It is wonderful news that the Czech maestro Jiri Belohlavek (right) has been appointed Chief Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra from July 2006. But there is one small problem that the internet driven BBC may not have thought of.
I wrote recently about the problem news feeds such as Topix.net's very useful Symphony News have handling accented characters. Well, as is obvious, Jiří Bělohlávek has a lot of accents in his name if you write it correctly. Now I always try to use accents as they are an integral part of language. But I have just uploaded an article about Bělohlávek and the headline Bělohlávek's orchestral rhapsody in Norwich was parsed by Topix.net as BA - which is at least appropriate!
The obvious answer is to leave out the accents. This is what Bělohlávek's agents, IMG Artists, do on their web site, but puzzlingly the BBC retain the accents with the exception of ě. To avoid the problem I have compromised and republished the article without accents in the headline but retaining them in the body text, and have also omitted them from the first paragraph above. My György Kurtág which will be uploaded in a few hours will also be accent less for the same reason. It just seems a shame that the diversity and richness of language, and the aesthetic appeal of the words, should be dumbed-down because of this. Shouldn't we instead be trying to dumb-up our internet software to handle accents?
Photo of Jiří Bělohlávek from Edinburgh Festival
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If you enjoyed this post take An Overgrown Path to Bělohlávek's orchestral rhapsody in Norwich