City Names

Soraya Waller - India


November 3, 2017

I was rereading some stuff in my journal, and stumbled upon some stuff I wrote my first night here in India, that never made it on my blog but is kind of interesting. It isn’t as relevant now, but I wanted to go back and talk about it.

The city I live in has two names. It used to be called Poona, but is now officially called Pune. But like Bombay/Mumbai, people often still use the old name. On my first night here, though, I didn’t know any of that, and was a little confused on the matter. I wasn’t sure what the difference was, and which name I should use.

In my journal, I wrote how it felt strange to not know how to pronounce the name of the city I live in, but seconds later I realized it wasn’t at all new. I’ve lived the past 17-ish years in Seattle, and although just about everyone agrees on how to pronounce the city, its name is a sloppy anglicization of its namesakes real name. Many landmarks in Seattle, though named after the same man, spell it Sealth, an equally (in)accurate romanization and mispronunciation.

When I try to correctly say his name (IPA [ˈsiʔaːɬ]), I’m sure my pronunciation isn’t very accurate to what he would have called himself.

When we go somewhere knew, we notice lots of things about the place we visit. But those things aren’t always different. Often, the same patterns exist where we come from, but familiarity blinds us to it. My home doesn’t have a nice and simple history with a nice and simple name.

Soraya Waller