Proper Names

Q. Hello folks. I’m editing a travel brochure on South America, and one of the natural wonders featured prominently is Iguaçú (or Iguazú) Falls, which sits right where Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina meet. While this is a single wonder, it is accessible from three different countries boasting a total of two different national languages, and as such it has two possible correct spellings: Iguaçú (Portuguese, on the Brazil side) and Iguazú (Spanish, preferred in Paraguay and Argentina). National Geographic Atlas of the World (8th edition) uses both spellings (Iguazú National Park in Paraguay, Iguaçú River in Brazil, for example), showing the border where the spelling (and political jurisdiction) changes. They refer to the falls in Portuguese (Foz do Iguaçú) on the map, but use both spellings in the index and on their website. I emailed them to ask if they knew which country if any maintains physical ownership of the falls, and apparently it is a shared natural wonder. They suggested that I use both spellings in my brochure, Spanish in the sections on Spanish countries, and so on. This was not a feasible solution for this type of project, so in the end I just chose one (Iguazú: another editor’s son is named Zheid, pronounced “Zed.” We established a new house rule that whenever there is a choice between two spellings, pick the one with a zed. If there is no z and no other clear solution, flip a coin). How would CMOS handle this one?

A. We don’t have a Zheid, but I sometimes go by “Ed.,” so let’s say I get to choose. Assuming that the readers are to be primarily English-speaking, I’ll follow Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, which lists Iguaçú first (though Iguazú is listed also, as an equal variant; Chicago usually picks the first-listed term and sticks with it).