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Jimmy Leach

Jimmy Leach was once editorial director for digital for The Independent.

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Mumbai or Bombay?

Posted by Jimmy Leach
  • Friday, 28 November 2008 at 12:10 pm

Alone, so far as I can see, amongst the British press, The Times insists on referring to Mumbai as Bombay in all its reports on the carnage.

In the larger scheme of the atrocities, it is, of course, of no great matter, but it does seem a little odd. It is, apparently, because the paper’s readers find the use of the word Bombay 'more familiar'. Which has a whiff of Empire about it somewhere.

Nor is there much consistency. England's cricketers, while they were still there, played a Mumbai XI, which had to be referred to as such - but then they played 'in Mumbai' too. Very confusing.

Maybe the Times thinks its sports fans are more up to date than its news consumers (which would be a tad counter-intuitive), but either way, it’s been a while now since the name was changed by the Indian parliament (in 1997, in fact). Long enough for even the most traditional of the Thunderer’s readers to get used to it, surely?

And while I’m here. Anyone know of any good pubs in Kensington?



matgb wrote:
Friday, 28 November 2008 at 01:18 pm (UTC)
I *thought*, and I might be completely wrong, that Bombay is the name of the city in one of the local languages for the area, but Mumbai is the name in the most popular national language used in the area.

I think the whole thing is a daft fuss anyway, we haven't started calling Koln Koln yet, officially, we still use the French name for a German city. If one group of locals call it Bombay, another call it Mumbai, what does it really matter which we use as long as everyone knows?
jleach wrote:
Friday, 28 November 2008 at 01:25 pm (UTC)
I'd always thought that Bombay was a name imposed by the Portugese and, later, British settlers and the name change in th 90s was a step away from the Imperialist past. To use Bombay, therefore has connotations. It's also not that consistent if the cricket reporter refers to the same city with a different name.

But as you say, it's not that big a deal. And if any English-speaker calls Paris 'Paree', then that is annoying...
rhodri wrote:
Saturday, 29 November 2008 at 08:21 am (UTC)
The Times now appear to have switched to the far more snappy "Bombay, also known as Mumbai".

colinb wrote:
Friday, 28 November 2008 at 02:43 pm (UTC)
Reading this got me thinking about the quirky and often irritating lapses on the part of our media. There was an example this very day on Sky News - a picture of commandos abseiling onto a rooftop in Mumbai, with a headline about an "SAS assault". No, it wasn't the SAS needless to say. The Indian military has its own elite force, but it meant a close read to be sure that our boys in the Regiment had not received the call.

How about a "Media watch" on this site where we can aggregate the naffness that is inflicted on us on a daily basis? Something good might come of it - like the media ensuring that instant reportage is only ever trusted to savvy writers.
torpidai wrote:
Friday, 28 November 2008 at 05:32 pm (UTC)
Media watch, I like that idea :)

As for Mumbai and Bombay business, it all strikes me of the Slow transition by which the Palestinian west bank turned into the West Bank Gaza to the Israeli west bank, I may well be wrong, but I was sure confused growing up during that transition period.

arroger wrote:
Friday, 28 November 2008 at 10:45 pm (UTC)
The name is hundreds of years old.
The government tried to change it for the name of an obscure deity. the real name is Bombay, meaning 'good bay' in portuguese.
Has it become a bad bay?
I think it will revert to its real name someday
Bom Bahai
nardini wrote:
Saturday, 29 November 2008 at 06:10 pm (UTC)
Well, yes and no. The "original" English name was created from the Portuguese name; Bom Bahia. After the English bought Bom Bahai - for that is how they originally got possession of it from the Portuguese - they decided it was the right thing to make it easier for the English press to spell. This meant the simplification to Bombay which, obviously, meant that The Times could now write about it.

Now, we have to look at how the next name, Mumbai, came into being.

I rather like the reason usually given that the name came about as a result of a certain lady, a religiously inclined lady by the name of Mumba, came to Bombay and was allowed by the English to build a temple called the Mumbadevi temple. Of course, this could all be a load of tosh, but I rather like the idea of Mrs Mumba donating her name to such a cause.

Needless to say the simple explanation is never enough, is it. This then spawned an altogether more fanciful explanation for the temple to Mumbadevi: "he temple is about six centuries old: Mumbaraka, a sadistic giant who frequently plundered the place at the time. Terrorized by these unwelcome visits, the locals pleaded with the god Brahma, Creator of all things to protect them. Brahma then "pulled out of his own body", an eight armed goddess who vanquished Mumbaraka. Brought to his knees, Mumbaraka implored the goddess to adopt his name and built a temple in her honour. She still stands there, an orange faced goddess on an altar strewn with marigolds: devotees believe that those who seek her divine favour are never disappointed."

A long one, eh?

Anyway, to widdle onto Occam's Razor for a while longer,Mumbai comes from the desire to shed the English interpretation of the Portuguese name for a city that was once an area of temples that were destroyed by muslim invaders, who called it "Al Omanis". The Portuguese couldn't spell that so they called in Bom Bahai. Etcetera.

I blame The Times.
Re: Bom Bahai
nardini wrote:
Saturday, 29 November 2008 at 07:43 pm (UTC)
Where are the sub-editors when you need them?

Or just an edit button?
terryhamblin wrote:
Saturday, 29 November 2008 at 08:17 pm (UTC)
The French keep calling London 'Londres'. In this tolerant country we let them get away with it. I shall go on calling Bombay, Burma, Peking, Rhodesia and all the rest by the names I learned for Geography 'O' level.
Re: Bombay
nardini wrote:
Sunday, 30 November 2008 at 09:18 am (UTC)
Would that be the same as calling Roma, Rome? Firenza, Florence? Milano, Milan? Genova, Genoa? Italia into Italy, even.

You mean that sort of thing, do you?

There is a good argument for keeping proper nouns intact across language divides, but a very poor argument for sticking only to the anglicised versions of those names.

Or, to put it another way, my name stays my name wherever I may be in the world. Isn't that right, terenzio?
Re: Bombay
terryhamblin wrote:
Sunday, 30 November 2008 at 09:35 am (UTC)
You mean you don't call them Rome, Florence, Milan, Genoa and Italy? When I am speaking English I spak English.
Re: Bombay
nardini wrote:
Sunday, 30 November 2008 at 10:01 am (UTC)
Without wishing to get involved in any kind of discussion regarding the merits, or otherwise, of "Little Britain", I would respectfully point you into the general direction of the point I was making.

Is it acceptable or desirable in these days to change the name of somewhere or someone to suit the needs of people to feel insular and cut-off from neighbouring groups?

If you were to ever drive here, you would be sorely disappointed to find that there are absolutely no road signs, for example, to point your way to "Florence". The reason for this 'omission' is very simple. It is because there is no place here called "Florence". It is called Firenza. It matters not a whit that your old school atlas called it "Florence" - it was (and still is) called Firenza.

My point was that the changing of names into other languages is neither clever nor desirable in this modern age that we live in.

Re: Bombay
terryhamblin wrote:
Sunday, 30 November 2008 at 12:52 pm (UTC)
Yes, of course I know that, but I am not about to talk about Firenze Nightingale or Firenzian painters; nor for that matter AC Milano! English is still English and it is all about listeners understanding speakers. In Italy I would ask Italians for directions to Roma, in England my travel agent books me a flight to Rome. The Times of London is written for English speakers not Hindi speakers.
Re: Bombay
nardini wrote:
Sunday, 30 November 2008 at 01:33 pm (UTC)
Missed points aside, it is good to see you back in the discussion about the origin of the name of Mumbai.

Bombay is not an Anglicisation of the name Mumbai. Mumbai is a brand new name. It does not translate into English in any way other than "Mumbai". Rather as Stalingrad no longer exists, Neither does "Bombay". It is a new name - it is the correct name. It is re-named. It is Mumbai. The name Bombay no longer exists. It is a dead name. Deceased. Departed. No longer with us. It is a defunct name. End.
Pubs in Kensington...
nardini wrote:
Sunday, 30 November 2008 at 01:46 pm (UTC)
Not that I have been there for a few years, but might I suggest that you peruse this place for more recent recommendations?


They all beat the temple of Mumbadevi hands down for a swift half, in my humble opinion, that is...
chahteycu wrote:
Tuesday, 24 February 2009 at 07:57 pm (UTC)
I do not think there is a problem in calling the city. If, historically, people used this name, why would they not call it so?

Bombay stock exchange or Mumbai stock exchange
askanalyst wrote:
Friday, 9 October 2009 at 07:23 am (UTC)
Ask yourself whether Mumbai stock exchange or Bombay stock exchange will appeal better. Shakespeare has written long time back about name.
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