13 December 2010

Is Nomenclature a Nuisance?

You may know that I live in a town in Australia I call "Dorothea", though I have yet to meet anyone else who calls it that.

If you are in London, you may call it Londres if you are French or Spanish, or Londra if you are Italian. You may live in London in England or London in Ontario, or one of several towns of that name in the United States.

If I said that my mother lived halfway between Manchester and Birmingham, would you think she lived in central England or halfway between New Hampshire and Alabama?

Geographical nomenclature can be a nuisance when we travel, especially when we are not aware of the local name of the place we hope to visit. Paris is Parigi to the Italians. Vienna is Wien to the Viennese.

There is nomenclature in various branches of the arts and sciences, too. So, what does the word mean? It has something to do with naming and meaning...

Nomenclature on Wikipedia

Philosophy of Language on Wikipedia

Naming on Wikipedia

Onomastics on Wikipedia

Words can cause all sorts of confusions and misunderstandings, even when we think we know their meaning. Naming things is also something people frequently disagree about. Perhaps your family disagreed about the name to give you when you were born, especially if at least one of your parents comes from a different culture.

If your name is Henry in Britain or Australia, it might be Enrico in Italy, Heinrich in Germany, Henri in France, or Enrique in Spain.  If your name is not Henry, what is its equivalent in other languages?

My husband had a great uncle known as Joe, whose given names were noted as Joseph Vincent in some records though his birth certificate states them as Giuseppe Vincenzo.  During the Second World War, some ignorant officials thought Joe was living under an assumed name.

Here are some of my previous blog posts you might like to explore:

Name games and the wider world

How to be delightfully surprising

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