Grammar

Turkey or Turkiye? Who Gets to Decide?

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Should you spell a country’s name the way the world spells it or the way the country itself does? That prompts this question of Turkey or Turkiye?

The Republic of Turkey has been around for a long, long time. In fact, the Ottoman Empire established it back in the year 1299. Officially, it is known as the Republic of Türkiye. When those of us outside of the country spell out its name, however, regardless of the little dots, should we spell it as Turkey or Turkiye?

For simplicity’s sake, I’m going to spell Turkiye without the little dots. I will come to them later.

We have known the country as Turkey for centuries. Yes, you spell it the same way you spell that famous bird people flock to purchase in time for their Thanksgiving dinner.

Then came a circular the country issued in December 2021. It called for exports to be labeled as “Made in Türkiye.” It also mandated “necessary sensitivity” in using Turkiye instead of alternate spellings like Turkey.

The new spelling “represents and expresses the culture, civilization, and values of the Turkish nation in the best way,” the decree, from President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an, stated.

Turkish state broadcaster TRT World also claimed it would avoid association with the bird turkey. Some consider that a pejorative.

In 2022, the country’s foreign affairs minister sent letters to the United Nations requesting to change the country’s official registration.

Just last month, the U.S. Department of State officially began using the new spelling.

Some news outlets covered the adoption of the new spelling. Oddly enough, one of those outlets was the Associated Press, which reported the change in January. The Associated Press Stylebook is the definitive style guide for news outlets across the world.

So you’d think it the AP covers the name change, AP would immediately enact a policy change on the whole Turkey or Turkiye question.

The problem is, it didn’t.

Despite the fact that the Associated Press covered the name change, they have continued using the older spelling of Turkey. As the agency covered the massive earthquake disaster, it continued to use the now-replaced name. Even the section in which the most recent stories on the nation reside still spells it Turkey.

Journalist Neil McMahon questioned this on Twitter, asking why only the Australian Broadcasting Corporation had changed its spelling, while other sources, including AP Style, still spelled it like the bird.

His tweet did mention The New York Times, which still spells it Turkey. It did not mention ABC News, CBS News, NBC News or Fox News, all four of which also spell it that way.

Until the Associated Press updates its style guide, most outlets will continue to spell it the way they always have. (Unless, of course, an individual outlet takes it upon itself to make an internal policy change on its reporting.)

So what should you use: Turkey or Turkiye?

Since my “real job” involves the media, I talk here at this blog primarily about AP Style. That particular style guide carries the biggest effects on what I do. Of the various style guides out there, I find all of them annoying in one way or another. AP Style seems to be — overall — the least annoying. But it has its own special little quirks that can get under your skin.

In a case like this, common sense might suggest — even in AP Style — that you should follow the country’s preference.

After all, when referring to a person, AP Style advises that you should use the gender the subject prefers. When referring to businesses, regardless of how the style guide says you should write proper names, it says you should style corporation names the way the corporation does.

So if the Republic of Turkey prefers the Republic of Turkiye, that should be enough.

However, those of us who have strict style guides meant to maintain consistency are probably going to follow the style guide’s current policy even while we may reach out to ask them to make a needed update to their guidance.

I suspect that some time this year, that update will probably occur.

In the meantime, follow your organization’s style guide. If you don’t have one, great: do what you feel is right. Just be sure to be consistent. Don’t write it one way in the second and fifth paragraphs and write it the other way in the first, third and seventh paragraphs. That makes you look unprofessional.

But what about the little dots?

At the beginning, I mentioned that the country’s official name is the Republic of Türkiye.

We don’t often see the little umlaut over the letter U in print. But thanks to the internet and the ease with which computers handle such spelling challenges, more sites use it effortlessly.

An umlaut is a sign in some languages that a vowel takes on a slightly different sound in that particular word.

I listened to several pronunciations that seem to indicate a slight turn toward the OO sound in the word took mixed in with the U in turkey, almost like, “TOUR-kee.”

the authorPatrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.