Mind your Ks and Qs

Signature_of_Mustafa_Kemal_Atatürk.svg

There is a story about Mustafa Kemal Atatürk practising his signature in the Latin alphabet. The image is incongruous: the most powerful man in Turkey sits frowning over his own name, breaking in the unfamiliar strokes like a schoolboy. He had decreed in 1928 that Turkish would now be written in Latin rather than Arabic script – severing ties with the Ottoman past and making a generation of readers illiterate. In 1934 he passed a law requiring everyone to adopt a surname: Turks at the time tended to go by titles, patronymics or the name of their profession. It’s unclear how Kemal came by his name (he tacked on ‘Father of the Turks’ after 1934; it’s still illegal for anyone else to use it), but as for romanising his initials, the story goes that he tried spelling it first with a Q, then with a K – and deciding that he preferred the latter, banned the letter Q from the alphabet.

It’s not true—but it is true that the letter Q, like the letters X and W, was banned in Turkey from the introduction of the Latin alphabet until last month. Yasmine Seale explains why on the LRB blog; for more on the ‘democracy package’ which includes the un-banning of these letters, check out this post on Kamil Pasha.

Click image for source
Don’t believe the bit about Atatürk’s signature being a popular tattoo? Evidence.

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