Between East and West: Selections from Peyami Safa (I)

Our Fear of Foreign Words!

Tasvir-i Efkâr, 15 February 1941

Peyami Safa is one of the pioneer figures in the Turkish novel but he was well-known as a columnist within his lifetime. (Photo by Berna Moran in the ’50s)

Note: This translation is a work of mine and so the responsibility of all probable mistakes are also mine. If you realize any mistake, please inform me. Enjoy reading…

Assume that cardboard (mukavva) is black on one side and white on the other. The man who sees just one side of this cardboard claims that it is black and the other man sees it white. Unless turning the card, the two sides who cannot see more than half of the truth cannot comprehend the whole. The French tell that every thesis is an equally correct antithesis as “Turn the opposite side of the medal!”.

In any problem, in order to avoid being imprisoned in the semi-truth plan which this one-sided view puts us, we must rise to a synthesis that encompasses opposing views and exceeds both. But this synthesis should not be too much attention, because it has an opposite. Thus, a truth-thirsty intelligence comes closer to it as he runs from analysis to analysis and from synthesis to synthesis. The fact that the structure of thought is built on intricate and dialectical contrasting plans necessitates simple and inaccurate views of the single sides. At the beginning of each case and each dispute, the sincere man who knows this law is sure that after granting his opponent’s right he will overcome him.

This is also the case in the controversy of foreign words in Turkish. Yesterday, two dear friends in the morning newspaper chose this issue. Nadir Nadi, who justified both sides, as he was very close to the truth, Hayri Muhittin Dalkilic, who proved us perfectly that we were more backward and inadequate than the spirit of the people in fearing foreign words, they saw and clearly showed one side of the truth. I agree with both of them.

There are foreign words, like the fifth column, we must avoid it. Let’s not say “retard” and “aller retour” while “Gecikme” (Delay) and “Gidip gelme” (Going and Returning) is standing. There are many of them. The end of this tatlı su (freshwater) Turkish is the invasion and internal conquest of the Turkish language with the help of domestic agents to help the insolent paratroopers. But what do we call parachute? The devil’s umbrella? What do we call culture? What about the decor? What about the note?

In this quarrel, maybe half a half, but everyone is right. There is no single language in which there are no foreign words; Let’s not fear foreign words. However, there is no single language that has opened its doors to foreign words. Let’s check out the doors of the language. This control is neither educational inspector nor a member of the linguistic institution. This is the taste of Turkish artist: Trust in him.

**This is taken from Safa’s “Objective I: Ottoman Turkish, Turkish, and Fabrication” published by Ötüken Publications. 

The book’s link:–objektif-1/28519.html


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