For years and years I wondered why the heck would Switzerland be translated in to Rui-shi (瑞士)…
It’s only a few days ago that it dawned on me, that thing is supposed to be read in Taigi or Cantonese…
Taigi: Suī-sū 瑞士
Cantonese: seoi6-si6 瑞士
Mando: Ruì-shì 瑞士
The same goes for Sweden 瑞典 as well. Compare to the usage when transcribing Venezuela 委內瑞拉, the seems the person who made that transcription spoke Mandarin.
So the person that popularized this transcription of Swiss had to be either a Min speaker or an Yue speaker, or at least someone who spoke a language closer to Middle Chinese.
How did Middle Chinese /s/ turn in to Modern Chinese /ɻ/ in the first place? Perhaps it was a case of /t/ to /ts/ to /j/ and split to /s/ and /ɻ/?