Monday, February 28, 2011

It's Time to Replace the Anglicized Place Names in Bangladesh with Bangla (Bengali) Names


Map of Bangladesh
Map courtesy:

Every year in February we observe the Ekushey February (Bangla Language Martyrs’ Day) and the International Mother Language Day with much fanfare. The goal of these two observances is to give importance to our mother languages. Yet, on our own backyard, we have some issues that need to be tackled.

We need to think deeply about replacing Anglicized place names in Bangladesh with Bangla names they had before the British changed them. These Anglicized place names are used when speaking or writing in English. Although the British left India 64 years ago, we are still carrying on the double standard of using Anglicized place names when speaking or writing in English, but using Bangla place names of the same when speaking or writing in Bangla.

When the British conquered different regions of India, they began to pronounce and write local place names completely different from their original ones. These Anglicized names might have been easy for them to pronounce or write, but they were totally a disgrace to the original pronunciation.

President H. M. Ershad was bold enough to officially change the Anglicized name of the capital city of Bangladesh. He got it corrected to ‘Dhaka’ in place of ‘Dacca.’

It is interesting to see that later, the Indian government, too, changed the names of ‘Calcutta’ to ‘Kolkata,’ ‘Bombay’ to ‘Mumbai,’ ‘Bangalore’ to ‘Bengaluru’ and ‘Madras’ to ‘Chennai.’

Bangladesh still has got a good number of Anglicized names that need to be changed according to local Bangla pronunciations. These Anglicized names along with their Bangla names are:

Astagram (Oshtogram)

Bandarban (Bandorbon)

Baraigram (Boroigram)

Barguna (Borguna)

Barisal (Borishal)

Bhedarganj (Bhedorganj)

Biral (Birol)

Bogra (Bogura)

Chittagong (Chattagram)

Comilla (Kumilla)

Habiganj (Hobiganj)

Ishurdi (Isshordi or Iswardi)

Jessore (Joshohor)

Jhenaida (Jhenaidoho)

Kalaroa (Kolaroa)

Kalmakanda (Kolmakanda)

Khagrachari (Khagracchori)

Lakshmipur (Lokkhipur)

Madhupur (Modhupur)

Maheshkhali (Moheshkhali) Island

Manpura (Monpura)

Maulvibazar (Moulobibazar)

Mohanpur (Mohonpur)

Mymensingh (Moymonshingha)

Nandigram (Nondigram)

Narail (Norail)

Narsingdi (Norshingdi)

Palash (Polash)

Saidpur (Syedpur or Soidpur)

Sandwip (Shondip) Island

Sarisabari (Shorishabari)

Satkhira (Shatkhira)

Savar (Shavar)

Sirajganj (Shirajganj)

Sonargaon (Shonargaon)

Sreemangal (Sreemongol)

Sunamganj (Shunamganj)

Sylhet (Silet or Srihotto)

Tungipara (Tongipara)

The name ‘Cox’s Bazar’ should remain the same because it is the name given after the British Captain Hiram Cox (died in 1799), who was in-charge of this place and earned a good name with the local population, because of his compassionate rehabilitation work among the Arakan refugees who came there from Burma.

The Bangladesh Jatiyo Parishad (parliament) needs to come up with a bill that will make the Anglicized place name changes a reality.

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  1. I disagree. I still use Dacca, Bombay, Calcutta, etc. I also use Peking, Amoy, Canton, Nanking, etc. Anglicized names are more proper in English. What is wrong with them in English? Use Bengali names in Bengali and English names in English. All this stupid over-PC name changing really irritates me.

    1. Thank you, Mr. Anglicist, for your input on my proposal of changing the Anglicized place names in Bangladesh and revert to their Bangla (Bengali) names.

      I differ with your opinion for following reasons:

      1. The colonizing power (Britain), to suit their guttural facility and easiness of pronunciation, changed or anglicized many local names in their colonies and, thereby, disfigured the original names.

      2. The changed names already served the purpose of the colonizers for much more than 100 years. Now Bangladesh is an independent country and it should reclaim the original place names instead of holding on to the colonial baggage and vestige. These original names belong to our language, not to any other.

      3. If you look at Britain itself, you will find the Englishmen were the first ones to change Latinized place names of theirs to English ones after the colonizing Romans left Britain for Rome. Some of these examples are: 'Londinium' (Latin) to 'London' (English) and 'Britannia' (Latin) to 'Britain' (English).

      Moreover, the Englishmen also changed many names in Britain, among them a few are: 'Camulodunum' (Latin) to 'Colchester' (English), 'Deva' (Chester), 'Durovernum' (Canterbury), 'Eboracum' (York), and 'Mamucium' (Manchester).

      You mentioned that you don't like the 'stupidity' of changing Anglicized names to local ones, but the real stupidity was anglicizing the Bengali-language place names. Now the stupidity would be not to change these disfigured names to their original ones -- even in using them in speaking and writing in English.