September 27, 2007

It's still Burma

Pres. Bush referred to the violence and human rights abuses in Burma during his speech at the United Nations Tuesday, and CNN has it's collective panties in a twist over his failure to call it "Myanmar."

However, lest you judge this to be another tongue-tied fumble by the allegedly doltish leader of the free world, check out this defense from writer James Fallows, no fan of the president.

I'm watching CNN in Beijing, which keeps tut-tutting President Bush for saying "Burma," rather than "Myanmar," in his just-completed UN speech, as if this were merely another of his gaffes.

I'm with Bush. For nearly twenty years, since first visiting the country during the violent protests in 1988, I've followed arguments about the twists and turns of what to call the country in Burmese. The complications mainly involve what the various names say about the relations between the Burmese people proper and other ethnic groups within the nation.

But when it comes to referring to the nation in English, there's little debate. Myanmar is the name invented 18 years ago by the benighted junta, known as SLORC* back then and the State Peace and Development Council now, when it seized power through force. When Westerners say "Myanmar," they're not being culturally respectful to the people of a beautiful but oppressed nation. (We don't call China Zhongguo or Germany Deutschland just because the locals do.) They're bowing to the whims of the generals who still imprison Aung San Suu Kyi.

There is no reason to humor them. Say Burma, as George Bush did. And CNN, grow some backbone when it comes to terminology!

I love it when media types show us how "sensitive" they are by using the most exaggerated exotic tones, trilled "R"s and glottal stops while trying to get us yobs to throw out traditional English words and pronunciation, in favor of using allegedly more authentic substitutes.

The twinkies covering the Olympics for NBC a few years back started in on Turin, sounding like bad waiters evertime they said "Tore-een-o." Rome became "Rrrrrrome-ah," and Venice was "Venn-ee-tz-ee-ya."

I can't wait for the push for English-speakers to adopt the African tribal click-language pronunciation for their cities.

As soon as they build any.

Posted by Mike Lief at September 27, 2007 11:05 AM | TrackBack


Burma.....Who cares? I sure don't. We have illegal aliens scurrying under the fence to the south, and their cousins running across the border to the north. A school system bent on creating a new "Americo", and legislative pussies unwilling to fix our own probblems. Really-- who cares what goes on in Burma. A junta, sure--but that's the case in many regions. People dying, yep--not uncommon in a dictatorship like burma. Why should we care--does the media do this to drag us into yet another conflict? Who cares what the media thinks? Whatever creates a controversy strong enough to cause us to read the advertising is all the media cares about. It bugs me death when the media or anyone creates a sky is falling story and never offers a soluation. How about, it's not our damn problem. If those monks were smart, they'd let the general use their monkeries for royal weddings to make some money and stop whining about being oppressed. Really, skinny guys in red robes with no underwear--please, who cares.

Posted by: Vern at September 27, 2007 11:52 AM

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