What’s in a name?

If you hadn’t realised, I am fascinated by places, how they are named and how these names evolve.  So listening to the BBC World Service tonight, it was interesting to learn that the New Zealand Geographic Board officially gazetted names for the country’s two principal islands.  After considerable thought and research, these names have been officially recorded as “North Island” and “South Island” – think we might have heard these before somewhere, but apparently they were never formalised. They have also included Maori names for each: “Te Ika-a-Maui” and “Te Waipounamu”, which mean “the fish of Maui” and “the waters of greenstone”. The BBC has more information.  Shame the UK doesn’t have an equivalent body to record our names.  There is the “The Permanent Committee on Geographical Names for British Official Use” which is funded by the British Government, and tries to regularise and record names for every country in the world EXCEPT the UK (and Antarctica). Incredible!  In Scotland we have tried to fill this space with a Definitive Gazetteer of Placenames (created by yours truly), although its uptake around Government is as yet limited.

— Bruce

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