of geographical names
Geographical names impact upon many areas of
Urban & regional planning
Environment - sustainable
Aid delivery/national disaster relief
Search & rescue operations
Communications (including postal & media
Geographical names are essentially labels
which distinguish one part of the earth’s surface from
another, and as such they must be considered with great
care. Operations during the First World War had
Her Majesty's Government the dangers involved in using products
with discrepant names. Geographical names form a uniquely
important part of any map or chart. Because they are
written words, unlike most other information on a map, it is
the names which are the most meaningful information for the
user. Most importantly, it is the names which inform the
user of that most vital piece of information; the location
which the map portrays. And it is precisely this particular
map attribute – the geographical name – which cannot be
identified from imagery.
Geographical names do not exist in a vacuum.
Because they reflect human occupancy, they provide important
information concerning politics and culture. Names vary
most obviously in a spatial manner, from one location to
another. They also change through time, as demonstrated
most visibly by the many name changes which the world
experiences, eg Salisbury →
Harare (Zimbabwe). Equally, albeit less obviously, they can
alter through factors such as a change of political
sovereignty, eg Kishinev (Soviet Union) →
Chişinău (Moldova), or language orthography, eg
Ceerigaabo (Somalia). And names differ also through the
contexts of language and politics; the town in Iraq known as
Arbīl in Arabic is known as Hawlēr in Kurdish.
Under what circumstances might our familiar
name Venice be preferable to the local Italian form
Venezia? When should the Czech name Praha be
used in place of the English "conventional name" Prague?
The choice of which name to apply will often depend on the
context. For more details, please go to our page on
English conventional names.
And how should we treat
geographical names whose original forms are not in Roman
script? For geographical names to make sense on UK
products, there is a requirement for
romanization systems to
handle each of the non-Roman script languages of the world.
It was the need to consider factors such as
these, and to avoid the application on UK products of
carelessly discrepant names, that was identified by the
Admiralty as an absolute necessity during the First World
War, and which led on the Admiralty’s initiative to the
formation of the Permanent Committee on Geographical Names
(PCGN) in 1919.