Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Footnote: Why "Burma?"

For those wondering why I use the name "Burma" in preference to the official name "Myanmar," it's because by all I've heard, the pro-democracy movement in Burma prefers it on the grounds that the name change was imposed by a military government which they reject.

According to the BBC, both names have been commonly used in the country, with Myanmar being a more formal term and Burma a more familiar, everyday one. I expect the difference is something equivalent to the difference between "the United States of America" and "the US" or "America" or "the States."

Still, there apparently is something of a political indicator in which name is used, something like whether you called the place in Northern Ireland "Derry" or "Londonderry" during The Troubles. And while the call by the pro-democracy movement in favor of "Burma" is not a "strong" one, I intend to be pig-headed on the matter.

On the other hand, if you're going to call it "Myanmar," at least pronounce it correctly: According to native Burmese speakers consulted by the Beeb, it's not "MEE-uhn-mar" or, as I've often heard it, "MY-uhn-mar" but rather "myan-MAR" where the "my" is pronounced like the "mu" in "mute."

Finally: Thanks to Blue Gal for the picture.

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