The Republic of Türkiye, often referred to as Turkey, has embarked on an international rebranding campaign to disassociate itself from the word “turkey,” the colloquial term for the large bird traditionally served at Thanksgiving in the United States.
The campaign seems to be bearing fruit.
On June 1, the United Nations agreed to use “Türkiye” (pronounced tur-key-YAY) instead of “Turkey” in the course of UN business.
“It’s not an issue, it’s not for us to accept or not accept,” said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric to CNN. “Countries are free to choose the way they want to be named. It doesn’t happen every day but it’s not unusual that countries change their names.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government launched the campaign in December 2021.
While Türkiye has been the correct spelling and pronunciation in Turkish since the country declared independence in 1923, the anglicized “Turkey” enjoys widespread use inside and outside of Türkiye, according to BBC.
TRT World, Türkiye’s English-language state broadcaster, explained the government’s decision in an article last year.
While the principle of national self-determination is an important factor, that is, Türkiye may name itself whatever it chooses, more practical matters having to do with national integrity or embarrassment seem to be at the forefront.
As TRT World puts it: “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.”
The article continues, “Flip through the Cambridge Dictionary and ‘turkey’ is defined as ‘something that fails badly’ or ‘a stupid or silly person.'”
It is difficult to say whether the rebranding will catch on in the United States. However, there is recent precedent in the case of Ukraine.
Following Russia’s invasion of the country in late February, many media outlets and governments the world over made the conscious effort to refer to Ukraine as “Ukraine” instead of “the Ukraine,” which is how Russia historically referred to the country when it was a political appendage of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union.