Wikipedia:Naming policy poll/FAQ

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This FAQ represents the opinions of some Wikipedians who support the current policy, and is not in itself official Wikipedia policy
  • Dosn't Wikipedia have a responsibility to help in promoting vocabulary change and spread awareness about official names?
    • It is not Wikipedia's aim to promote any agenda, no matter how valuable to society its advocates might believe it to be. Wikipedia has a policy called the Neutral Point of View. It is very important for the English Wikipedia to remain neutral in the area of name changes, and the only way to be truly neutral is to choose names without reference to what is or isn't the "official name", but to only choose names with reference to what is used by the majority of English speakers.
  • Won't using the official names help to unify and inform the general public?
    • Nothing about this policy is going to prevent information about the new names from being included on Wikipedia. This policy only refers to how Wikipedia refers to places. The articles concerning places with new names should definitely talk about and describe the new name and how the new name came to be, but if the new name is not the most commonly used name in English, then Wikipedia won't use the new name in references to the place.
  • Why should we promulgate outdated names for places, when newer names exist? Isn't it just a sign of ignorance or habit when people use an old name?
    • It is not the responsibility of all English speakers to keep up to date with all the name changes going on in the world. By using the most commonly used English name we ensure that English speakers will be familiar with what they are reading. On articles that have different names from the "official" name, the article will have an official name informing the reader the status of the official name, and letting him or her decide whether or not her or she wants to use the new name or the more common name.
  • Isn't using the most common English name instead of the "official" English name failing to take into consideration the "official" English name, thus failing to accomplish the goal of being a high-quality source of information to the general public? Doesn't it defeat the purpose of an encyclopedia if we only use English names?
    • Certainly not! It is very important that articles about places that have adopted new names contain information about that new name. This policy is only about what the article's title should be and what the references to the place should be.
  • Doesn't government support for using these names mean Wikipedia should too? If the government of a country uses a name in their English-language materials, doesn't that mean Wikipedia should use that name as the title of its articles?
    • Wikipedia is beholden to no government or organization's demands about what to call different things. To make a naming policy based on some outside authority would be a violation of the NPOV policy.
  • Just because a name is more popular doesn't mean that the name is more correct, does it?
    • This question makes the incorrect implied assumption that the "correct" name is the same as the "official" name and that use of the normal English names is somehow "incorrect" or "wrong". Furthermore, using the phrase "official English name" is misleading and incorrect, because it implies that there is even an "official English name" for any place. A city can have an "official name", of course, as defined by the powers controlling it, but it can't have an "official English name" because there is no authority over the English language from which such "official status" would be derived.
  • What's the harm in just using the official spelling?
    • If Wikipedia were to only use names that are official, we compromise our neutrality because we have to acknowledge that some particular organization or government has authority in defining what the official name of something is. What about name changes which are instituted by an illegitimate government against the wishes of those who live there? Presumably we wouldn't want to use those names, but if we institute an "official name" policy, we would either have to use the undesirable name or have to put ourselves in the business of deciding which governments are legitimate and which are not. The current policy is the best policy because it avoids getting Wikipedia entangled in political debates.
  • Wouldn't it be better if everyone used the same place names uniformly? Isn't it offensive to use names that are perceived to be relics from past colonial eras? How does one expect to institute and honor a country's self-determined name change if you don't use the official name?
    • Wikipedia exists to present an unbiased representation of the facts, and in the English language Wikipedia this includes presenting an accurate description of what the current names for places throughout the world are in the English language. For Wikipedia to promote a new name above its usual form with the aim of increasing the use of that name would be following an agenda and therefore contrary to the NPOV policy.
  • Isn't it arrogant to disregard the wishes of the people who live in a place to call that place by the name they want?
    • It could be argued that it is arrogant for these particular non-English-speaking governments to presume to tell English-speakers what words to use. Many people call a place by an older name not because they're used to calling it that or because they don't know that the local government wants them to call it something new, but because it's the normal, correct, current English name for it, they don't recognise the power of the foreign governments to order them to change the words they use, and they want to use names for places that everyone knows and understands.
  • If we don't use official names which are natively-favored, what hope do we have for integrity of knowledge and cross-cultural/linguistic diplomacy in other fields?
    • The residents of most places don't have any problem with the fact that foreigners call their place by a different name. The government of Italy doesn't insist that English speakers call their country "Italia" and the cities "Roma", "Napoli", "Milano", "Firenze", etc., instead of "Rome", "Naples", "Milan", "Florence", and so on. It is only the people and governments of some places that have the arrogant presumption to insist that speakers of other Languages call their places by some name that they have chosen, and not by some name chosen by the speakers of the language.
  • Isn't is arbitrary to prefer any name other than the locally-preferred name?
    • Using the locally-preferred name is just as arbitrary. We have to be arbitrary. However, we can choose a policy that uses a criterion that makes the choices consistent.
  • What about XX name which is an old name that used to be used to refer to what YY is a part of now? What about XX name which is an old-fashioned name for what everybody calls YY now?
    • For most of these cases, the name chage was successful in English in that the new name is now the more common name. Wikipedia policy says to use the most common name, which in these cases will be the new name, not the old name, even if the old name is more traditional or English-sounding.