Linguistic injustice

  • 2004-02-12
This letter is intended to once again bring to your attention a complaint against The Baltic Times which has been made a few times before during the years of existence of your newspaper. I refer to the distortion of Estonian proper names, in particular, to the replacement of the letters O, A, O, U with O, A, U. Our president's name is Ruutel, not Ruutel.

It seemed impossible to gain sympathy when the editor of The Baltic Times was an ethnic Latvian. As you are aware, it is customary in the Latvian language to alter the spelling of foreign names to suit its own phonetics. But the traditional Estonian attitude is different. Our tradition has been to respect the spelling of personal names of other users of the Latin alphabet. We do not change people's names even when they contain letters not is use in our own language.
While it is true that English-language publications tend to disregard the finer details in the spelling of foreign names, this is by no means always the case. For instance, some international quality news magazines make an effort to be meticulous on this point.
It is regrettable that a Latvian publication continues to misrepresent its neighbour's proper names. After all, The Baltic Times is the only English-language newspaper from the Baltic States to the outside world and is the main regular source of news from our area. Foreign readers who do not know any better would naturally accept the names they read as correct.
In this age of producing text by means of word processors there ought to be no problem at all to write names correctly. It is simply a matter of a willing attitude. I appeal to you to remove this long-standing source of Estonian grievance.

Leo Kaagjarv, Tartu
Association for the Defense
of the Estonian Language