Mon, 18 Dec 2017
A few weeks ago I was writing something about Turkey, and I needed a generic Turkish name, analogous to “John Doe”. I was going to use “Osman Yılmaz”, which I think would have been a decent choice, but I decided it would be more fun to ask a Turkish co-worker what the correct choice would be. I asked Kıvanç Yazan, who kindly allowed himself to be nerdsniped and gave me a great deal of information. In the rest of this article, anything about Turkish that is correct should be credited to him, while any mistakes are surely my own.
M. Yazan informs me that one common choice is “Ali Veli”. Here's a link he gave me to Ekşisözlük, which is the Turkish analog of Urban Dictionary, explaining (in Turkish) the connotations of “John Doe”. The page also mentions “John Smith”, which in turn links to a page about a footballer named Ali Öztürk—in fact two footballers. ( ) which is along the same lines as my “Osman Yılmaz” suggestion.
But M. Yazan told me about a much closer match for “John Doe”. It is:
which translates as “Mehmet Agha with yellow boots”. (‘Sarı’ = ‘yellow’; ‘çizmeli’ = ‘booted’.)
This oddly specific phrase really seems to be what I was looking for. M. Yazan provided several links:
Another source I found was this online Turkish-English dictionary which glosses it as “Joe Schmoe”.
Finding online mentions of sarı çizmeli Mehmet Ağa is a little bit tricky, because he is also the title of a song by the very famous Turkish musician Barış Manço, and the references to this song swamp all the other results. This video features Manço's boots and although we cannot see for sure (the recording is in grayscale) I presume that the boots are yellow.
Thanks again, Kıvanç!
[ Addendum: The Turkish word for “in style” is “moda”. I guessed it was a French loanword. Kıvanç tells me I was close: it is from Italian. ]
[ Addendum 20171219: Wikipedia has an impressive list of placeholder names by language that includes Mehmet Ağa. ]
[ Addendum 20180105: The Hebrew version of Mehmet Ağa is at least 2600 years old! ]