Originally created 01/18/06

What's in a name?



Turin or Torino? It's the Olympic version of "You say tomato, I say tomahto."

The city in northern Italy that's hosting the Winter Olympics in February is "Torino" to the locals and NBC. For most of us non-Italians, it's always been Turin.

"I believe readers are seeing it on television with the NBC logo, it says 'Torino,' the Olympic Games," Ron Fritz, sports editor at The News Journal in Wilmington, Del., said Tuesday. "And then they see it in the paper, 'Turin,' and they're thinking we got it wrong."

The explanation for the different versions is simple.

Sort of.

"Turin is the English translation of the Italian word Torino," said Clara Orban, a professor of Italian at DePaul University. "Standard practice in the United States is if a city name has been translated differently, go with the English translation."

That's what The Associated Press is doing. Its policy - and it was around long before Turin was awarded the Olympic Games - is to use the English version of foreign cities. It's Rome, not Roma. Munich, not Muenchen. Moscow instead of Mockba or Moskva.

And Florence isn't going to be called by its Italian name, Firenze. At least not without an accompanying map so people would know what city that is.

"We use Turin in accordance with our long-standing style to use English names on English-language wires," said Terry Taylor, AP sports editor. "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.

The official name of the games is "Torino 2006," and the International Olympic Committee refers to the city by its Italian name. When the games were awarded in June 1999, then-IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch announced, "The hosts of the 2006 Games will be Torino."

After NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol took a trip to Turin, he decided the network would go with Torino, too. NBC has the U.S. broadcast rights to the games.

"Dick was hearing the way the locals were saying Torino, and how it's so magnificently Italian how it rolls off the tongue," said Mike McCarley, vice president of communications and marketing for NBC Sports.

"He decided on that trip that we would call it Torino."

And with as many as 200 million people tuning in to watch the games, that means there'll be a lot of Americans speaking at least one word of Italian for a few weeks.