National Geographic : 1899 Jan
THE U. S. BOARD ON GEOGRAPHIC NAMES AND ITS FOREIGN CRITICS In the November number of THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, under the title " Geographic Aspects of the Monroe Doctrine," is quoted a passage from Petermann's Mittheilungen, 44 vol., 1898, wherein exception is taken to the action of the U. S. Board on Geographic Names in deciding certain cases of disputed nomenclature in Canada. Concluding, the writer says : " Even admitting the correctness of these changes, exception must be taken to such action in regions which do not belong to the United States. The greater part of these names belong to Canadian territory, where American officials, in spite of the Monroe doctrine, have nothing to say, and where undoubtedly the Canadians have the exclusive right to give the names." The United States Board on Geographic Names assumes to control usage only so far as concerns the publications of the United States government. Canada will doubtless continue to spell these names as she chooses, and when she settles upon their spelling the United States Board will probably accept her de cisions, in accordance with its general policy. But at the time these decisions were made there was no uniform usage in regard to these names, even in Canada, and it was necessary, to meet our own needs, to clear up this confusion in nomenclature. While we are on the subject, it may be pertinent to ask why Petermann's Mittheilungen persists in attaching to geographic features in the United States names different from those by which these features are universally known to the people of this coun try. For instance, it calls the country itself, not United States, but Vereinigte Staaten; the Rocky mountains, Felsen Gebirge, etc. It is no defense to say that these are translations, for proper names are not susceptible of translation. Mr Baker would very properly object to being addressed by a Frenchman as M. Boulanger. This practice is not confined to the Mittheilungen, or to Ger many; every people does the same thing. Most of the princi pal countries, cities, rivers, etc., of Europe are known to the people of other countries by names different from those by which they are called by the inhabitants themselves. H. G.