Happy Thanksgiving!

Here’s a little turkey-day trivia:

  • When Europeans first encountered this bird, they mistakenly identified it as guinea-fowl, which were also known as turkey fowl because they were imported to Europe through Turkey.
  • In Turkish, the bird is known as hindi, which means “from/related to India.”
  • In Hindi, the bird is called peru, which is a borrowed word from Portuguese language.
  • The Portuguese word peru refers, obviously, to the country Peru.

Had the Peruvians called the bird american, the circle would have been complete.

[Source: Wikipedia, HT: @manish_vij]

The Outlawed Letters

k atatürk

“There is a story about Mustafa Kemal Atatürk practising his signature in the Latin alphabet. The image is incongruous: the most powerful man in Turkey sits frowning over his own name, breaking in the unfamiliar strokes like a schoolboy. He had decreed in 1928 that Turkish would now be written in Latin rather than Arabic script – severing ties with the Ottoman past and making a generation of readers illiterate. In 1934 he passed a law requiring everyone to adopt a surname: Turks at the time tended to go by titles, patronymics or the name of their profession. It’s unclear how Kemal came by his name (he tacked on ‘Father of the Turks’ after 1934; it’s still illegal for anyone else to use it), but as for romanising his initials, the story goes that he tried spelling it first with a Q, then with a K – and deciding that he preferred the latter, banned the letter Q from the alphabet. The story is apocryphal; Kemal’s signature (now one of the most popular tattoos in Turkey) was designed by Hagop Çerçiyan, an Armenian calligrapher. And while it’s true that the letter Q was outlawed for 85 years, from 1928 until last month, the reason for the ban had little to do with aesthetic bias or onomastic whim.” [More here]

Apparently, the 85 year-old ban on W, Q, and X may end soon. Also read my old post on linguistic nationalism.

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