13 March 2007

Two old buddies with funny names


This picture is from the February 1952 issue of Resimli Tarih Mecmuası, a now defunct Turkish history magazine. The men identified as "Ruzvelt" and "Çörçil" are, of course, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. Back then, most Turkish newspapers and magazines printed foreign names as they would be pronounced in Turkish by someone who didn't speak the language the names were in.

The picture below, from the December 1970 issue of another history magazine, Hayat Tarih Mecmuası, shows that by then the practice had already been abandoned.


Recently, I sent the first picture to several close relatives and friends for comments. One person in the group supported the practice of "phonetic" spelling of foreign names, while several others opposed to it. One problem pointed out by the supporter, that not every language uses the same alphabet, may justify modified spellings of some foreign names. For example, the Turkish letter "ı" is almost always replaced with an ordinary dotted "i" in English publications even though their sounds are different in Turkish.

Along these lines, it is worth noting that if you go to the homepage of the Turkish Embassy and alternate between the Turkish and English versions (link near upper right-hand corner), you will see that on the Turkish pages the city of their location is spelled as Vaşington—just like they would say it in Turkish, while on the English pages, it is Washington.

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