxious regime.

from an account of Obama’s visit.

CNN has used Myanmar since the generals changed the name which doesn’t hold with the above US government policy. Why? Burma can’t be much of a source of advertising revenue to them. Are they conforming with UN nomenclature or defying the American governmeant as a matter of principle? What about the rest of the American press? The Thai English-language papers use Burma.

As I may have said before, I have yet to see an adjectival form of Myanmar (-ian? -ese?) in English (which wouldn’t have been a concern of the regime when they changed the name to counter negative perceptions). There’s “a Burman” which one rarely hears or reads nowadays (I think it’s in Orwell’s Burmese Days) but not “a Burmese”. “The Burmese” for the people is standard English, however, and everyone is familiar with it. You’d have to say “a Burmese person” as with “a Chinese person” but not with an Ecuadorian, an Australian, a Thai, etc. A Spaniard, a Briton, an Icelander (?).

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Posted: 19 November 2012 01:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Kipling writes:

By the old Moulmein pagoda, looking lazy at the sea,
There’s a Burma girl a-sitting, and I know she thinks of me.

But what’s wrong with “A Burmese”? Is it different from “A South African”, “A Pakistani”, “A Catalan” - or, for that matter, “A Chinese”?

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Posted: 19 November 2012 03:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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You’d have to ask CNN (or any news organization) why they make the style decisions they do. I do know, however, that from way back in the early days, Ted Turner enforced an “international” style on the broadcaster. They employed a lexicon and usage style to try and mark them as an international broadcaster, not a US one. So I’m not the least surprised that the network doesn’t follow US State Department usage guidelines.

[ Edited: 19 November 2012 05:21 PM by Dave Wilton ]
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Posted: 19 November 2012 04:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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You’d have to say “a Burmese person” as with “a Chinese person” but not with an Ecuadorian, an Australian, a Thai, etc. A Spaniard, a Briton, an Icelander (?).

I don’t really know why, but I note that it is that way with all of the -ese people, but not the -an people.

On the other topic:
Obama used the M-word during his recent visit, perhaps as a kind of diplomatic “reward” for the reforms that have occurred in that country over the past 18 months.

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Posted: 19 November 2012 11:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I don’t really know why, but I note that it is that way with all of the -ese people, but not the -an people.

Not everybody thinks (or thought) so. Robert Browning’s pet name for his wife Elizabeth was “my little Portuguese” (possibly because of some poetry she had written about the Portuguese poet Camoens). The love poems Elizabeth wrote to Browning were (and are) called “Sonnets from the Portuguese”. So if you feel like saying “a Portuguese” rather than “a Portuguese person” (or, likewise, “a Chinese”, “a Sinhalese”, etc.), you needn’t feel alone - there’s at least one distinguished precedent (on the other hand, there’s at least one distinguished precedent for “nucular”, too ;-)

Edit: In Spanish, one says “un portugués”, “un francés”, un japonés”, etc. In French, and other Romance languages, I think it’s much the same.

[ Edited: 19 November 2012 11:12 PM by lionello ]
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