A Reuters story,”Turkey renames ‘foreign’ animals” (Fri Mar 4, 2005):

ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey has renamed some animal species, saying foreign scientists opposed to its territorial integrity had chosen their former names with ill intent, the Environment Ministry has said.
A sheep species previously known as Ovis Armeniana was renamed Ovis Orientalis Anatolicus. A species of red fox was renamed as Vulpes Vulpes rather than Vulpes Vulpes Kurdistanica.
“Unfortunately there are many other species in Turkey which were named this way with ill intentions. This ill intent is so obvious that even species only found in our country were given names against Turkey’s unity,” the statement said.
The ministry said the animals’ new names had been chosen as result of scientific studies.

(Via Turkish Torque, “the first Turkish blog on the Internet by Ugur Akinci.”)


  1. Will they rename the turkey — presently called, as in many languages something like “dinde” = “bird of India”.
    (I’ve wondered for a long time whether D’Indy, the French composer, was nicknamed “dinde” in ninth grade. Somebody has to think about things like this.)
    Outside Native American languages, the turkey is almost always named after some foreign place: India, Calicut, Ethiopia, Peru, Turkey, Rome, etc. etc.

  2. Does Turkey not recognize the sovereignity of Armenia? That would be news to me. How does calling some animal “Armenian sheep” threaten the territorial integrity of Turkey which has not ruled Armenia for a long time (nearly a century IIRC)?

  3. I’m far from an expert, but as I understand it, Turkey is extremely paranoid about independent Kurdish and Armenian identities being held onto in the east of the country. And as for Armenia, Turkey flips out when anyone dares call the attempt to exterminate Armenians a genocide. They probably want to avoid any reminder that the historical center of Armenian culture is in present Turkey, not what is presently Armenia.

  4. Oy, politics + scientific names = trouble

  5. Everybody knows that Kurdish and Armenian are simply strange dialects of Turkish. I bet Latin is too, so who’s to argue with what Turkish scientists do with their own language? Actually, when you think about it, deep down all the world’s languages are Turkish.

  6. it’s an outrage.
    What about Greek? They don’t have any flora/fauna/minerals/&c with so called “Greek” names that need straightening out?
    Clear case of discrimination.

  7. about the names for the bird turkey:
    In Croatia it’s called tuka in the south and purica in the north of the country.
    In Serbian it’s called ?urka.
    Those names have nothing to do with foreign place names
    I have no idea as to the etymology. Would anyone have any ideas?

  8. >> the first letter of ‘?urka’ should be a ‘c’ with an acute accent on top of it.

  9. I’m surprised the Govt of Turkey could even do that. Any revision of a species name generally goes thru the scientific process, and the accepted name gains preference. If it’s a politically motivated change, then the new name may not even gain currency in the literature, and then you’ll have only the turkish scientists calling them by the new names.

  10. I have no idea as to the etymology. Would anyone have any ideas?
    I second the question. Also, in Bulgarian it’s tuika and in Slovene it’s puran. Anybody have access to South Slavic etymological dictionaries?

  11. Let’s marginalize our scientists for the sake of nationalism!

  12. To answer the question on “Turkish Torque”, yes, there is an international authority that regulates scientific names. For animals it is the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature. I can find any reference to them in any of the stories on this, nor is there a mention on the ICZN’s website.

  13. Ingeborg S. Nordén says:

    Of all the petty, fanatical things people do to language in the name of nationalism…*grrr* Calling French fries “freedom fries” or sauerkraut “liberty cabbage” is silly enough, but tinkering with SCIENTIFIC names causes needless confusion outside any country that decides to do that.

  14. Going Dotty in Kansas says:

    Oh, boy, those Turkish taxonomists are going to have their hands really full when they go after plant names. How will they resolve the grape hyacinth problem — Muscari armeniaica, recognized as distinctly different from Muscari turkestanica? And will they give all the tulips names like Tulipa turkestancia var….anatolia? konyaica? We can hope that none of this foolish xenophobia will make it past the ICBN (International Code of Botanical Nomenclature), and that scientific rationalism will ultimately prevail — but in this world of “freedom fries”, I have my doubts. *grrrr* and double *grrrr*.

  15. Going Dotty in Kansas says:

    Actually, now that I’ve checked J.P. Smith, the ICBN rules clearly state that a name cannot be rejected merely because someone feels that it is inappropriate, becuase another might be considered better, or because the name has lost its original meaning. (Smith gives the example of Scilla peruviana — this specific epithet is acceptable although the plant doesn’t grow in Peru.) Also,for valid publication of a new plant name, the author(s) are required to prepare a new Latin (!!) description, or to provide references to previously published descriptions. (To this end, oral presentations, microfilm, or distribution of annotated specimens are not considered sufficient.) So I guess the hyper-nationalist Turkish taxonomists are going to have to find another way to legitimize their maladjustments. Perhaps they could enlist Rush Limbaugh to their cause.

  16. Yeah, as this site shows, making such a change international would not be at all easy. And if it’s just a national change, that defeats the purpose of binomial nominclature anyway!
    (in case that link doesn’t work, the URL is )

  17. I’m sure they are laughing about this all over Istiklal Caddesi in Istanbul right now. Turkey’s government – with predictable realism – has a history of appeasing it’s right wing Turko-Altaic-Turanian nationalists with oddball declarations like this, while the average Turk sees it for just that – tossing the nationalist (and therefore Sunni – but-non-(i.e. arabist)fundie-internationionalist)right wing a bone. I’m sure this plays well in Trabzon and Uzungol.
    Reminds me of my first competant converstion in Turkish, while staying at an observantly muslim Hemshin (muslim Armenian) guest house in Ayder, in the Kackar mountains on the Black sea. I met a devout young Turkish muslim mullah from Anatolia, and our conversation covered two streams. (We met on the smoking porch… Both of us had to smoke our cigarettes outside… you know how Hemshins are….) The conversation basically went:
    1) Elvis Presly was a Turk – since he was a US Soutrhern melundeon… according to a Turkish TV documentary…
    2) Armenia was never a Turkish enemy, and it is a shame what Turkey (as opposed to Turks) did to the Armenians of Anatolia.
    Talking to young modern Turks is a lot better than imagination.

  18. So the Catalan donkey might not really be Catalan after all?! This is all disturbing stuff

  19. gwenllian says:

    I second the question. Also, in Bulgarian it’s tuika and in Slovene it’s puran. Anybody have access to South Slavic etymological dictionaries?

    I looked up pura just the other day when I wanted to reply to an old thread here (before I somehow managed to get sidetracked and forget about it again). For puran it says: ? tal. peruano: peruanski. There’s no etymology given for tuka. About ćurka it says it’s onomatopoeic.

    The commenter in the other thread brought pura up as entering the Croatian standard from Kajkavian. As part of the standard, it’s very widely used now, and I’ve never seen mentioned in the list of non-Shtokavian words adopted into the standard, so I can’t say if it’s true that it wasn’t used in non-Kajkavian Croatian varieties before standardization. If it really was only used in Kajkavian and really does come from Italian, it’s interesting that an Italian word was borrowed in Slovenian and Kajkavian, but didn’t exist on the coast.

  20. Very interesting, thanks for updating the thread!

  21. marie-lucie says:

    John E: I’ve wondered for a long time whether D’Indy, the French composer, was nicknamed “dinde”

    I think dindon ‘male turkey’ would have been more likely for a boy. The feminine word dinde is (or was) used for a stupid girl or woman: Petite dinde! could be used in the same way as ‘You silly goose!’ in English.

    In France the generic name is la dinde, a bird often eaten at Christmas. In Canada it is more likely to be called le dindon.

    In earlier centuries the name India or Inde was used not only for the country of India but also for several other “exotic” locales both in Southeast Asia and in the Caribbean, so in English there was East India in Asia but also the West Indies near the American continent, and en français: l’inde (India), included in les Indes (Orientales) (India) and les Indes Occidentales, more commonly called les Antilles. The British East India Company had its French counterpart la Compagnie des Indes.

  22. The feminine word dinde is (or was) used for a stupid girl or woman

    cf dumme Pute in German, with the same literal and metaphorical meanings.

  23. I’ve been told by a turkey farmer that turkeys are too dumb to come in out of the sun. In summer he or his wife had to go out and chase them under a roof and close the gate behind them, or they’d run back out and die from dehydration.

    Not so strange if they have become the exemplar of stupidity.

  24. David Marjanović says:

    Till late in the 20th century, German atlases had Vorderindien “Front India” and Hinterindien “Back India” on maps of physical geography. The first referred to the “subcontinent”, the second to Indochina. These terms sound ridiculous enough that I’ve encountered hinterindische Verbindung, meaning “very obscure chemical compound”.

    cf dumme Pute in German, with the same literal and metaphorical meanings.

    Yes; also completely obsolete – don’t use it if you don’t want people giggling at you.

  25. completely obsolete
    Perhaps in Austria – in Germany, it’s quite alive and kicking. See the google hits for “Dumme Pute”. Some of them are for a turkey dish called “Dumme Pute” (never heard of that one before, googling can be so educational!), but many of the hits seem to show that ist still frequently used, even by younger people.

  26. David Marjanović says:

    I’m not sure if I’m being shown the results in the same order (that’s never guaranteed with Google). On the first page, only two represent usage (as opposed to the dish, which I didn’t know either, or being dictionary entries), one of them usage by a teacher. On the second, there’s one usage and one pseudonym. Third page: one usage by a mother, one by a 19-year-old but only in the headline. Fourth: two usages, a third in fiction (which is where I’d expect it), a fourth that doesn’t make sense. Fifth: several in fiction. In sum, less obsolete than I had expected, but still not common.

  27. Looks like you’re seeing the same results. Yes, I agree that there are more widely used epithets in German.

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