[OSM-talk] [Tagging] nomoj de internaciaj objektoj / nazwy obiektów międzynarodowych / names of international objects

Martin Constantino–Bodin martin.bodin at ens-lyon.org
Tue Jan 7 10:38:34 UTC 2020

>>> Baltic Sea to be the "Baltic Sea" or for South America to be "South
>>> America" - this is an example of English imperialism.
>>> This "imperialism" idea of yours is just your idea. It is not
>>> something that is widely felt.
>> regarding imperialism, I think it’s hard to reject the reasoning
>> that English is in widespread use because of imperialism.
>> Yes, but using it for a pragmatic reasons
>> for an international communication is
>> usually not imperialism.
> I am also not a fan of blaming history for the current situation and 
> taking the long road because you don't like that history.
> It would mean that I couldn't speak dutch with my Surinam friends just 
> because 400 years ago the ideas of how we should conduct ourselves 
> were different.
> That is just counterproductive. 

Indeed. But it should be taken with some care.

In particular there is a huge difference between using English as a 
vehicular language, and using US or UK base culture references. A simple 
example of this is the imperial system: it is currently in use in very 
few countries (and even here in the UK, it has mostly been replaced by 
metric measures everywhere). Yet, you will see a lot of people using 
these depreciated units just because they think that it comes with the 
English package. This is very sad for me.

Another think to keep in mind is that English is a difficult language. 
There is a scientific consensus in this, and yet a lot of people seems 
to deny this based on bare opinion (usually held people speaking less 
than three languages…). Thus, is it extremely important, in the sake of 
equality, that when a native is discussing with a non-native with 
difficulties speaking or understanding, that the native avoid unusual 
words, idioms, etc. Doing otherwise would be a very effective way to 
make the non-native feel stupid, or to just not listen to him/her 
because “he/she doesn’t understand”… which is just a perfect 
illustration of the consequences of imperialism.

One of the base of the Esperanto movement, but also the simple/basic 
English Wikipedia project, was precisely to fight against these 
inequalities caused by the difficulty of the French and English 
languages in a constructive way. (It’s not the only goals of these 

In short, indeed there has been a lot of past imperialism, but these 
kind of things can be insidious and still continue. I really don’t think 
that we want to unconsciously impose such culture in our community. This 
is why I believe that we should be very careful with people trying to 
impose an English name for the “name” tag in places where it is 
absolutely not fit (see 
https://www.openstreetmap.org/node/424311641/history for a sad example). 
Or state that this mailing list is English-only knowing that someone 
subscribing to it is not warned about it beforehand.


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