Not only do historic place names change, but places often simultaneously have two or more names and pronunciations. For example, Biscay Bay, referred to in the text, is the English form for Viscaya, its Spanish name; Napoli is the Italian form for Naples. Were this book written in a language other than English, these other forms would be used. One is not more “correct” than the other. The choice simply reflects the bias of language.
Behind this bias may lie serious distortions of history, however, for the use of one term, spelling, or pronunciation for a place or person tends to reflect how “the victor writes the history.” The pronunciation of Agincourt is an example, for the English call it agLin-kort; properly, in French, the pronunciation is d-zhan-koor. By the choice of pronunciation one may implicitly take sides in a dispute.
Through the use, in text or on a map, of a name in the national language, one may make a political point concerning national identity. Thus Ireland’s capital city, Dublin, often appears as Baile Atha Calaith and Ireland as Eire. An area called Upper or Higher or even Superior usually simply means father up an important river from other peoples, but the words may easily be mistaken to imply quality.
Finally, local pride and custom may lead to pronunciations that differ markedly from those of the places after which they were named; this is especially true in North America, where the English river Thames (timms) has become the American river Thames (pronounced as spelled), the Egyptian city of Cairo (ky-ro) has become kay-ro, and the Greek city of Athens (d-thens) has become d-thens.