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US diplomats quit saying ‘Turkey’, switch to Türkiye

State Department will use the new spelling in most official contexts going forward
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's president and leader of the Justice and Development Party, attends a meeting at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey in Ankara, on 4 January 2023 (AFP)

The US State Department said on Thursday it will largely stop writing the word Turkey and instead call the Eurasian country Türkiye, agreeing to a request by the Turkish government which resents the inadvertent association with poultry.

The State Department slipped in the name change on Thursday in a statement announcing measures to target financiers of the Islamic State group.

"The United States and Türkiye have disrupted ISIS’s ability to finance its operations by designating four individuals and two entities of an ISIS financial facilitation network,"  the State Department wrote with an umlaut over the u.

"The Turkish embassy did request that we use this spelling in our communications," State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

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"The Department will use the spelling that you saw today in most of our formal diplomatic and bilateral contexts, including in public communications," he said.

But he said "Turkey" was not forbidden when "in furtherance of broader public understanding", as it is "more widely understood by the American public."

The Pentagon has been writing Türkiye since an official readout of an August call between the NATO allies' defence chiefs. The State Department has occasionally used the spelling on social media.

In 2021 President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered the consistent use of Türkiye in languages that use Latin script.

Turks have long been upset by cartoons and other references that associate their country's name in English with the bird - believed to be so named because the British thought the species, indigenous to North America, came from the east.

In a recent article, Turkish public broadcaster TRT World noted that a "turkey" can also be slang for a "stupid or silly person".

"Type 'Turkey' into Google and you will get a muddled set of images, articles and dictionary definitions that conflate the country with Meleagris - otherwise known as the turkey, a large bird native to North America - which is famous for being served on Christmas menus or Thanksgiving dinners," it said.

Among other English-speaking countries, the embassy websites in Ankara of Australia, Canada, India and New Zealand write Türkiye, while the British, Irish and South African embassies use Turkey. The US embassy website as of Thursday was inconsistent.

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