This summer the attention of the world is focused on Brazil and the 2014 FIFA World Cup. And this time the accent is on soccer.
And real accents or accent marks, not in the figurative sense used above, are rampant, both in speech and writing. On the streets of Rio and Recife and São Paulo, international televised broadcasts, and in the names of the players. For an entire month the world will watch the 23-man squads from 32 nations compete for the World Cup title.
Accents are especially prevalent in soccer where a plethora of players from South American and Mediterranean countries will participate, places where accents in names abound. Even club names often contain accents: Atlético (Spain), Atlético Mineiro (Brazil), Atlético Rafaela (Argentina).
But it is not just accents that pose a challenge in international sports events. The names of the players from Korea can also vary in casing and hyphenation. For example, the official guidelines of the government of the Republic of Korea specify last name then first name (with a hyphen and lowercase in the second part of double names). Hence the coach of the South Korean team would then be Hong Myung-bo. However, the official lists for FIFA have elected to forgo this format and instead use Hong Myungbo, dropping the hyphen. We saw the same policy applied with the official Sochi 2014 Olympics lists of athletes.
Often the media prefer to drop the accents and hyphens, primarily to simplify the names, and usually for technical reasons. Not all networks and news services, on a worldwide basis anyway, can handle them equally. So in a sense the news services choose to “level the playing field” so to speak, at least in spelling the names of the teams and players.
Ahhh, and then there are the transliterations — Russian, Arabic, Persian and Greek this time — but that will be taken up separately in another blog. For an in-depth discussion of transliterations in Arabic and Persian, see the blog here about the specific challenges of Middle Eastern names.