27 September 2007

Penguins don't come from next door, they come from the Antarctic.

It's been many years since I first heard that Burma was now called Myanmar. I had always wondered why there was a name change. The CBC has a article that goes into some detail about it, and it's very educational. For instance, looking into the actual names "Burma" and "Myanmar":
But the names themselves share a much deeper past. The name first appears in a manuscript from 1102, spelled Mirma. Later manuscripts spell the name Mranma, the current name used in Burmese language. The "mran" is actually pronounced "mian" - so it's pronounced Myanma. The "r" at the end of Myanmar is an English addition.

Burma is spelled Bama in Burmese languages. The "mr" sound is often condensed to a "b" spelling in colloquial Burmese. So the names Burma and Myanmar actually share the same origin, just variations of translation.
Isn't that amazing? Words and names can evolve from a common origin in really interesting ways.

Also the article looks at how different organizations recognize different names for the same country. Some still use Burma, others use Myanmar.

So the question is, what do you yell when discussing flightless aquatic birds who may explode while standing upon your television?

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As an aside, according to the article, we're still officially called the "Dominion of Canada." How archaic does that sound?

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3 Comments:

At September 27, 2007 9:38 PM, Blogger Brian said...

I was thinking of posting on the same topic. It makes me laugh that Myanmar is like Prince, everybody keeps calling it the country formerly known as Burma.

 
At September 28, 2007 8:52 AM, Blogger King Aardvark said...

If Burma changes its name to an unpronounceable symbol, I'm buying you a beer.

 
At September 29, 2007 5:53 PM, Blogger TheBrummell said...

I'd previously heard that the name "Myanmar" came from the current military junta, who wanted to rename their country to make a break with the colonialist (British) past. The same story included the idea that the name "Burma" was just what the local ethnic majority, the Burmese, called their home. That story was pretty sketchy on the details, though.

I like this idea that the two names are essentially exactly the same, just diverged by translation and transliteration. The way so many people are still, 20-odd years later, referring to it as "formerly Burma" is pretty annoying, though.

Having said all that, I'm personally in favour of calling the place Burma, because the current military junta are vying for global championship title as "world class assholes". Their acheivements in this field are very impressive, especially considering their competition for this prestigious award is almost entirely theocratic, and the Burmese junta is (as far as I can tell) a secular organisation.

 

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