Thai cats
October 27, 2011 7:19 AM   Subscribe

Siamese cats are from Thailand?!

Now it all makes sense. I've heard the old word Siam used occasionally and only just now connected it to Thailand. Ceylon tea? From the old word for Sri Lanka.

I've clearly been missing out.

What other commonly used names for things are based on old names of countries?
posted by devnull to Writing & Language (31 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
Best answer: Prussian blue.
Bohemian anything.
Peking duck.
Persian carpets.

Here's the wikipedia page on places that have been renamed.
posted by punchtothehead at 7:23 AM on October 27, 2011


Just to continue with your second example, Ceylon used to be known as Serendip, which relates to the origin of the word serendipity.
posted by mikepop at 7:25 AM on October 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


Rhodesian Ridgeback
(Zimbabwean Ridgeback just doesn't have the same ring to it.)
posted by phunniemee at 7:25 AM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yugo automobiles.

Also, Siamese twins.
posted by bluejayway at 7:29 AM on October 27, 2011


The ottoman.
posted by holgate at 7:29 AM on October 27, 2011


Also also, Burmese cats.
posted by bluejayway at 7:30 AM on October 27, 2011


Persian cats (and carpets): Persia, now Iran.
Abyssinian cats: Abyssinia, now Ethiopia.
Byzantine anything: Byzantium, now Istanbul. (OK, that's a city, not a country.)
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 7:30 AM on October 27, 2011


Byzantine anything: Byzantium, now Istanbul. (OK, that's a city, not a country.)

Well, the adjective "Byzantine" itself isn't a reference to the city of Byzantium per se so much as the workings of the politics of the Empire centered on it, so it still qualifies as a country as much as "The Roman Empire" does. (Admittedly, the "Byzantine Empire" was formally called the Roman Empire, but in more modern times we use "Byzantine" to distinguish it from the Western Roman Empire that fell a thousand years earlier.)
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:34 AM on October 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Madras cloth and sauce/powder - Madras is the former name of Chennai.
posted by punchtothehead at 7:46 AM on October 27, 2011


Dalmatians are named after a region that is now in Croatia. I don't know if it's still called Dalmatia.
posted by TooFewShoes at 7:51 AM on October 27, 2011


As is Calcutta and Kolkatta.
posted by Rash at 7:51 AM on October 27, 2011


The word "hispanic" comes from Hispaniola, which technically still exists -- it's the island that houses Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:53 AM on October 27, 2011


And, according to wikipedia, the island itself possibly takes its name from a region of Spain and Portugal...
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:55 AM on October 27, 2011


Dixie Crystals.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:58 AM on October 27, 2011


CPB, it's older than that -- Hispania was the Roman name for the region that's now Spain (and of course, "Spain" derives from "Hispania" as well.)

TooFewShoes, as far as I know the Dalmatian Coast is still called by that name today.
posted by McCoy Pauley at 8:00 AM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Best answer: I suppose "savoy truffle" counts, or "savoiardi" (the biscuits)? Come to think of it, the Savoy Hotel. Savoy = part of (now) Italy.
posted by Logophiliac at 8:04 AM on October 27, 2011


Batavia is an old name associated with the Netherlands and their colonies in Indonesia.

Also there's any number of alternate names for European cities, depending on the side of the border they're currently on. One quick example is the now-Polish city of Wrocław which was known as Breslau when it was in Germany.
posted by Rash at 8:09 AM on October 27, 2011


Tazmanian devil
posted by bitteroldman at 8:09 AM on October 27, 2011


Tazmanian devil

Tasmania still exists
posted by zombieflanders at 8:14 AM on October 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


The despicable Formosan Termite.
posted by jquinby at 8:33 AM on October 27, 2011


Istanbul was Constantinople (and New York was once New Amsterdam).
posted by Violet Hour at 8:41 AM on October 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


Calico cloth originally came from Calicut, more properly called Kozhikode, in Kerala.

Cravat comes from a French pronunciation of Croat, and was named for the Croatian mercenaries who introduced the fashion.

Also:

Yes, I'd like to send this letter to the Prussian consulate in Siam by aeromail. Am I too late for the 4:30 autogyro?

This book must be out of date: I don't see "Prussia", "Siam", or "autogyro".

Well, keep looking!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:47 AM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Angora, both the rabbit and the wool made from its fur, comes from the old name for Ankara, Turkey.
Bohemian, from Bohemia, the old name for parts of the Czech Republic.
Peking duck, from the old name for Beijing.
Cathay Pacific, the official airline of Hong Kong, from Cathay, an old name for north China.
posted by peacheater at 9:11 AM on October 27, 2011


A piece of furniture or tableware that has been finished in the European imitation of asian laquerware is said to have been Japanned.
posted by pts at 9:18 AM on October 27, 2011


Albion, a old/romantic cognomen for Britain, was a brand of lorry and is still seen in football team names and so on.
posted by Abiezer at 9:45 AM on October 27, 2011


Best answer: Cathay Pacific Airlines gets its name from Cathay, an older English name for China.
posted by Johnny Assay at 10:07 AM on October 27, 2011


Lots of Czech people here in Texas refer to themselves at either Bohemian or Moravian, depending on where exactly they're from (some think they're higher class than the other group, too). And most of the Iranians I've known referred to themselves as Persian.
posted by katemonster at 12:09 PM on October 27, 2011


An ottoman.
posted by bonobothegreat at 1:09 PM on October 27, 2011


Cretin might fit here for opposite reasons; I always thought it came from the place name but it turns out otherwise. During elementary school one teach introduced us to Greek mythology and pointed out the Island Crete and said greeks disliked the inhabitants of the neighbor island and that's where we got our word for cretin.

Except cretin only came to English from the Alpine French term for those suffering from Iodine deficiency in the last few hundred years. I don't know the whole story but I've read several places cretin, like spastic, retarded, and hysteric, started life in English as a medical term and only got its wide spread negative connotations recently. So rest easy citizens of Knossos! No one associates you with beastly simpletons...oh wait...
posted by midmarch snowman at 1:20 PM on October 27, 2011


Burgundy the colour from Burgundy the wine, from Burgundy the region which was Burgundy the country.
posted by smoke at 5:15 PM on October 27, 2011


Best answer: Well, "Cantonese" comes from 'Canton', which is what the West used to call Guangdong province, China.
posted by imalaowai at 9:39 PM on October 27, 2011


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