The Corner

Welcome, ‘Czechia’!

On the homepage today, I have a “Prague Journal.” On the Corner, I’d like to say something about names. An excerpt from the journal:

They have renamed the country, as I understand it: It is no longer “the Czech Republic” but “Czechia” — which I like a lot (not that anyone asked me). “The Czech Republic” is rather a mouthful, like “the Dominican Republic.” Often, we say “the DR.” I’m not sure we have said “the CR.”

“Back in the old CR”?

One possible drawback of “Czechia”: Sounds like “Chechnya.” I had a friend who lived in Austria. He said, “If you mail me something, it might wind up in the land of the kangaroos.”

I have always liked the options we Americans have, when it comes to what to call our country. “America.” “The United States.” You can even go “the U.S.” Or “the U.S.A.” Or even “the U.S. of A.” (though you’d probably need a “good ol’” there).

When it comes to adjectives, we can say “American.” Or you can tuck a “U.S.” in front of a noun.

Like you, I’m sure, I use all those words, depending. Depending on what? Depending on the feel you want to convey, if that makes any sense (and I bet it does).

The country-names that I find most awkward are in Africa. I’m thinking in particular of “the Democratic Republic of the Congo” and “the Republic of the Congo.” These are (a) cumbersome and (b) confusing. And (c) false boasts. (Beware the “democratic republics,” as we learned in East Germany, “Kampuchea,” and elsewhere.)

You also have “the Central African Republic.” The late dictator Bokassa renamed it “the Central African Empire,” after he crowned himself emperor, Napoleon-style.

Also, you got “Guinea” (easy). “Guinea-Bissau” (okay). And “Equatorial Guinea” (okay). Can’t tell the Guineas without a scorecard. (That is not an anti-Italian slur, by the way.)

One name I miss is “Upper Volta.” This country has long been “Burkina Faso.” We used to describe the USSR as “the Upper Volta with nukes.” That meant, the country was poor and dying — barely able to eat — but dangerous as hell, given an aggressive, expansionist dictatorship and a huge nuclear arsenal. I used this phrase the other day, but I’m not sure people understood me.

Anyway, we could play the name game all day, but you have work to do.

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