"You Say 'Torino' and I Say 'Turin'..."

I saw an article in yesterday's newspaper about the lighting of the torch for the upcoming Winter Olympic games in Turin, Italy. One fun factoid: The latest incarnation of the torch was designed by engineers from Fiat and Ferrari. And it shows; it looks so aerodynamic that the runner carrying it would gain a little speed. A picture showed the Greek Olympian who is the first torchbearer, and his uniform had the logo for "Torino 2006."

That got me to thinking: There are a lot of cities in Italy that call themselves something other than what we English-speakers call them. Torino, for instance, is our Turin. Similarly, such cities as Roma, Venezia, Milano, Napoli and Firenze are known to us as Rome, Venice, Milan, Naples and Florence, respectively. Doesn't that seem a little strange? Now, there are certain other foreign cities whose names are different in the English-speaking world, such as Moscow and Munich and Athens, but it's not a wholesale thing like it seems to be in Italy.

Then remember how the Chinese changed their transliteration system several years back and all of a sudden, Peking became Beijing and most other Chinese names became unrecognizable. I think they did it just to cause confusion in the West. You cannot get "Beijing duck" or find a "Beijingese" dog, however. Anyway, the point of all this is that the Chinese said, "We want you to spell our language like THIS," and by golly, we did! Apparently the Italians don't have that much pull with us, which isn't really fair considering all the of the great contributions they've made to American cuisine.