Thursday, April 1, 2010

Phuket town or Phuket city?

The newspaper Phuket Gazette had an interesting opinion article last Tuesday titled In defense of Phuket Town on the naming of the municipality in English. Since the municipality was upgraded to the highest municipal status (thesaban nakhon, เทศบาลนคร) in 2004 [Gazette], the technically correct way to name the municipality would be Phuket city. Though I haven't yet found any document by the Royal Institute with recommended translations for the municipality types, it is quite standard to refer to the highest municipal level by the English word "city" - the only one where the translation is not obvious is the thesaban tambon. Yet according to Phuket Gazette, still the predominant naming of the municipality among the English-speaking residents is Phuket town. I guess most of them actually have no idea that there things like the different levels of municipalities, or even at the differences between province, district and municipality, so it will be mostly the nitpickers who have changed their wording after the upgrade. Another problem is the lack of clear definition of town versus city, unlike in German where it has different terms for city levels as well, defined by the International Statistics Conference in 1887.
  • Landstadt (rural town), less than 5,000 citizen
  • Kleinstadt (minor town), 5,000 to 20,000 citizen
  • Mittelstadt (middle town), 20,000 to 100,000 citizen
  • Großstadt (major town), more than 100,000 citizen
However, only Kleinstadt and Großstadt ever made it into the normal spoken German, I read the term Landstadt for the first time today, and also Mittelstadt I only noticed on the German Wikipedia.

Though the definitions differ, in the articles on the Thai districts on the German Wikipedia the above names were used for the municipal levels, only using simply "Stadt" instead of "Mittelstadt". And the word "Kleinstadt" sounds much better than "subdistrict municipality", which seems to be the standard translation for thesaban tambon (เทศบาลตำบล). And there's the even more interesting question - do the citizen of a subdistrict municipality which covers a whole rural subdistrict actually feel they live in anything like a town? Wouldn't a name like "township" or "commune" be more fitting for those subdistrict municipalities which were originally sanitary districts and only cover the more densely populated central areas of a subdistrict, whereas all the TAO now upgraded usually cover a whole subdistrict including vast areas covered by fields, forest or other sparsely unpopulated land.

1 comment:

Brian said...

On a closely related matter, I'm frequently asked by Thai people, "What city are you from?" to which I can only answer that I'm not from a city, I'm from a small English town.

Personally, and from the point of tourism, I think Phuket town sounds the better of the two.