“Kyiv” is One More Party Badge*

“They should show their respect for the Régime. The Physical Training delegates have all saluted the Marshal in the Sports Stadium. The philatelists have been issued with the party badge and many of them wear it. The professors, too, must help the New Neutralia.”

Evelyn Waugh, Scott-King’s Modern Europe (1946)

When speaking English, the name of a foreign city is an English word.  The English word may resemble the foreign word that residents of that city use to denote their hometown, but it is nonetheless an English word.  It is therefore bad English and bad manners to pronounce the the name of a foreign city “like a native,” unless you happen to be speaking to a native in his own barbarous foreign tongue.

When speaking English, the proper name for the great city on the Dnieper is pronounced Kiev (Kee-yev).  It makes no difference that a Ukrainian uses a word that sounds more like Kyiv (Keeve).  When speaking English, the proper name for the great city on the Danube is pronounced Vienna.  It makes no difference that an Austrian uses a word that sounds more like Veen.   When speaking English, the proper name for the great city on the Seine is pronounced Paris.  It makes no difference that a Frenchman uses a word that sounds more like Pareee.

Most people who pepper their speech with foreign words is are just affected and absurd.  They fly back from Europe and start dazzling their neighbors with worldly references to vino, brot, and fromage.  These people are snobs, but they do not entertain dark thoughts about internment camps for the bumpkins who continue to speak of wine, bread and cheese.

The affectation of foreign pronunciations for foreign place names  is not like this because a nonstandard foreign pronunciation of a foreign place name is almost always a party badge.

Kyiv has overnight become another party badge for the good-thinking apparatchiks of the globo-homo Beast.   It is a Mark of the Beast, just like the facemask a good-thinking apparatchik will nowadays wear while, let us say, sailing solo across the Atlantic Ocean.   If one of these odious myrmidons of Moloch tells you that Kyiv is correct, they mean politically correct, and you should take their admonition as a threat. They may tell you that Kyiv is sensitive or polite, but this is what they really mean:

“You should show your respect for the Régime. Everyone else has saluted the Marshal in the Sports Stadium. When you are issued the the party badge you ought to wear it.  You too must help New Babylon.” 

*) Phonetic spelling changed to more clearly convey my meaning.

33 thoughts on ““Kyiv” is One More Party Badge*

  1. Ive been using Kiev on my blog because up until two days ago it was the only spelling ive ever seen for the city. I remarked to a friend of mind that i didnt understand why or when the name changed.

  2. It seems to me that “Kiev” is actually the traditional English name. This is a transliteration of the name of the city that is used when speaking Russian. “Kyiv” has been promoted by Ukrainian nationalists since independence, as it is their preferred transliteration of the name of the city that is used when speaking Ukrainian. So “Kyiv” is closely analogous to “Myanmar” as the name of “Burma.” These are both transliterations of related, politically inflected forms of the same name in relevant native languages. The current government has promoted “Myanmar” to replace the traditional English name, “Burma.” You seem to argue that English-speakers should prefer the traditional English name when speaking English, and not be drawn into nationalist-political disputes by choosing to use various foreign names. If that is a correct version of your argument, then you ought to use “Kiev” and not “Kyiv.”

    Мне кажется, что Вы перепутали что-то, но признаю, что возможно я просто не понял довод.

    • I agree with what you say and may have erred in my phonetic spellings. The English name is pronounced Keeyev, not Keeev. Your analogy with Myanmar/Burma is correct. Keeyev is politically neutral, Keeev is a political badge.

  3. I think the argument is simply that how you pronounce the name Kiev is a form of virtue signaling. If you choose to pronounce Kiev as the Ukrainians do you are signaling your allegiance to wokeism. If you pronounce Kiev as we were taught in high school you are signaling your allegiance to the ancien regime.

    This reminds me of when George W. Bush (and the members of his administration) pronounced “nuclear” as “nuke-u-lar” during the run up to the Iraq war. I believe that was not so much a signal that George W. Bush aligned himself with the ancien regime but rather was a thumbing of his nose against those intellectual types who opposed him, which was (perhaps) a passive aggressive way of signaling his allegiance to the ancien regime.

    All of which points to our present situation. Everything we do, the way we pronounce specific words (for example) is a political act pointing to something else and not the thing in itself – which is an aspect of wokeism.

    • You’re entirely right. More and more things become shibboleths and party badges, so it is no longer possible to be inoffensively neutral.

  4. Dissident right blogger Zman, who’s on our side, said that everyone has contracted a strange form of Tourette’s which causes them to keep blurring out the word “Keev.”

    Yep globohomo is wrong again.

    • I was conforming to Waugh’s usage in the epigraph. It’s hard to say exactly when a foreign word has been completely domesticated, and I suppose Waugh must have thought regime was still French in 1946. English speakers have been calling it Kee-yev since they first heard there was such a place. It should not be made a disgraceful political badge for them to continue doing so.

  5. I’m glad you changed the faulty phonetic spelling of the original piece, because it completely threw me and I indeed up unsure of what you were trying to say! Next time, you might first run it past WmJas – who (speaking from experience) is very hot on this kind of thing…

  6. Much the same could be said about the Red Chinese replacement of the Wade-Giles transliterations with the Pinyin ones. Actually, it’s even more obvious in this case since no native English speaker is ever going to render any Chinese word correctly or approximately correctly except by some accident. “Peking” it is. There’s also the replacement of the rather nice word “Bombay” with the rather ugly, both orthographically and phonetically, word “Mumbai.”

    I haven’t really noticed, but have we gone back to saying ka TAR instead of gutter for “Qatar?”

    • Thanks for reminding me of the hilarious fad for calling Qatar gutter. It was very big at the university where I work because we were in those days establishing a “Gutter Campus.” People were so eager to be politically correct, they did not notice that their word conjured up the image of a ditch filled with dirty water, dead dogs and beer cans.

  7. This is also annoying in reverse. Due to circumstance I quite often use Kyiv (pronounced Keev) when speaking of the relevant city, because I am talking to people for whom that is the accepted pronunciation in their community.

    Now, suddenly, I am branded as supporting a political cause which in fact, I very much do not.

    • Another example of politics ruining everything. Your simple act of courtesy becomes a political badge and there is nothing you can do about it. It is a bit like inadvertently falling to adopt the latest euphemism for certain sexual and racial minorities. Uncharitable people will say you are flashing a loathsome political badge when you are really nothing worse than old fashioned.

      • The name is as old as the sect, but Christians didn’t use it because it seemed to imply concede that Islam is correct. I think the shift happened more than a hundred years ago, when the West was willing to concede that Christianity might be false.

    • Yes. It used to be said that Mohammedan was parallel to Christian, since both names indicated the founder of the Sect. When we call a Mohammedan a Muslim, we implicitly concede that he submits to the one true God.

      • My understanding is that Islam and Moslem both mean “to submit,” and more specifically mean to submit to the will of God. That Moslems should use this name for themselves is quite understandable, but there is no reason a Christian who believes they have submitted to the false teachings of a man named Mohammed should use the name also. I follow modern usage because I wish to be understood and to not give offense, but I also understand the logic of the old usage. I would understand why a Jew might refuse to call Christians Christians, since the name affirms what the Jew most emphatically denies.

      • Huh, I thought “Mohammedan” was like “Arian.” Islam was once interpreted as a particularly enthusiastic form of Nestorianism and that it was a Christian heresy and that we should name it after its heresiarch. Is that wrong?

      • Yes, my understanding is that Christians traditionally named the religion and its disciples the name of its founder, and not the tendentious name they gave themselves.

  8. Exactly, JM, exactly.

    I have been thinking these thoughts for decades. Important foreign cities have English names. Non-important foreign cities have obscure names, and the native speaker of English can try to pronounce them as the natives do, if he wants.

    But important foreign cities have established English names. One should use them.

  9. I can’t tell you whether the main vowel is I or E, but I will say I always assumed the initial “Ki” (or “Ky”, but in this case I know of no pronunciation difference – and the original is not in Roman letters anyway is it?), is really a “softened”/palatalized K, if there is such a thing. If there is not, I suppose even as “ie” the vowel is more of a diphthong “yeh” than two distinct “ee eh” sounds? You see for instance some country names transliterated “-ija” rather than “-ia” to be clear it is “ee ah” not “yah”. All that said, I don’t recall the Cyrillic for Kiev off the top of my head.

    For context, I’m trying to learn a West Slavic language instead of just reading American comments on the Visegrad block, in no small part to get into the headspace of what’s left of the ancien regime over there. Sometimes apparent cosmopolitanism is really more like Catholicism.

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  11. Wow, this is exactly the same thought I’ve had for at least a decade now, but fleshed out from a thought into an entire mini-essay.

    For me, it was always these non-Hispanic White SWPLs who E.G. call the country of Chile (pronounced like the food) CHEL-LAE, even though that’s technically correct, I always got the impression they were pretentious pseudo-intellectuals trying to signal when doing that.

    Its why I say EG “Mary” instead of “Theotokos” if religion comes up with normies. Save the obscure words only for those who’re already in the fold.

    • Some of this is harmless affectation, but non-standard pronunciation by a native English speaker is in most cases an assertion of moral superiority. In Britain the upper class has its own distinctive accent, the U.S. elite signals its status with weird idioms and affected pronunciation.

      • I’m sure they signal with a lot weirder stuff behind closed doors.

        Not to delve into Cartoon Evil tier stuff, but I imagine the oligarchs of the Western Bloc as being the exact opposite of what a good, moral person is.

        So like, I get up in the morning and pet and feed my cat, these people probably wake up and strangle several kittens after their morning coffee laced with amphetamine and adrenochrome.

        No data if true, but from a purely pragmatic POV, it never hurts to paint your enemies as one dimensional cartoon villains, and even better if you yourself believe it when you espouse it.

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