'Torino' vs. 'Turin': Anglicized name of Olympic city wins argument here

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Either, Eyether. Neither, nyther. Potato, potaeto. Tomato, tomaeto.

Maybe it's time to add the "Torino" vs. "Turin" Olympic face-off to "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off," the Gershwin brothers' classic song of pronunciation differences.

Torino, of course, is how Italian natives refer to the city that will open its sports venues to the world this weekend, says Adriano Comollo, the founder of Salt Lake's Italian Center for the West, a nonprofit group that helped create bocce ball courts in Pioneer Park, as well as promoting all things Italiano.

But there's no confusion for natives, like Comollo, who understand that it's linguistically correct for Americans to refer to Turin, which is the Anglicized name of his hometown, just as the city of Roma is known outside of Italy as Rome.

Turin is how The Associated Press (AP) and newspapers that follow the news cooperative's stylebook - including The Salt Lake Tribune - will refer to the Olympic city, according to an explanation by the AP's sports editor, Terry Taylor.

"We use Turin in accordance with our long-standing style to use English names on English-language wires," Taylor explained last month in a wire service story. "It's the Shroud of Turin, for instance, not the Shroud of Torino. And when the World Cup comes to Germany this summer, we will write that games will be played in Munich, not Muenchen.

"Of course, in the interest of accuracy, we will not Anglicize the name in full references to the Olympic organizing committee, which uses Torino, and we will not change Torino to Turin in quotations."

So, the question of the pronunciation of the Northern Italy city would seem mostly settled - for Americans, anyway - except for the simple beauty of the original Italian pronunciation, which charmed Dick Ebersol, the head honcho of NBC Sports.

''When I went there for the first time two weeks after they got the Games in the summer of '99, I was just swept away with how that sounded, 'Torino,' '' Ebersole told television critics last month while promoting the network's upcoming coverage. "It just rolls off your mouth. It talks about a wonderful part of the world. It has a romanticism to it. And I just thought that that was a wonderful way to name these Games."

So local TV stations, like KSL and KUTV, have elected to go with the authentic Italian pronunciation, as has the U.S. Olympic Committee, while local NPR station KUER is sticking with AP style.

While it might seem we're being ''ugly Americans'' when we translate a city's proper name into English, that's simply the way languages work, says Marianna Di Paolo, a University of Utah professor of linguistics. Di Paolo grew up in Colorado, but her first language was the southern Italian dialect of Abruzzesse. "We Anglicize everything," Di Paolo says. "That's what happens when languages borrow. It's not necessarily arrogant, and it's not denigrating Italians to do it. It's an attempt to have the word work well in our language. Every language does it."

One linguistic puzzle might be how the name of the ancient city, founded by the Roman Emperor Augustus about 2,000 years ago to protect the state's northern borders, was translated into English with the "uhr" sound of Turin from the "o" sound of Torino. One guess, according to Steven Sternfeld, a U. linguistics professor: "Many of the names we have for Italian cities we adopted not from the Italians but from the French."

And just as every language is likely to transform its own borrowed words, most Italians will understand when Americans refer to the northwestern city of Turin, says Utah transplant Emanuele Bobbio, executive secretary of the Italian Consulate in Salt Lake City. "That pronunciation is not correct but the Italian people, who live in the middle of Europe, are very open and very helpful. We talk a lot by body language because for many, many years, we have contacts with many, many cultures and many, many languages."


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