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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Make It K-Y-I-V! Help the NYT Spell Ukraine’s Capital!

Online petition - Make it K-Y-I-V!

They know how to spell Mumbai and Kolkata.

They know how to spell Chisinau and Almaty.

They even know how to spell Lviv and Kharkiv!

But they don’t know how to spell Kyiv.

Help them. Sign this petition. Let them know that the Soviet-era spelling of Ukraine’s capital must go.


Michelle said...

I signed and tweeted your post and also posted it on facebook! ;)

Ropi said...

I signed it. I am not sure whether you can check it but my argument was the following: "In my opinion it is crucial to maintain the original spelling of geographical places, names, etc..."

khabar said...

Found some pictures from Western Ukranian town Berehove also known as Beregszász in Hungary.
Hungarian flags in the streets are also interesting.
Here is some pictures from Bene village. Note those two-language plaques:
So what did you tell about Greeks in Ancient Rome?

Daniel Charles said...

Does this mean we should also switch to Kobenhavn, München, and Moskva?

Taras said...


Thank you for your support! Kyiv has been your city for a decade now, right:)?


Köszönöm! You’re #2151!


Thank you for the pics! I’ve seen pics like that. I have no quarrel with regional multiculturalism as long as it doesn’t cross over into irredentism.

IMHO, flags that represent neighboring countries should be reserved for the countries’ respective missions and cannot be displayed on Ukrainian town halls.

My point was that neither Greece nor Rome had asserted themselves over each other as intensely as Russia continues asserting itself over Ukraine.


If they ask you to — and if they fit all of the above examples/precedents — then yes.

Style guides should be consistent.

Lingüista said...

I signed it and was going to tweet it when I saw that Michelle had already done it. Good luck, Taras! I hope this petition will work!

Daniel, as Taras said -- it all depends on what these people want. The tradition of calling München "Munich", for instance, is simply a copy of the French spelling, and does not even conform to English spelling/pronunciation rules. If the Germans should ever ask you people to change the spelling, would you refuse to do it?

(I note the Russians have recently decided to go back to old-style Soviet spellings for city names in Russian in the former Soviet space; so "Tallin" (Таллин), not "Tallinn" (Таллинн), etc. By doing this they mark themselves as unfriendly towards peoples with whom, not so long ago, they were living in "fraternal friendship". I wonder if they won't decide to call Congo by its old name Zaire too...)

Agent Muu said...

I find "Kiev" a little easier on the eyes myself, though I can't resist the urge to beat people down when they say KEE-yev.

Taras said...


Thank you for your contribution and support!

No, I wouldn't mind at all:) In Ukrainian, we call it Мюнхен, which perfectly dovetails with München.

Agent Muu,

Thank you for being among the early adopters! It's a matter of learning new habits.

It takes two English words to say Kyiv: Key-eve!:)

khabar said...


Misspelling of Tallinn is misspelling for the Eesti only, do Estonians want to be called in such an unappropriate (for English reader) manner?
For instance, Lithuanians call Belarus Baltarusija/Gudia and refuse to change the present state of affairs.
It's nice to see that recent attempt of Saakashvili's Gruziya to be renamed as Georgia also failed in Lithuania. This must please Turkey because Georgia was once their "occupied territory" before Russia moved ahead.
Also I am sure that Russia would never ask Finland to drop this silly name of "Venäjä".
Let them think Russia is still good ole Finno-Ugric tribe. :)

Taras said...

Tallinn appears to be the norm for The New York Times.

Lingüista said...


if the Lithuanians refuse to change placenames despite the expressed desire of the people who live there to have the names changed, then I think they're wrong.

Why do you think that one example of wrong behavior justifies another? Just because Lithuanians aren't Russians?

Again, would you call Congo by its old name, Zaire, against the expressed desire of the Congolese government? What for?

"Tallinn" doesn't have a specific spelling in any language -- it's not such a famous city. Why not write it as the Estonians do? It would be a friendly gesture.

Why do the Russians prefer 'Rus' (which used to mean 'Swedish' -- it still does in Finnish: "Ruotsi" is Sweden)? At least vene comes from the name of one of the Slavic tribes in the area, not from a people who didn't even speak Russian (yes, "Russian" was not a Russian word originally).

Basically, it is all about who wants to make friendly gestures and who doesn't. In English, Bombai became Mombai and Calcutta became Kolkata; are you going to complain about that too, khabar? (And in Russian, as I recall, at one point Tskhinvali became Tskhinval... again, do you think it's wrong?)