Persian Gulf = The Gulf ???

I was perusing my 1996 Oxford World Atlas (that’s as closely as I can recall the title from work), and I noticed that the body of water that I think of as the “Persian Gulf” is labelled on all maps as simply “The Gulf.” No other body of water that I could see was given this distinction.

Thinking I was losing my mind, I looked in the index under “Persian Gulf.” The entry was “Persian Gulf: see The Gulf”.

This doesn’t seem to be universal. For example, see this map, dated 2000, which has the body labeled “Persian Gulf.”

Can anybody hazard a guess as to why this one body of water has managed to rise above its mundane original name? I mean, yeah, it’s an important place, but I’m still puzzled.

My guess is, this particular body of water, while known to most as the Persian Gulf, is also sometimes called the Arabian Gulf. So, if you call it Persian, you might offend the Arabs, and if you call it Arabian, you might offend the Iranians. So, to be politically correct, you’re left with just “The Gulf”.

Our friends at the Central Intelligence Agency seem to use the term “Persian Gulf.” At least that’s what the maps in the CIA World Factbook say.

I think scratch1300 has hit this one on the nose. On this page, we see a discussion from an Iranian e-mail list (or actually a list for expatriate Iranians, I believe) about a boycott of KLM because the airline had the temerity to refer to the &*$#@ Gulf as the “Arabian Gulf”. (To be fair, some of the Iranian participants in the debate seem to have taken the position that they really don’t think it’s that big of an issue.) It would not shock me to find a bunch of Arabs some place getting equally silly about the issue from the other side.

Since there’s already an “Arabian Sea” right next door, I tend to side with the Iranians on this one.

Yeah, after viewing MEBuckner’s link I’d say you guys have it right. Although it sounds like Oxford (the publishers of my atlas) are actually caving to what seems to be Arab propaganda. I think I agree that the Iranians have a legitimate beef, even if it is relatively minor.