The absence of replies to this question suggests that there is no term in common usage in toponymy for "the same name but different spelling". Certainly, no such term is listed in the UNGEGN 'Glossary of Terms for the Standardization of Geographical Names' as far as I can see. It is a strange omission since even in England there must be many such examples; in my own area, High Beach/Beech and Lea/Lee Valley are just two that come immediately to mind. But in a country such as Ghana, my country of research, where place names have been written down before official orthographies have been agreed, and have varied with the linguistic background of those recording them, there must be far more. In the GEOnet Names Server database for Ghana about 52% of the locations have allonyms, most of which are merely alternative spellings.
I think it is important for clarity and discussion to have a distinct term other than 'allonym' for an alternative spelling. Alternative names and alternative spellings are wholly different concepts and arise from very different evolutionary processes. I am wondering what other toponymists would think about the word ‘heterograph’. It seems to convey the required idea of 'other ways of writing', and contrasts with 'orthograph' which would be the 'correct way of writing' a name. Other suggestions for discussion would be interesting.
October 2, 2012
Thanks Carole. Can you point me to any reference/webpage where 'doublet' is used in this sense? However, I'm not sure if it quite meets my needs. The term 'doublet' seems to suggest there will only be two variant spellings, whereas I have examples with multiple spellings. I do think there is a need for such a term simply for ease of communication, e.g. if the accepted term was 'heterograph' one might want to say something like "The toponym 'Ahiem' has at least 3 other heterographs, viz. Ahyiem, Ashiem, and Eshiem".
October 2, 2012
Sorry for the slow reply, John; I've had computer problems. Here's an example from Alison Grant's article "A New Approach to the Inversion Compounds of North-West England" in 'Nomina' 25 (2002), 65-90, at 72 (single inverted commas represent italics):
"Hobcarton (Cu) is a doublet of Hopecarton in Peebleshire, as they both contain Old English (OE) *'hobb' or 'hop' and the Gaelic personal name 'Cartan'."
I think the term "doublet" would be used irrespective of the number of such parallel names: two or more. However, I do realise now that it isn't quite what you want, as it refers to names that have developed from the same origins, irrespective of whether or not they have the same modern spelling. Sorry!
May 6, 2012
John, sorry for the delay with this! The onomastics group were of the opinion that they would generally just describe this as 'variant spellings' (and in fact already do so). I suppose there's no reason you can't use 'heterograph' (or similar), as long as you define it, but the responses of the group indicated that it would probably not catch on in wider use, or at least it would not catch on quickly.
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