Chinese Authorities Ban Muslim Names Among Uyghurs in Hoten

Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region

Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region

In northwestern China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, authorities have banned 22 Muslim names. Children with these names are forbidden from attending school until their names are changed.

Ilshat Hesen, vice president of the Washington-based Uyghur American Association, notes that this policy is a human rights violation.


See this article for more information and a full list of the banned names.

Scots Names for Snow

18730239312_d2eabbc021_mResearchers at the University of Glasgow have taken on the herculean task of creating a definitive thesaurus of the Scots language.

During the collection of terminology, the scientists were astounded to discover that the language seems to have no fewer than 421 words to describe conditions in the Winter. From spitters, a name for the tiny flakes of snow that ride on wind-driven rain to feefle, reportedly used to name swirling snow.

In an interview featured in a September 2015 issue The Scotsman, a member of the research team, Dr. Rennie, was quoted as saying that “There may be other words out there that we are not yet aware of, and that is where we would welcome the support of the public. If they use or remember words for particular sports or weather, we would love to hear about them.”

Just how many names for Winter weather will be garnered by this public appeal remains to be seen. But, if experience is anything to go by, the current number of Scots snow names catalogued will no doubt rise.

The Great Snow Debate

4254545685_5501860a27_mOne of universally loved stories that college professors  tell undergraduate students in intriguingly entitled courses like “Introduction to Language and Culture” is “The Great Snow Debate”.

As the story goes, one year a set of intrepid yet naïve scientists plowed their way through the frozen tundra to investigate and preserve the language of the indigenous peoples. During their interviews, the researchers noted that the Inuit have a surprisingly large number of names for snow…light snow, wet snow, heavy snow, deep snow… You name it, the Inuit have a moniker for it. Excited by their discovery, some of the scientists decided to concentrate their efforts on snow names. And the more they asked, the more names they uncovered. Soon, more researchers arrived to capture what seemed to be an inexhaustible onomastic store of names. The publications multiplied, careers were made, and contests were waged. No sooner had one researcher reported having identified dozens of snow names than another one came claiming to have recovered more.

At the end of it, the race for names finally collapsed under the weight of the scholarly attention placed upon the sometimes flimsy methodological scaffolding. The fact that interviewees were paid by the name meant that native speakers invented some of the names they reported. Another problem was the simple fact that the researchers grossly underestimated the number of names which many non-indigenous people have for snow. Consider, for example, the breadth and depth of names which meteorologists in Minnesota or skiers in Boulder have to describe snow.

This does not mean to say that all was lost. Despite the lasting chagrin which surrounds the Great Snow Debate, one of the benefits was the development and spread of one of the leading theories of modern linguistics: The Linguistic Theory of Relativity. One of the most important tenet of this theory is that people’s interaction with their physical environment will have a significant affect upon the names they develop to label their perceptual experience.

Onomastics and Food Labeling Regulations

5383384526_19ae18883b_mIn addition to introducing regulations concerning the proper shape and size of food and beverages, the EU has also set a rigid system in place to protect food names against unauthorized imitation.

Within the United Kingdom, 63 different food names have been placed on the list of protected digestibles. A review of this list reveals that many of the food names are related to a particular geographical region. For example, there is Kentish ale which is different from a Rutland bitter. Among the protected cheeses, there are the Bonchester, Dovedale, and Swalesdale cheeses which are not to be confused with the Yorkshire Wensleydale, Staffordshire, or Teviotdale cheeses.

This means that when UK consumers buy a package with the label Herefordshire cider, they know that it did not come from Gloucestershire. The point behind all this onomastic protectionism is not only to provide transparency for the consumer, but also to offer regional producers with a certain degree of legal recompense should producers from another area attempt to cash in on their good name.

While all that seems straight-forward, the issue of food name protection is really quite messy. Say, for example, that the food being produced is harvested from a migratory animal…like a fish. Should an Alaskan King Crab really be called an Alaskan King Crab if it was caught off the coast of Russia or Norway? And what about foods which are grown in one place but processed in another? And while we are at it, what about foods which contain biotech ingredients? Should they be allowed to have the same name as so-called “natural” foods that do not contain such ingredients?

In partial answer to this last question, in a 275 to 175 vote, the US House of Representatives voted in favor of a bill (H.R. 1599) which blocks US states from mandating labels that clearly differentiate the genetically-modified from the non-genetically-modified.

“Share a Coke” Onomastic Marketing Campaign

14443941528_46dc053f32_mOver a year ago, in a gutsy advertising move, the Coca Cola company launched a new campaign which invited coke fans to emblazon their personal names across a bottle, right above the white wave where the product name usually appeared.

The personalized product campaign seems to have fed right into that primordial drive which so many people seem to have to see their name written in print. The advertising was so popular that the company has had trouble keeping up with the production demands.

Aside from names like Aaron, Bobby, Diego, and Sheena, the company has also received countless requests to include fanciful nicknames like Legend, Wingman, and Star. In fact, the drive to have a personalized coke and a smile has become so big that many people are protesting that their names have not yet been plastered on one of the trademark hour-glass bottles. However, Coke Company executives insist that there is no malicious or hateful intent behind why some names have already been featured and others have not. According to a special CNN report, this year, the company has expanded its naming campaign to include even more specialty nicknames such “bro” and “better half”.

In addition, to make sure that the company effectively responds to the different onomastic desires and sensitivities of its customers, the firm has created specially tailored “Share a Coke” road tours which allow customers to obtain personalized coca-cola products that reflect their unique naming traditions. For example, in the Share a Coke Singapore tour, fans can receive cans emblazoned with the names Hui Ling, Di Di, Jie, Hie, Kor Kor, and Shuai ge. In Germany, coke drinkers can select between the names Antje, Heinz, Günter, Helga, Dietlinde, Margrethe, Torsten.

According to financial experts, the savvy onomastic strategy not only garnered new fans, it also raked in the bucks. In a report released by Entrepreneur, immediately, after the introduction of the “Share a Coke” campaign, corporate sales reportedly rose 2.5 percent, giving company officials quite a lot to smile about.

Find out if your name is on coke bottle.

What to call Vulvodynia pain?

One of the most frustrating and frightening parts of having a physical ailment is when the doctors do not know how to label it. Somehow having a name for what ails us gives us an odd sort of comfort. However, from a doctor’s point of view, the fact that a set of symptoms is given a name by one doctor does not mean that another doctor would apply the same medical moniker if presented the same patient.… Read More

International workshop on toponymy by the National Geographic Information Institute (NGII) of the Republic of Korea, Jeju Island, October 8-10

From the 8th to the 10th of October, the National Geographic Information Institute (NGII) of the Republic of Korea will be holding an international workshop on place names. The name of the toponymy workshop is “Place Names to the Public”.

The event will be held in Jeju Island, and is a part of the 20th UN Regional Cartogaphic Conference for Asia and the Pacific, which will be held from the 5th to the 9th of October.… Read More

The United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names (UNGEGN) Session, Bangkok, April 25-29 2016

4986441399_681e8b1a92_mThe United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names (UNGEGN) will be holding its 29th session from the 25 to the 29 of April 2016 in Bangkok, Thailand.

The purpose of UNGEGN is to provide encouragement and guidance to countries without an official nationwide system of standardization of geographical names. It also serves an over-arching clearing house function by collecting information on the techniques, systems, and procedures used by the member states in the standardization, dissemination, and transliteration of geographic names.

For more about this professional group, the upcoming conference in Thailand or other related UNGEGN events, see the official website.