Monday, June 19, 2006

Iran Gets Something Right

For once, I find myself agreeing with the Iranian government on the propriety of renaming goegraphic locations:

(AP) Iran has banned The Economist magazine for describing the Persian Gulf as merely "the Gulf" in a map published in the latest edition, state television reported late Wednesday.

It is the second time in two years that Iran has prohibited a publication of international repute for failing to use the term "Persian Gulf" in its maps. In November 2004, it banned the National Geographic atlas when a new edition appeared with the term "Arabian Gulf" in parenthesis beside the more commonly used Persian Gulf.

Tehran believes in aggressively defending the use of the historical term Persian Gulf. It regards the name Arabian Gulf, used by some, as a name dreamed up by Arab nationalists.

While Iran dominates the eastern side of the waterway, the western shores are held by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other countries.

I am still surprised that they allowed The Economist in Iran in the first place, but Iran definitely has a right to be upset. Changing names should normally raise eyebrows, but this particular change is beyond questionable. Besides the fact that "Persian Gulf" is the nearly universally accepted name, "the Gulf" doesn't make any sense. Is it the only gulf in the world? The map itself looks weird because of it. It is a relatively small body of water, not the moon.

Attempts to use "Arabian Gulf" is not only a suspicious change, it is a more ambiugous one. The Arabian peninsula, surrounded by seas and gulfs, already gives its name to the Arabian Sea - a larger body of water to which the Persian Gulf is eventually connected. Places on the Arabian peninsula already give their names to the Gulf of Oman, the Gulf of Aden, and the Gulf of Bahrain.

Iran (Persia until 1935) is only tied by name to the one body of water - the Persian Gulf - and borders its entire northern edge.

Applying the name-changing logic closer to home, perhaps the Gulf of Mexico should be renamed the Gulf of Texas, the Caribbean Gulf, or simply The Gulf. Why not have more than one?

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