Why can't we call folks what they want to be called?

When I was studying French in junior high school, I remember it bothered me that they called their language Français, and we called it French. Mexicans call their language Español, but we call it Spanish. What we call English, they call Ingles. This came back to me reading this thread, in which it was mentioned that we call the Gàidhlig language Scots Gaelic.

This phenomenon continues in names of people (Japanese :: Nipponese), countries (Deutchland :: Germany) and cities (Munich :: München). I understand some issues of pronunciation, when one language just doesn’t have the sounds from another. That may explain why we say Mexican instead of Mexicano, where the “x” is pronounced with a sound that doesn’t exist in English, but why do we pronounce that large French city as PARE-iss instead of Pare-EE?

This seems to be a fairly universal phenomenon, and it just doesn’t make sense to me. If I meet someone from another culture, and they say they’re Lakota, then I’m going to call them Lakota, by golly, rather than making up a word of my own to refer to them. It’s easier, it shows them more respect, it avoids future confusion, and I just can’t understand why we don’t all do it.

Can anyone explain this phenomenon?

Because we’re speaking English. The English word for “francais” is “French.” The English word for “Nippon” is “Japan.” The English word for “Deutschland” is “Germany.”

It’s the same for other languages. The French word for “English” is “Anglais.”

As for Paris, that’s how the French spell it. English speakers pronounce it the way they do because that’s how you’d pronounce that word in English.

The cultural sensitivity you advocate is a very recent phenomenon. People historically have given their own names to those not of their group, and these often only have vague similarities to the other group’s name for themselves.

Why did it happen first? Probably because communication was difficult when places were named. Some places were probably named before we KNEW what they called themselves, or a region named than wasn’t considered one piece by the inhabitants.

Why continue? Because you can’t persuade 10 billion people to use a different word for something they’ve been saying all their lives.

Such hyper cultural sensitivity is two way street that nobody abides by. For example, I’m no linguist but the last time I checked (while in Miami in 1989) a Cuban-emigre’s label for all white Americans was “gringo”, which is a name I didn’t appreciate but which there was no particular point arguing with him about.

When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Speak Roman.

What in the world is “Nipponese” ?

Merely because other languages, for lack of a better description, have different words for things, and it doesn’t stop at place names and proper names. Someone speaking Czech will prefer that you say “Praha” when speaking Czech, but doesn’t care that you call it Prague in your own language.

The names of other cultures is somewhat different, as oftentimes we learned the incorrect name of a culture from a neighbor and it came into popular usage, like:

“What do you call those people over there?”
"Them? Oh, we call them “navajo.” (“enemy”)
"Ah, so those are the “Navajo.”

Many Navajo will refer to themselves as such when speaking English, just accepting that that’s the English word for “Dineh.”

It’s a simple case of two languages changing over time in different ways.

When speakers of language A first meets speakers of language B they usually exchange names for things, or fairly close approximations where the pronunciation is found to be difficult. (That’s when they’re not killing or inventing more derogatory names for each other.)

But over time pronunciations change within a language, and they don’t necessarily change in the same ways in both languages. Before you know it what started off as very similar words in both have diverged and are pronounced completely differently.

It’s not the fault of either language or its speakers. But it’s less likely to happen in future due to a more frequent exposure to foreign cultures and increased literacy (written words are less likely to shift pronunciation).

I agree that pronunciation is the most important reason. The ‘x’ in Mexico or Mexicano is not a sound most English speakers can produce easily. The French pronunciation of Paris includes at least two sounds that English does not have – the a sound is found in English only in diphthongs, and the r sound is different. The ‘ee’ sound is probably different too. So an English speaker who does not know French can choose between saying ‘Paris’ in an Anglicized way or trying to pronounce ‘Pair-ee’ and having it sound very wrong to a French speaker.

“How you gonna keep 'em down on the farm / After they’ve seen Paree”

As for Navajo, that comes from a word in Tewa (one of the Pueblo Indian languages) meaning ‘an arroyo with cultivated fields’.

Explorer: “I say! You there! What is your word for that?”
Explorer points at mountain.

Native looks slightly puzzled.

Explorer points at mountain.

Native: “Tippofyorephynga”.

And so Mount Tip-of-Your-Finger was named. :eek:

Oh how I wish people would call us ‘Netherlanders’ or ‘Hollanders’ instead of Dutch.

We don’t live in Dutchland. We live in the Netherlands [some call it Holland]
We speak Netherlands or Hollands.

Just because it used to be Deutsch from the old ‘Deutschland’ [which we call Germany anyway], there’s no need to keep that up. It’s confusing as heck.

gum. Netherlandse. [female version of Netherlander] :slight_smile:

Oh how I wish people would call us ‘Netherlanders’ or ‘Hollanders’ instead of Dutch.

Are people in your country still refering to themselves as Dutch? Or is this something that just the wrest of the world (or maybe just we 'Mericans) do?

Are people in your country still refering to themselves as Dutch? Or is this something that just the wrest of the world (or maybe just we 'Mericans) do?

“Wrest”??? :smack: :wally

Nippon is the proper name for Japan. Thus, the people and language we call Japanese should rightly be called Nipponese.

When in Rome do as the Romans do!

I’d call them whatever I damn well pleased and let them Sioux me if they didn’t like it. :slight_smile:

It’s been only recently when people started caring what you called them. Before that they were just happy if you didn’t shoot them.

The romanised form of the Japanese name for Japan is “Nihon”.
The romanised form of the Japanese name for the Japanese language is “Nihongo”.
The romanised form of the Japanese name for Japanese people is “Nihonjin”.

I don’t know where this word “Nipponese” comes from, but it doesn’t come from Nihongo (otherwise known as Jaoanese).

is the OP’s phenomenon related to that one where people feel all disgusted when other people’s name aren’t spelled or pronounced the way they feel it should be?

recent threads:

You’re naming your baby what!
A request when saying a name unfamiliar to you: