In addition to Kuala Lumpur, the state of Penang is the other place in Malaysia that Hongkongers are familiar with, especially the state capital, George Town. But for some time now, there have been calls, led by a Malaysian academic, to change the name of George Town to its former name, Tanjong Penaga. Since Malaysia’s independence from Britain in 1957, many place names have been changed. In Kuala Lumpur, major thoroughfares saw name changes, like Mountbatten Road to Jalan Tun Perak. In the rest of the country, towns like Teluk Anson became Teluk Intan, and Province Wellesley, the mainland portion of the state of Penang, was renamed Seberang Perai. George Town, named after the British king George III, is among the colonial-era place names in Malaysia that remain in use today. Of course, Malaysia isn’t the only country to rid itself of place names imposed by their former colonial rulers. India is another famous example, though name changes in the subcontinent have mostly involved restoring the original pronunciations from the Anglicised ones, such as Bombay to Mumbai and Bangalore to Bengaluru. Chinese place names also underwent extensive changes in the 20th century. While the country was never fully colonised in its modern history, parts of it came under the control of foreign powers such as Britain, France, Germany, Japan and Russia from the late 19th to the early 20th centuries. Like India, most name changes were made to their pronunciations and romanisations. Before China adopted the Hanyu Pinyin system of romanising Chinese, place names were rendered in what is known as the postal romanisation system. Beijing was Peking, Chongqing was Chungking, and so on. Amid the rush to help Ukraine, the Chinese commoner who stopped an invasion The postal romanisation system was largely based on a system called the Nanking syllabary created by Herbert Giles in 1892, but it also incorporated various southern Chinese dialects. For instance, the Fujian city of Xiamen was called Amoy and Huizhou in Guangdong was Waichow, based on the local pronunciations of these cities in Minnan-Hokkien and Cantonese, respectively. Canton, the postal romanisation name for Guangzhou, originated from Cantão , the name coined by the Portuguese, who had conflated the city of Guangzhou with Guangdong, the province in which it is located. Despite being an inconsistent and ad hoc naming system, the postal romanisation names remained in use until it was abolished and replaced by Mandarin-based pinyin names in 1964. The change took decades both within and outside China. The American government and press adopted Pinyin names as late as 1979, and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) three years later. Hated by generations of Chinese, their reappearing statues teach not to forget Today, most place names in China are in pinyin except for regions with substantial ethnic-minority presence and the two special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau. Various reasons are advanced for such name changes. Some make specious appeals to history, but colonisation or semi-colonisation is also a part of a country’s history, and place names reflect that indelible colonial past. A more plausible and justifiable reason is the desire to exercise or reclaim naming rights because there is a certain level of indignity in allowing foreign rulers of the colonial past to dictate how you wish to be called today. There are, however, former colonies who have opted to retain all or some of their colonial place names. Post-independence Singapore, for example, decided to leave all its names intact because its pragmatic first-generation leaders decided that the British colonial past, together with the English language, possessed an expedient neutrality that was conducive for the health of the ethnically diverse new nation. For the time being, Malaysia’s George Town keeps its name because tourism officials in the Penang state government believe that the name is too internationally well-known to be tampered with. But who knows. The old name of Tanjong Penaga may well have a place in Penang’s future.