Wednesday, July 12, 2006


Forgive our readers if they might be a little confused this morning. Were those bombings in Bombay or Mumbai?

Both, of course, are right, depending on what style you want to follow. So far, the AP is pretty rigorously following its style decision to cling to the Anglicized Bombay, although it is including the boilerplate "also known as Mumbai" in some stories.

But most of the biggies (USAToday, New York Times, Reuters, CNN, NPR (which also includes the "formerly Bombay" language), the Wall Street Journal -- which announced its decision to switch last May) have gone with the new style Mumbai. For those Web sites just shoveling wire feeds onto their sites, this then makes for some interesting pages like the one from (see the headline at the top, then the bottom).

Bombay seems to be running about 2 to 1 among domestic news sources on Google news, but a major event like this may force the issue of when does a country get to decide what it wants its cities to be called? That's not necessarily an easy one to answer, as there are many cities around the world for which we use Anglicized spellings (remember the Turin/Torino debate during the Winter Olympics?)

In this case, however, the spelling has been so radically changed that, combined with the widespread attention, the AP may find itself swept along, or just increasingly ignored.



At 7/12/06, 1:15 PM, Blogger Andy Bechtel said...

I like language along these lines somewhere in these stories:

Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay,

That recognizes the name change and also helps readers who were unaware of it. With the bombings still big in the news, maybe this is a good time for newspapers to run a short sidebar or textbox to explain the Bombay/Mumbai switch.

At 7/13/06, 5:03 PM, Blogger Bill said...

I'm not all that pleased with myself when I get this way, but I'm at the age where this sort of thing just seems to be an example of the whole damn world trying to f*** with me.


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