“Turkey” may disappear from the world soon. Instead, people of the world should get to know “Türkiye.”
On June 1, 2022, at the local time, the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu announced on Twitter that they had submitted a request to the United Nations to officially changed the over one hundred years name “Turkey” to “Türkiye.” He tweeted that “The process that we started under the leadership of our President @RTErdogan to increase the brand value of our country is coming to an end.”
The decision to change the current internationally-recognized name “Turkey” is groundbreaking but not abrupt. In December 2021, President Erdogan had issued a presidential order requiring all Turkish domestic sectors to use the term “Türkiye.” As a result, all Turkish products became “Made in Türkiye” instead of “Made in Turkey.
The discussions about changing the nation’s name have long existed in Turkish society since 1923, when the first Turkish secular leader Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (better known as Kemal), abandoned the original Turkish-pronunciation name “Turkish” and adopted the Latin-pronunciation name “Turkey.” However, since Kemal led the country to acquire independence and separate the church and state, his critiques about the country’s name were not fierce.
As the presidential order said, the motivation to change the name is that “The phrase Türkiye represents and expresses the culture, civilization, and values of the Turkish nation in the best way.”
In a more profound sense, this decision reflects the country’s long-standing public diplomacy efforts to wriggle out of the stereotypes from the old-time and develop a more substantial soft power to support the country’s ambitions.
The name “Turkey” is usually confusing for English learners because capitalizing or not capitalizing the “T” could mean two different things.
Suppose you type in “Turkey” into Google, the letter “T” will be automatically decapitalized. As a result, Google will show the readers the information about a bird that is famous for being served on Thanksgiving Day. Moreover, in American slang, “turkey” could also mean stupid and dumb.
Apart from these disgruntling errors, some previous successful examples may be another motivation to change the name.
In 1935, Iran changed its name from Persia, which Westerners mainly used. The word Iran means Persian in Farsi, and at the time, it was felt that the country should call itself with the name used locally, not a name seemingly imposed from the outside.
A more recent example is “Kyiv” and “Volodymyr Zelenskyy.” The capital city of Ukraine has long been famous for “Kiev” and remained the same popularity until Putin’s “Special Military Operation.” With the overwhelming rhetorical support from the Western media, people have started to emphasize that “Kiev” is Russian pronunciation and “Kyiv” is Ukrainian pronunciation. Within a night, “Kiev” becomes “Kyiv.
Similarly, the Russian-speaking Ukrainian President called himself “Vladimir Zelensky” before the war. With the war going on, gradually and quietly, he turned to call himself “Volodymyr Zelensky” and said “Volodymyr” is the correct Ukrainian pronunciation.
Countless examples can prove how people use language as a tool to hightlight their political identities and attributions. However, they may even be unable to speak fluently the language they hightlight. But for instance of Turkish, they are just returning to the original instead of deliberately highlighting the differences.
Turkey’s or Türkiye’s decision has raised some interesting responses from the international society. For example, the British newspaper The Week argued that changing the name is a way to counter the influence of the English-speaking world.
However, the letter “ü” could be a big problem because it can’t be adequately shown on customs and port computer-based systems. In other words, all the non-Turkish-speaking regions and countries may have to think about how to handle the letter “ü” when importing and exporting Turkish goods.
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