West Bengal Applies To Change Name To Bangla – Quite Why, No One Entirely Sure

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The Indian state of West Bengal has passed a law to change the name to Bangla. This isn’t something they can do unilaterally so they have now asked permission of the centre for this to take effect. It’s the story of why this is being done which might prove the point of interest:

The West Bengal Assembly unanimously passed a resolution on Thursday to change the state’s name to Bangla.

However, the change will require the approval of the Union home ministry to come into effect.

There’s a certain amount of reason to do this. West Bengal is the name for the area derived from English, as Calcutta was for what is now Kolkatta. Sure, we English, deeply imperialist as we all are in our hearts, might wince a little at this wiping out of blessed memory but it really is the people who live there who get to call it what they want. We can carry on of course, just as some still will call Livorno, Leghorn.

As to the name chosen, yes, that does actually match up with the local language. In Bengali it is called Bangla – just as the old East Bengal is now called Bangladesh.

The Centre had sent back the state’s earlier plan to change the name to “Bengal” in English, “Bangla” in Bengali and “Bangal” in Hindi.

The West Bengal Assembly had passed a resolution on August 29, 2016, changing the name of the state to Bengal in English, Bangla in Bengali and Bangal in Hindi.

But following Centre’s reservations with the three names, the state cabinet passed a resolution to change the name of the state to “Bangla” in all languages on September 8, 2017.

That’s all a bit of a vain hope for pretty much everyone will continue to refer to it as their own language does. That being one of those defining features of languages themselves.

However, that interest in the why part. This particular reason looks like more than a bit of invention:

Because of the annoyance of the CM.

Last year, Mamata Banerjee during an Inter State Council meeting in New Delhi, had expressed annoyance because she was made to speak at the end because leaders were called in alphabetical order of the name of their states. The name ‘West Bengal’ starts from W , so she had to wait a lot and ample time was also not given to her to speak.

This infuriated her and she decided to rename the name of her state , so that next time she does not have to wait for long for any such meetings.

No, really, we’re not going to believe that now, are we? Except today’s newspaper backs up that claim from Quora:

Mamata Banerjee has been angling for a new name for her state for some time now. One of her reasons is that West Bengal comes last in state lists, which means the Chief Minister gets to speak last in meetings, or often not at all.

Hey, maybe it’s even true. And if we think about it there are worse things a Chief Minister can do than fret over names and speaking opportunities. They could try planning the economy, introducing socialism, that sort of thing, far more dangerous activities.

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Boganboy

As an unregenerate imperialist, I still call Istanbul Constantinople or even Byzantium. Just as I call Deutschland Germany, though not I’ll admit Germania.

Quentin Vole
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Quentin Vole

It’s a compliment one country pays to another to use a name in the local language – usually applied to the country itself, or the capital or major trading ports. I’ve no objection to people using Beijing for Peking, or Myanmar for Burma, or Chennai for Madras; as long as they’re consistent and refer to Firenza and Moskva, and pronounce Paris as Paree (the epithet ‘gay’ is optional).