Many Thanks to My Loyal Readers!

I just had to share this! My first royalty cheque arrived in the mail from Amazon today! Well, I guess I’m not going to get rich in this business, or find my name on anyone’s best-seller list – but considering I gave a copy of the book to just about every friend, colleague or family member, it feels like those must be genuine sales! So thanks to you all. Nice to know that people still buy books, or their Kindle equivalent. Who knows? Maybe there will be a second volume 🙂

Turkish Puns – handle with care!

Understanding puns, I guess, is one of the signs that you are making progress in another language. I remember the first one I ‘got’ in Turkish, and how good it made me feel. It was a pastry/pie shop (börekçi in Turkish) in the Beyoğlu area of Istanbul, and it was called Hamurabi. Well, I’m sure you’ve heard of the ancient Babylonian king, whose name is normally spelled with two ‘m’s, renowned for codifying one of history’s first legal systems. You may not know that hamur is the Turkish word for ‘dough’ or ‘pastry’, and ağabey (pronounced abi), means ‘big brother’, but is also used as a term of respect for a male older than oneself. 
Never mind the pun, Hamur abi itself is not readily translatable into English, but perhaps ‘Mr Pastry’ comes close. Why I’m telling you this is because a Turkish colleague took issue with my spelling of the Ottoman sultan’s name in my previous post. Before going to press, I did actually check it, and found that the name of the Padishah in question could be written Bayezid, Beyazit, Bayazıt or Bayazıd. One source of the difficulty is the fact that, in those days, the Ottomans were using the Arabic script, which had to be rendered into European tongues using a Latin alphabet, at a time when spelling rules were pretty much non-existent.
Another problem is that the name is not Turkish in origin, but Arabic or Persian – the sources I checked didn’t seem to agree. One of the peculiarities of the Turkish language is vowel harmony among the syllables of a word, and Beyazit/Bayezid breaks the rules. Turks also tend to de-vocalise the final ‘-d’ in borrowed Arabic names like Ahmed. Anyway, English sources seem to prefer the former spelling, which is why I chose to run with that one. However, my colleague Ömer pointed out that beyazit in Turkish can also mean ‘white street dog’ . . . which is why I am now going back to that post and respectfully adjusting the spelling.

Reviews of ‘Turkey File’

The following articles appeared last weekend in a popular Istanbul English language newspaper:

Understanding Turkey: a perpetual case of ‘Anlamadım’
Marion James, Sunday’s Zaman

The book reads a bit like the blog that it is: Each chapter is a self-contained article dealing with one particular aspect. Although common themes run throughout, there is no progression of a central theory leading to a final conclusion. This makes it ideal for the busy reader in the modern world who wants to be able to dip in to a book for 10 or 15 minutes, read a section and come away with a challenging concept or idea. Conversely, it could be frustrating for one wanting more depth.
This is a gutsy exploration of Turkey. Scott is not afraid to tackle nearly all of the taboos. Religion, democracy, Greeks and other minorities — we learn Scott’s opinion on all of these and more. He even entitles one chapter “Who killed the Armenians?” Refreshingly controversial, particularly for the reader fed up with the Emperor’s New Clothes style of herd journalism, Scott’s Turco-phile leanings still come through strongly. A good job too for an author who dares to try to define “Turkishness” in a country where insulting that quality is a criminal offence.
Going from newbie to expert
Charlotte McPherson, Today’s Zaman

You can be in a country for years and years, living in a foreign bubble, and not really rub shoulders with the locals at all. To illustrate my point, did you ever see the film “A Passage to India”? Some of the British officials had been in India for a long period of time but had hardly strayed from the colonial club and its British ways. They understood very little of the Indian way of life.
If empire and Raj-style living won’t help you understand the culture, should you go 100 percent native instead? Maybe, but perhaps you don’t have to go whole hog.
I was recently reminded of these questions when reading a book compiled from a regular blog published by Alan Scott. A New Zealander, Scott has lived in Turkey since 1995. He lectures at Okan University, and the blog and book are both called “Turkey File.” As I read through his interesting anecdotes and analysis, my attention was caught by comments and phrases he threw in that gave great insight into how he managed to begin to understand the culture.

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