Today's Authoritarianism Brought to You by the Letters Q and W


A friend passes along this story, which if I didn't see the CNN banner I'd swear had been excerpted from Bend Sinister:

A Turkish court has fined 20 people for using the letters Q and W on placards at a Kurdish new year celebration, under a law that bans use of characters not in the Turkish alphabet, rights campaigners said.

NEXT: No Weeds in the Garden State

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  1. And the Turks wonder why Europeans are wary about them.

  2. Doesn’t France have laws restricting the use of non-French words, or something like that?

  3. thoreau,

    The government regulates the usage of words on its websites, etc., but an attempt to make the general public (and advertisers, etc.) to jump through such hoops was found to be unconstitutional by the French courts and tossed. So no, France doesn’t have such a law.

  4. Thanks for the clarification.

  5. Please don’t post this to

    Their heads will all explode, just like mine did a moment ago.

  6. thoreau,

    Of course, some statements in France are treated as criminal acts; the law I am thinking of centers on statements which challenge the historical nature of the holocaust and the like. Le Pen is probably the most famous person convicted under that particular law. As far as I know, the penalty is always monetary.

  7. We fine people for using the word “fuck” when they speak over the airwaves. Is that so different?

    Beyond the obvious distinction-not-differences of: (1) it is twice as many letters; and (2) television reaches more ppl than speaking in a dinky public square.

  8. Linguist!


    and they have stuff on pragmatics, too. cool

    oh yeah.


    here’s a blurb on what Hak was saying:

    (also where portions were tossed)


  9. If you get the Turkish court to say its name backwards it has to return to the fifth dimension.

  10. drf,
    Yeah, it’s run by my former fellows as WSU.

    Electric Eye – LOL!

  11. The US Gov’t should jail anyone who uses greek letters (like fraternities) or umlauts.

  12. Nice Nabokov reference. There’s a passage in that book where he spends half a page describing the shape of a puddle on the pavement, which was inspired by an actual puddle in the parking lot of our apartment complex in Cambridge, Mass (though I lived there long after he died).

    For my money, however, “Glory” is my favorite work of his. Check it out all you Rand fans.

  13. I’m shocked, shocked that no one has suggested the use of the letters F and U.

    I’ve been to Turkey. Without going into a lot of detail, it’s a scary place. Very Orwellian.

  14. Hopefully you didn’t ALL miss the obvious point that the law is designed to ban the public display of Kurdish. It’s not to protect Turkish.

  15. bubba,

    Well, the fact that Turkey (and everyone else in the middle east where they live) treats Kurds like shit is well known. Of course, the Turks also deny the Armenian holocaust as well (I hope that comment doesn’t raise Serdar Argic from the dead).

  16. I hadn’t thought of that bubba. Thanks for the clarification.

    Once again I am left wondering why we continue to kowtow to this country in not supporting the Kurds in creating their own state.

  17. bubba,

    Which is rather ironic, considering that Saladin (one of the most celebrated persons in Muslim history) was a Kurd.

  18. So, why didn’t they just use O_ and VV?

  19. Hopefully you didn’t ALL miss the obvious point that the law is designed to ban the public display of Kurdish. It’s not to protect Turkish.

    I think it’s more likely that the law originally reflected Turkey’s desire to be “European”; although it does seem to come in handy for repressing Kurds.

  20. Rhywun,

    The point of the law is to represss Kurds and Armenians. Its the existance of such laws which allow countries like France to balk about the admission of Turkey into the E.U.

  21. The point of the law is to represss Kurds and Armenians.

    May be that how it is used now. But Turkey also banned using words of Arabic origin when they switched from Arabic script to Roman letters during Ataturk reign.

  22. Prior to 1928 Turkish was written in the Arabic alphabet, which probably wasn’t best considering the phonetic differences between the two languages. The government imposed a Roman alphabet in 1928 and the laws they used to do so, I imagine, are still in effect.

    I suspect that though this law might currently be used to repress linguistic minorities, it probably has its roots in 1928.

    That’s just conjecture, though. I could be wrong.

  23. Without the letters Q and W, how are Turkish sultans going to be able to say things like, “Quickly! The whip!”?

    In fact, I can see an interview by Barbara Walters starting a tragic chain of reactions.

    BARBARA: With the estabwishment of an Iraqi Kurdistan on your borders, you now have your long-feawed upwising. How will you quell this webellion!

    TURKISH OFFICIAL (stiffens, then calls to a henchmen): This is an outwage! Quickly, the whip!

    NEARBY TURKISH SECRET POLICEMAN (pointing to official): Wait! Awest that webel! He is qu’orrupting the wanguage!

  24. Dammit, a, you got there first. Jinx.

  25. The ban is strictly for oppressing Kurds. This link shows a comparison between the Turkish and Kurdish Latin alphabets:

    YOK is Turkish for “doesn’t exist”, “there isn’t” so you can see that Turkish lacks the Kurdish letters “W”, “Q” as well as “X” and “RR”.

    I can believe that it is very possible that the law was originally adopted in the 1920s with the purpose of banning Arab letters but was general enough that it can now be used by opportunistic prosecutors to get Kurdish separatists. If someone put up a poster for a Galatsaray-Wolverhampton Wanderers football match, would they be prosecuted?

  26. Their heads will all explode, just like mine did a moment ago.

    Your head es-plode.

  27. The point of the law is to repress Kurds and Armenians.

    Well, maybe the Kurds. The Young Turks made the job of repressing the Armenians obsolete.

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