Why Bombay?


I have noticed over the past few weeks since the terrorist attacks in Mumbai that the press in Spain always refer to Mumbai as “Bombay”. At first I thought it was just El Pais where my friend, Teo, works, and that it was probably his fault. Then I looked at other newspapers like El Mundo and El ABC. None of them seemed to have gotten the news that in 1996 India officially changed the city’s name to Mumbai.

Then when I complained about it to my my girlfriend (who lives in Paris), she said that the French press also widely refer to the city as Bombay. When I then went to check Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, I was first distracted by the abundance of scarcely dressed women all over its website, but then saw that Mumbai was most commonly used.

But for Spain and France, Continental Europe’s most prolific colonizers, why “Bombay”? It’s not like the case of Burma where for political reasons one may refuse to call the nation “Myanmar” in protest of its totalitarian regime. And while I understand that the average Joe may take more than 12 years to adapt to a distant city’s name change, you’d at least think the press could get it right and respect the will of a nation of one billion people.



Filed under Essays, Living la vida española

3 responses to “Why Bombay?

  1. ReWrite

    So on Friday night I was out with a friends, a few of which were from India (not South Asian Americans). And interestingly, one of them got pissed that india had renamed many of its cities. They all agreed and proceeded to discuss how many of the names aren’t pre-colonization and that more importantly colonization is part of their history, so why pretend it wasn’t and how is changing a name of a city going to change anything. I can’t say that I have a strong feeling (either way) on their opinion, but I thought I would mention it here.

    That being said, I do agree w/ your conclusion in the post.

  2. eric

    That’s their debate, not ours.

  3. ReWrite

    right, just thought i would add it.

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