viernes, 10 de octubre de 2008

Beijing or Pekín: Searchability trumps Spanish language authorities

I love this story about how the demands of search engine optimization trumped the demands of editing according to the strict rules of the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language (Real Academia Española de la Lengua).

It seems that the Mexican daily El Milenio, which publishes some 10 editions around the country, had correspondents covering the Olympics in Beijing, and they kept calling the host city by the official name, Beijing.

Well, that doesn´t gibe with Spanish language authorities (the blog deletalo has a good entry on this), such as the Royal Academy´s dictionary (or newspaper style manuals in Spanish). They say the city should be called Pekín, in accordance with the old Latin form of the word used to designate the city. (Wikipedia in Spanish also touches on the subject.)

So Milenio´s editor, Carlos Marín, declared to the editorial staff that henceforth the Milenio group would honor the pure Spanish and the official style. The host city for the Olympics would be known in their august newspaper as Pekín.

But Anibal Abarca, web editor for the Milenio Group, told me recently that he felt he had to protest the decision. If we use Pekín during the Olympics, he told Marín, we´ll miss an opportunity for readers to find our stories through search engines. People are searching for the Beijing Olympics, not the Pekín Olympics, he argued.

Marín, evidently a practical man, conceded the point. The sportswriters could continue to use Beijing in their stories. But it would be Pekín everywhere else. And, indeed, a recent story refers to the Olympic stadium in Pekín.

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