The Ecphorizer

The Observatory
Tod Wicks

Issue #06 (February 1982)

Some time ago I resurrected an old record of mine on which the Mills Brothers recorded hits of the 50s. One of these asked the musical question, "Why did Constantinople get the works?" and answered, "That's nobody's business but the Turks'!". Of course yesterday's Constantinople is now known as Istanbul. It occurred to me that over the ages, as governments and cultures shifted across the sands of time, a number of other cities have been known by names other than those which we find an contemporary world maps. I thought that the idle curious night like to peruse the following list of past monikers of cities across the globe and try to match them with their respective present-day names.


Detskow Selo

St. Petersburg


New Amsterdam






As I was recalling from memory these names, and later checking them in the section of Webster' s listing geographical names, I realized that, beyond two or three, most that I found were locaticns within the Iron Curtain. It seems that the Soviets and their "client" states in Eastern Europe needed to glorify communist statesmen and so renamed many cities in honor of the likes of Pushkin (Detskoe Selo), Karl Marx (Karl-Marx-Stadt, nee Chemnitz), and Josip Broz (after whom we have Titograd). St. Petersburg was changed to Leningrad. It was extremely interesting to note that even the town whose name was changed (from Tsaritsyn) to honor Josef Stalin was subsequently again renamed from Stalingrad to Volgograd during the times when Stalin's name was being erased from Soviet history books.

It is interesting to note that commercial expansion of one city can gobble up smaller towns, as happened at the mouth of the Weser River in Northern Germany when Bremerhaven annexed Wesermuende.

Sometimes the written phonetic representation of Oriental characters in English can be the culprit, as happened recently when a modern method was introduced for spelling such Chinese cities' names as Beijing (Peiping).

And, although Holland is most remembered for founding New Amsterdam (New York), the port of Hollandia in Indonesia was changed to reflect the break in Dutch colonialism. This city is now known as Djajapura. I think I'll just be content to remain here in Mayfield, oops, I mean Palo Alto.  

A home computer aficionado with a license plate that says APPL II, our own Tod Wicks is also the originator of the Ian Faber Memorial Rallye. City Names Update 2006 Ah, how times do change, as does the familiar ring of old names of cities returning after the massive changes in Eastern Europe in the late 80s and early 90s.  Chemnitz is once again Chemnitz.  St. Petersburg is proudly back again. And as noted to the left, some cities simply disappear off the map when other, larger, cities devour them.  This is true here in the SF Bay Area where behemouth San Jose is concerned.  Always in the shadow of San Francisco, San Jose keeps trying to gain stature among the top metropolitan areas of the world, but no matter hard this former canning center tries, it will never ever match San Francisco for style, fashion, culture, business, architecture, and pure elan.  That's not for trying, though, as San Jose has for years been gobbling up small nearby communities and adding them to "greater" San Jose:  Such places as Willow Glen, Robertsville, Almaden, Alviso, Coyote, Milpitas, oops, sorry, no one wants Milpitas.  San Jose has its eyes on San Martin and Cupertino these days.  Too bad, San Jose, you'll always by that little burg at the sourthern end of San Francisco Bay.  As a sign over a toilet in a business on Powell Street once urged:  Flush twice as San Jose needs the water.

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Count Your Blessings
Jerry McCann

Issue #06 (February 1982)

Don't you worry, February,
And brood about your length;
Rare indeed the adversary
Who can match your strength,
You've a Saintly Luminary,
George and Abe, his Friend,
A Hedgehog in the secondary
And an open end. 

A writer, editor and bon vivant, he poetizes from San Jose, where he struggles to cultivate the art of graceful living.

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