Following Turkey’s official name change this year to its endonym Turkiye, a Cypriot researcher based in the US has decided to prepare a paper for submission to the new government on why Cyprus should change its name to ‘Kypros’.
An endonym is the country name in the local language whereas an exonym is a foreign name for a country, for instance Germany and Deutschland, Greece and Ellada.
Ankara launched its bid last year and Turkiye is now widely accepted by international bodies such as the UN and the EU. Reports suggested it was partly to do with the association with the Christmas bird or the derogatory use of the word ‘turkey’, defined in the dictionary as something that is a complete failure.
Professor Petros Moronakis, a Cypriot researcher at the NPC University of California said he got the idea, not so much from the Turkish move, although it was a factor, but because there is a city in California called Cypress.
“I became a bit weary of Americans just assuming I was from there instead of from a beautiful and ancient country with its own unique heritage,” he told the Cyprus Mail. “But it also got me thinking of how westerners always change things to suit them no matter how racist that is. It’s the peak of white privilege. We should pronounce the names of other countries like the native peoples of those countries do out of respect for their languages and cultures”.
Moronakis said the etymology of the word Kypros is as long and complicated as the names of almost every country in the world and it’s too much to get into but he would spell it all out in his paper. “Suffice it to say that many countries around the world have changed their names in recent decades to shake off their colonial and anglicised pasts,” he said.
He added that a lot of the western names of say, countries in Asia, Africa and South America, came about as a result of European explorers not bothering to get the pronunciation correct from the start. “So lots of these have ended up with bastardised names in the West like Japan rather than Nippon. Yeah. That was Marco Polo. The arrogance of imperialism is just astounding,” he said.
Moronakis said Cyprus had already made a start by moving from the anglicised ‘Limassol’ to the Greek ‘Lemesos’ and ‘Lefkosia’ from ‘Nicosia’. There is no reason to stop there, he said. “Why does everything have to be anglicised to suit the colonisers who are inevitably rich white men? It’s cultural insensitivity. Is it really so hard to say ‘Coo-ba’ rather than ‘Cube-a’ or ‘Mehico’ rather than ‘Mex-ico’?”
Nicosia, or Lefkosia-based, linguistics professor, Lexi Papadimas, a former colleague of Moronakis, told the Cyprus Mail she was aware of his plans to submit the paper to the government as he had consulted with her on the idea.
“This is some next-level woke nonsense,” she said. “One of the root tenets of wokeness is supposedly inclusivity and this proposal might look that way on the surface,” she added.
However, in this instance, the burden to “pronounce correctly” would also fall on the people of the marginalised countries Moronakis is trying to elevate.
“Then a different woke person will come along and say we in the West are racist because we’re treating people from other continents unfairly in forcing them to pronounce our countries’ names in our native languages.
“How many of us can pronounce Magyarország (Hungary) properly? How about Cymru (Wales) or Zhōngguó (China)? Getting it wrong would also be deemed offensive,” Papadimas added.
“Aside from all that, are we really going to call ourselves ‘Greek Kypriots’. It would not be long before it was shortened to ‘Greekypriots’. I think Professor M has spent too much time in California. He should live in the real world, and that is not Twitter.”
A source at the presidential palace said the government was unlikely to take the proposal on board. In addition to the cost of changing everything from official documents to UN resolutions, domain names, maps, international travel norms, passports and licence plates for starters, the source added: “More importantly, we are not going to change our national issue after 50 years to the Kypros Problem or ‘the Kyprob’.”