[tz] WSJ follows AP to Kyiv

John Hawkinson jhawk at alum.mit.edu
Tue Nov 19 08:42:31 UTC 2019

Paul Eggert <eggert at cs.ucla.edu> wrote on Thu,  3 Oct 2019
at 16:01:10 EDT in <25fed242-3dab-5143-2f63-19cbc3d53420 at cs.ucla.edu>:

> It still may be a bit early to change. For what it's worth, news sources I
> read (New York Times, the Economist, the BBC) mostly use "Kiev".

The New York Times appears to have flipped late night Monday, and now uses Kyiv.
See postscript for the BBC.

I think there's real value in getting on the bandwagon now, rather than waiting for some other later point in time where the point of inflection clearly in the past, and the fact that we're subtly promoting something that is offensive to the nationals of the county in question who are fighting a pretty serious war that arguably is symbolized by this question (that's an absurd reduction of course; but that's the nature of symbols) is even more sharply in relief.

The NYT's transition was presaged by an article last week by Karen Zraick, "Wait, How Do You Pronounce Kiev?", https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/13/us/politics/kiev-pronunciation.html , which focused on pronounciation but touched on spelling:

        Back to Kiev: There is also debate over
        how to spell it. The official State
        Department biography of George P. Kent,
        who testified on Wednesday, spells it
        Kyiv, which reflects the transliteration
        from Ukrainian. The New York Times still
        spells it Kiev, which is the
        transliteration from Russian. (Mr. Kent,
        a senior State Department official in
        charge of Ukraine policy, used a
        pronunciation closer to the Ukrainian

But it would appear that as of Monday Nov. 18, the Times has actually shifted.

See especially the David Sanger story that runs on p. A20 today, "How Not to Plot Secret Foreign Policy: On a Cellphone and WhatsApp," https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/18/us/politics/giuliani-cellphone-hacking-russia-ukraine.html , with its:

        A former senior American intelligence
        official speculated that one explanation
        is that Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Sondland
        were essentially doing the Russians’
        work for them. Holding up military aid —
        for whatever reason — assists the
        Russian “gray war” in eastern Ukraine
*       and sows doubts in Kyiv, also known as
*       Kiev in the Russian transliteration,
        that the United States is wholly
        supportive of Ukraine, a fear that many
        State Department and National Security
        Council officials have expressed in

(The Kyiv spelling recurs in other stories today, albiet without the same gloss alluding to Russian vs. Ukranian issues, e.g. Charlie Savage's A1 story this morning "Impeachment Investigators Exploring Whether Trump Lied to Mueller," https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/18/us/politics/trump-mueller-impeachment.html as well as the ensemble contribution from the Washington bureau, "Ex-Envoy to Testify He Didn’t Know Ukraine Aid Was Tied to Investigations", https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/18/us/politics/trump-impeachment.html. The latter does have "Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital also known as Kiev" though.)

I realize it undercuts the idea that our decision should be based solely on English language usage, but it's difficult to read the news and watch the House hearings that focus on Ukraine without thinking about the elements of Western/NATO statecraft that come here (including the recent letter from the Chargé), and the US efforts to support Ukraine as an independent country struggling to rebuild itself anew after the Revolution of Dignity. What would we say if diplomats in the US State Department reached out privately to Paul and asked him to accellerate the change and made an argument that doing so was to promote Ukrainian sovereignty and that was a preeminent national security interest of the United States? I imagine that the struggle there would be a difficult one for Paul to handle. Wouldn't it be convenient if we made the decision prior to such pressures being brought to bear? :)

[ I have no reason to think that they have been, nor do I have any inside information to suggest that they would be. ]

Note to people searching nytimes.com for evidence, don't be tripped up by the stories from wire services, which the Times runs on its website without altering the Kyiv/Kiev spelling, and which appear with quite some frequency, especially given Ukraine's relevance to US news. After the Associated Press transitioned, AP stories would appear with Kyiv on nytimes.com (and my fuzzy memory is that's true with other wire services?). At present, Reuters seems to still use Kiev, so there are recent stories with that spelling to be found. And Tom Friedman's column for print on Wednesday was online now prior to the change, so appears to still use Kiev (assuming it is site-wide shift and not a news-side shift, which I think is a fair presumption). Also, for some time there have been stories that quote directly from hearing and deposition transcripts that used Kyiv, even when the Times still used Kiev, so there are peculiar hybrids.

p.s.: I read neither the BBC nor the Economist with any regularity so I can't speak to them as a knowledgable reader like I can for the NYT, but the Economist appears to remain with "Kiev" and the BBC seems to have plenty of Kyiv refereneces, most recently with https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-50458521, "Russia returns Ukrainian boats seized off Crimea" dated Nov. 18.

jhawk at alum.mit.edu
John Hawkinson

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