Oxford Experts! An oxymoron?

News: Apparently, in the Oxford Concise Dictionary of World Place Names (2005), the entries for some of our cities read as follows:

Bangalore – A city which takes its name from the fact that it was founded as a mud fort in 1537 by Kempe Gowda, a local chief in the Hoysala kingdom, in an area where the population spoke mainly Bengali. The Bengalis took their name from a chief called Banga!!!! What the?

Mysore – City of buffalos

Hubli – Old Village

Chandra Shekara, convener of the Kannada Geleyara Balaga pointed out the mistakes to The Hindu and went on to clarify the origin of these city names:

1) Bangalore had nothing to do with Bengalis. Tradition had it that the name emerged from Bendakaluru.

2) Kempe Gowda was a chieftain who had nothing to do with the Hoysala kingdom, having built Bangalore during the reign of the Vijayanagara rulers.

3) Mysore does come from Mahishi (which means a buffalo), but it was never a City of Buffalos. The name came from Mahishasura, the demon.

4) Hubli is a derivative of Hu-Balli (flower and creeper).

Chandra Shekara and V.C. Chinnegowda, president of the KSRTC Kannada Kriya Samithi, told The Hindu that they would burn a copy of the book on Monday on Mahatma Gandhi Road. They said Kannada organisations such as Kannada Janashakthi, Karmika Loka, Kendriya Nagara Kannada Sangha and Bangalore Nagara Zilla Sahitya Parishat would participate in the protest.

You would think “Oxford” would get it right! And people that are not familiar with the actual origin of these city names are likely to go by what this book has to say. So the next time, you want to look up any town or city, please think twice before buying into what the Oxford Concise Dictionary of World Place Names has to say.

17 Comments so far

  1. Suresh (unregistered) on May 17th, 2007 @ 7:15 pm

    “What the?” is the only reaction I have to this!

  2. Ravi (unregistered) on May 17th, 2007 @ 9:13 pm

    May be someone should point out this to the editors and clarify how the place got its name.

  3. SHADOW (unregistered) on May 17th, 2007 @ 11:02 pm

    Enough of history twisted in past, We just can tolerate this scarp, Down with Oxford.

    Its high time to boycott oxford, I will just spread about the bad mouth of oxford to as many, Damaging the history cannot be tolerated at any cost.

  4. SHADOW (unregistered) on May 17th, 2007 @ 11:04 pm

    Enough of history has been twisted in past, We just can tolerate this scarp, Down with Oxford.

    Its high time to boycott oxford, I will just spread about the bad mouth of oxford to as many, Damaging the history cannot be tolerated at any cost.

  5. Sameer Shisodia (unregistered) on May 18th, 2007 @ 12:01 am

    Burn ,’cannot tolerate’ – yeah these will sure ‘teach them a lesson’.

    For a friendly city like Bangalore, there have to be some less aggressive (ever heard of polite but firm) means of pointing out and getting corrected what sound like unintentional errors or even laziness and lack of editorial effort.

    Where’s all this anger and offence taking at the drop of a hat crept in from ? Its fast becoming a national attitude. Maybe I should stage a dharna/protest a burn a few copies or effigies of something/someone somewhere…

  6. Ganesh (unregistered) on May 18th, 2007 @ 12:56 am

    Sameer, couldn’t agree more with your views. I was equally taken aback to read the unintentionally funny and what definitely must be disagreeable meanings of historic cities such as Bengalooru, Mysore and Hubli. That said, there needs to be a more pragmatic view of what needs doing, i.e. in this case getting the mistake corrected instead of vilifying Oxford Publications.

  7. Briju Prasad (unregistered) on May 18th, 2007 @ 1:56 am

    I wonder why would Oxford publications make such a mistake?….this is not even close to the truth,I would want to ideally clarify first before any actions.

  8. AC (unregistered) on May 18th, 2007 @ 3:56 am


    From your writings it is evident that you have been boycotting not only the oxford but dictionaries of all flavors!

    Why don’t you blog in Kannada? That way you can express yourself better. I presume that there’s no bar against posting in Kannada.


  9. Mytri (unregistered) on May 18th, 2007 @ 4:56 am

    On a lighter note. My younger one is “lovingly” called an oxymoron by the older one when he knows I am around! Otherwise it is straight punishment without the first 3 letters ;-)

  10. R.A. Levin (unregistered) on May 18th, 2007 @ 5:25 am

    Just what in the hell were these Oxford “experts” smoking when they came up with that clanger?!
    B.T.W. The city of Oxford has a fascinating history.
    Named Oxford, originally, because it was only occupied by a man, his oxo instant soup cube and his Zephyr Zodiac automobile. It has nothing to do with actual Oxen.
    (Thought you’d like that one, Ravi.) ;)

  11. SHADOW (unregistered) on May 18th, 2007 @ 9:41 am

    Is your comment on bloging in kannada is Pun or serious ? I din get you.

  12. Which Main? What Cross? (unregistered) on May 18th, 2007 @ 11:47 am


    Mangalore: City of Monkeys. Manga is monkey in Kannada.

    T Narasipura: An ancient Mariner called Vasco Da Gama lost his way on land and found his direction is Thmme Gowda’s Tea shop in Narasipura. Hence T Narasipura.

    Chickaballapura. Because it supplies most of the chicks that grow into hens.

    Tumkur: A Ganga dynasty patriarch on a journey to Kashi on a bullock cart once felt a rumbling in his belly here.

    Can anyone tell me how these places got their names?

    Hassan, Sirsi, Kalburgi?

  13. Deepa Mohan (unregistered) on May 18th, 2007 @ 1:28 pm

    Hey! What happened to my comment? Gone, like Kempe Gowda…!

  14. venky (unregistered) on May 18th, 2007 @ 10:34 pm

    lol@banglore’s bong connection..really how on earth did they come up with that??…i cant wait to checkout their version for bangkok..some bong with a _ _ _ _(u know what) did something there…

  15. Chitra (unregistered) on May 18th, 2007 @ 10:52 pm

    Hey Deepa, I don’t see any comment from you either in my mail box or in the comments section of our ‘tools’!! Did you see it here after you submitted it?

  16. Ravi (unregistered) on May 20th, 2007 @ 8:17 pm

    Hard to believe that the research department of Oxford could screw up so badly! Anyways, they seem to have apologised:

    Oxford apologises for Bangalore-Bengali goof-up

  17. kpowerinfinity (unregistered) on May 21st, 2007 @ 3:08 am

    A classic case of how precision and correctness is slaughtered at the altar of deadlines, first-to-market strategies and market economics.

    But coming from a reputed publisher such as Oxford, this is really shocking!

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