Place names: - Atlas Survey - request for help
Thread poster: Steven Jefferson

Steven Jefferson
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:11
Member (2010)
German to English
+ ...
Apr 8, 2013

Dear All,

I am conducting some research into the naming conventions used by cartographers from 1900 onwards and I wondered if you might have 5 minutes to help me with it? What I am looking at is how place names have been handled by different mapmakers over the preceding decade. Take München for example: a British team might simply leave it as München or use the English version, Munich, or use both München (Munich) or the other way around. For Kaliningrad they might use something like Kaliningrad (formerly Königsberg) and so on.

I'm basing my small study on a handful of place names and one river name commonly rendered in different versions throughout the ages and from country to country, and so far I have been able to include about 16 atlases in the survey. What I would need you to do, if you are interested in helping out, is to grab any atlas you may have to hand, note the title and year of publication as well as the name of the publisher or author/editor, and crucially the country in which the volume was published, and then make a note of how they have treated the following proper nouns:

Gorzów Wielkopolski
Lviv (L'viv)

I know it might occur to you that I need to get out more, but I can assure you there is method in my madness.

Remember, the diacriticals are important, so please include them if you can or else just make a note, e.g. Lodz

Thanks in advance.

Steven Jefferson


Josephine Cassar  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:11
Member (2012)
Italian to English
+ ...
Place names Apr 8, 2013

Hi Steven,
good luck with your work. Just a little remak=rk before such an interesting work. But these names are used in different languages- Munchen, Wien, Koln, still used, so it does not really depend on the atlas and year of publication.I would find Vienna if I use an English atlas/map but Wien if I use a German, Vienne if I use a French. I would not imagine a British team leaving Munchen instead of Munich.Maybe I misunderstood. Can you clarify? Good luck with your work.


Steven Jefferson
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:11
Member (2010)
German to English
+ ...
Clarification Apr 8, 2013

Hi Josephine,

It depends to some extent on the politics of the cartography team or publishing house as to what form they choose to use for a particular place name. Consider for example the Falklands v. Malvinas. A British publishing house with a liberal outlook might use "Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)", whereas a more right-leaning editor might choose to use something like "Falkland Islands (British Overseas Territory)" or something like that. Argentinian mapmakers might do the opposite in the current climate, where the sovereignty of the islands has recently been disputed.

So if I happened to be interested in that particular dispute (which I'm not) then I would look at how the name has been treated over the years by different mapmakers, as a way of assessing the extent to which these Islands had been a bone of contention over the past 100 years or so.

But, to stick with the above example, I could check whether the editors of the "Falkland Islands (British Overseas Territory)" atlas really were right-leaning, and whether this choice was politically motivated, by looking at the way they treated some of the other names on my list, which apply to places in which they have less of an interest. So for example they might have used "Wrocław" by itself, or Firenze or Roma etc. On the other hand, if they've been happy to use "Wrocław (Breslau)" or "Firenze (Florence)", then I might well suspect a political or at least ideological motivation with regard to the Falklands.

I've seen a lot of this kind of thing in the maps and atlases I've already surveyed. In one 1969 West German map for example they used "Breslau" and "Chemnitz" alone, with no indication that in Poland and the GDR those places were currently called "Wrocław" and Karl-Marx-Stadt.

I won't be jumping to any conclusions until I have a large sample of data, but that is the kind of thing I would be looking into.

I know the Polish and Ukrainian names have been actively contested on ideological grounds for many years following WWII, so they are a good test. The Italian and some of the German ones I've listed will act as a control (I don't think that anyone has ever seriously contested the names of any Italian towns for example).

Anyway, I hope that clears things up a bit.

Thanks for your interesticon_smile.gif

[Edited at 2013-04-08 19:42 GMT]


Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:11
German to English
might also be interesting Apr 9, 2013

Names in South Tyrol/Alto Adige/Südtirol might also be very interesting. Maybe also in German-speaking areas of Belgium and northern German locations that changed hands (the latter two maybe also as a sort of control example [in the case of German atlases] where political motivations might not be so decisive).

Western Germany along the border to France would, of course, also be interesting - maybe particularly so, because of the general tendency in English to adopt French versions or variations of the French versions of place names.

The New Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors contains most of the places mentioned and Merriam-Webster's Geographical Dictionary contains all of the places mentioned and are current, fairly authorative reference works.

It sounds like a very interesting project.


Steven Jefferson
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:11
Member (2010)
German to English
+ ...
Thanks Michael Apr 9, 2013

Hi Michael,

Thanks for your response and the useful tips. Yes, I think those areas would definitely be worth looking at.

One interesting thing I've noticed looking at maps of Northern Germany is an English tendency to use names that are closer to Plattdeutsch wherever they exist as historical alternatives. Until recently British cartographers have preferred Brunswick to Braunschweig, for example, probably because that's the form that was in use when it first came to the attention of anyone outside of a 5-mile radius, but also possibly because it rolls off the tongue a bit easier. Later on it changed on British maps to the more current Braunschweig. The same thing happened to Hamlin of pied-piper fame (Hameln).

A lot of those types of changes probably had something to do with the fact that the British Army was stationed in Germany after the war in the guise of the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR), which is how I first landed in Germany back in about 1985 or so. So many service personnel (squaddies to us - Tommies to youicon_wink.gif ) spent time in the BAOR that we all simply became more familiar with places like that in North Germany (as we also became familiar with Bratties [Bratwurst], the local Schnelly [Schnellimbiß], and Herforder Pils).

By the way, my email, if anyone wants to send me anything, is

All the best.


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:

You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

Place names: - Atlas Survey - request for help

Advanced search

Protemos translation business management system
Create your account in minutes, and start working! 3-month trial for agencies, and free for freelancers!

The system lets you keep client/vendor database, with contacts and rates, manage projects and assign jobs to vendors, issue invoices, track payments, store and manage project files, generate business reports on turnover profit per client/manager etc.

More info »
BaccS – Business Accounting Software
Modern desktop project management for freelance translators

BaccS makes it easy for translators to manage their projects, schedule tasks, create invoices, and view highly customizable reports. User-friendly, integration, community-driven development – a few reasons BaccS is trusted by translators!

More info »

  • All of
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search