Driving in Cyprus

Deborah Ann Dilley at Global Voices points to this article in the terrifically named and Hellenic-focused Homeboy Media News, on an attempt by the Cyprus government to ban GPS devices that use the Turkish, rather than the Greek, words for places on the Turkish-controlled part of the island.

greek sign cyprus.jpg

The devices come loaded with a basemap which employs Turkish names for towns, villages and streets in the Turkish occupied and military controlled north area of the Republic of Cyprus. For example, Kyrenia appears as “Girne” and Morphou as “Güzelyurt”.

While this incident may seem trivial — the point of a GPS is to provide directions, not a platform for arguing over place names, right? — it speaks to the tremendous nationalistic, linguistic, and cultural power tied to the naming of places. And in a country with as long-running a political, military, and cultural stand-off as in Cyprus, the issue is rather sensitive.

That, and it is probably easier for a Greek-speaking Cypriot to know where s/he is going if the names of streets and towns are in Greek.

(image from flickr user khowaga1 under a Creative Commons license)