Wednesday, August 08, 2012

My Fine New Map

What better (besides a check) to get in the mail but a spanking-new map of the world? A little while ago National Geographic Traveler wanted me to renew my lapsed subscription for a small sum, and sweetened the pot with an offer of a spanking-new map of the world, no extra change. My esteem for Nat'l Geo maps is high; I've been perusing them since I can't remember when; and so I subscribed.

One side is the world, the other the United States. It's a fine, fine map, complete with the latest nations (e.g., Kosovo, South Sudan) and the land done all in earth colors, even the purples and oranges somehow. The oceans are white, with grays for undersea ranges and other formations, and the lettering for the oceanic features is brown. Interesting choice, especially considering that the water features on land, such as rivers, lakes and glaciation, are lettered in blue. All the typefaces are the standard Nat'l Geo ones that the organization seems to have been using forever, and which they never should change.

The map easily contains as much information as a paper book or an electronic map, without the worry that it will crash without warning. Also I can -- when I clear everything else away -- spread it majestically across my desk. Try that with an iPad.

Though I don't have time for a complete inventory, I find myself looking on the map for alternate names, which appear in parentheses on Nat'l Geo maps (as they always have). The Chagos Archipelago, for instance, is alternatively the Oil Islands. I didn't know that, but my knowledge of the BIOT is shockingly meager. Others are no surprise: the Falklands is also Islas Malvinas; Greenland and its towns have their alternate names listed; Burma has its official name listed, though we can all hope it will be Burma again someday; and Bombay and Calcutta and Madras have their officially sanctioned names, too. But really, if we must use Mumbai, Kolkata and Chenai, shouldn't we call the country Bharat Ganarajya?

None of the Wade-Giles romanizations of Chinese names are still on the map, which I suppose is to be expected, though Dongbei has the better-known Manchuria next to it in parentheses. My own favorite place name (sort of) in China remains Ürümqi.

Oddly, Ho Chi Minh City has no parentheses next to it containing "Saigon" next to it. Also oddly, the island generally called Sulawesi these days is called Celebes on the Nat'l Geo map -- no hint of any other name. The good old name I learned when I first learned about this island and its excellent shape. What's up with that? I might have to send an email to Nat'l Geo to ask.

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