A reader sent a letter to New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan noting that the Times doesn’t use certain accent marks to accommodate terms and names associated with the Vietnamese language. Sullivan published the letter in a blog post Thursday (emphasis added):
I notice in your web articles The Times is careful to include the diacritical marks for personal and place names for French, Spanish, German, and others who share with us the Latin alphabet. Cedillas, umlauts, and breves are seen regularly. A glaring omission is when Vietnamese persons or localities are mentioned. The marks in a tonal language such as Vietnamese are most important. For example: Pham and Phâm look the same to us. To the Vietnamese one is a common family name the other means “manure” (or a synonym thereof).
How will the Times address this?
Philip B. Corbett, associate managing editor for standards at the Times, is quoted in the post: ”We feel that it’s not practical to use these marks in less familiar languages.”