Monday, August 20, 2012

Why I Will Still Say Peking if I Like

I am also aware that some are sensitive about the spelling of words; and the very proof-readers will sometimes revolt and turn Mahomet into Mohammed. Upon this point, however, I am unrepentant; for I never could see the point of altering a form with historic and even heroic fame in our own language, for the sake of reproducing by an arrangement of our letters something that is really written in quite different letters, and probably pronounced with quite a different accent. In speaking
of the great prophet I am therefore resolved to call him Mahomet; and am prepared, on further provocation, to call him Mahound.

The New Jerusalem


  1. I have to say, I'm a little schizo on this one. Chesterton is right about most things, and I do feel that people are sometimes far too precious about altering names (at least when it comes to Asian and African contexts; it's curious, is it not, that there's no "right-on" demand to call the capital of Austria "Vien" or that of Serbia "Beograd"), but I do think "Mahound" is needlessly gratuitous.

  2. Perhaps he was joking about Maohound; although he uses that name in Lepanto. One thing I find funny about reaction to Chesterton is that there is so much hand-wringing over his few (supposedly) derogatory comments about the Jews, when he was constantly professing his dislike of the (Far) East and Eastern culture in general, and yet nobody seems to object to that!