Prague or Praha?

From the moment Peter tells Megan that he works in Prague, the scene for the middle section of the novel was set in stone. The only problem was having to craft euphonious sentences around ‘The Czech Republic’.

It was a relief to learn that folks in the Czech Republic are thinking of changing the official name of their country to Czechia. It’s by no means certain that the change of name will make it into law, but I went ahead and replaced The Czech Republic with Czechia throughout the book.

The problem is where to stop. I used Prague instead of Praha because I couldn’t imagine two Britons using the latter. Yet I stuck with Kraków instead of Cracow—don’t ask me why. Maybe it’s because I’ve visited Kraków and got used to calling it that, whilst I’ve never visited Prague/Praha.

Peking has become Beijing, Bombay has become Mumbai, and the trend seems to be to favour the local spelling and pronunciation of place names. I’m not sure when English speakers will switch from Cologne to Köln or Munich to München. Or from Moscow to Moskva, for that matter.

As an author, I don’t want to irritate or offend readers by using unfamiliar or incorrect names, but neither do I want to date the events of the book by associating them with obsolete place names.

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