Czechia.

An Adam Taylor story in the Washington Post, to be filed under “About time!”:

Politicians in the Czech Republic are set to put decades of debate to an end this week by officially announcing a new name for the country: Czechia.

In a meeting with reporters this week, Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek said he supported the move, suggesting that foreigners often mangled his country’s name when he met them abroad. “It is not good if a country does not have clearly defined symbols or if it even does not clearly say what its name is,” Zaoralek said, according to the Czech News Agency.

When the decision does go through, Czechia will officially become the conventional short-form name for the country, while the Czech Republic will remain the conventional long-form name.

As always, not everyone is happy (Karla Šlechtová, the minister of regional development, says the change will mean wasted funds in rebranding and the new name is too close to Chechnya), but I am. Thanks, Eric!

Comments

  1. To be followed by Kazakhia?

  2. At last. But who knows whether it will stick, so many years after the breakup of Czechoslovakia; this is the sort of thing best done at the earliest opportunity. Strange that so many other languages managed to adopt short forms anyway. Of course the initial reluctance to use short forms in Czech didn’t help – Česko was distinctly unpopular in the early years of the new state.

    According to denik.cz Karel Schwarzenberg (former presidential candidate and foreign minister) supports using “Bohemia” as in earlier centuries. (Of course that runs into the problem of distinguishing the whole country from just the region of Bohemia, Čechy). But perhaps someone whose full name is Karel Jan Nepomuk Josef Norbert Bedřich Antonín Vratislav Menas kníže ze Schwarzenbergu is not the best consultant on practical rebranding for the modern world…

  3. Šlechtová is not the only one who is not happy with the new name. In Moravia there is a veritable movement against the new name, which traditionally refers only to the western part of the republic (Čechy/Česko, Bohemia, Böhmen). In their opinion, the new name (Česko, Czehia, Tschechien) excludes the other two components of “České země”, the Czech lands, that is, Moravia (Morava, Mähren) and Czech Silesia (České Slezsko, Schlesien) from the state’s name.

    It is interesting to note that although the German form “Tschechei” would be a more fitting equivalent of Czechia, nevertheless after 1945 the country opted for the obsolete form “Tschechien”, not in use since the late 19th century, as the current form “Tschechei” was too closely linked to the memory of the German occupation.

  4. Lucy Kemnitzer says:

    “Bohemia” isn’t accurate, though, as Czechia also comprises Moravia and a bit of Silesia. I’n bit surprized that Schwarzenburg has ideas like that–he ran for president on the platform of restoring the feudal aristocracy (and his posters depicted him in a pink and green mohawk for some reason).

    I know that for years some people have been referring to “Czechia” already, so I see no problem with it. And I see no reason to spend a lot of money rebranding if both names have currency. Though spending money on hiring young people fresh out of all those business schools that have proliferated all over Prague might not be a bad investment.

  5. In Moravia there is a veritable movement against the new name, which traditionally refers only to the western part of the republic (Čechy/Česko, Bohemia, Böhmen). In their opinion, the new name (Česko, Czehia, Tschechien) excludes the other two components of “České země”, the Czech lands, that is, Moravia (Morava, Mähren) and Czech Silesia (České Slezsko, Schlesien) from the state’s name.

    But that applies equally to “Czech Republic.”

  6. Czemosilia?

  7. It is a bit close to Chechnya. Good thing that’s properly known as The Chechen Republic. Or does that make it worse?

  8. Well, they have the first two phonemes in common, just as they do with “cherry pie” and “Chesterton.”

  9. Jeffry House says:

    Kvechia.

  10. But that applies equally to “Czech Republic.”

    I guess Česká republika is very close to České země, or more properly Země Koruny české, the traditional name of the country, that’s why it did not bother the Moravians. But Česko is unmistakably identical with Bohemia, so it does sound exclusive. Perhaps the difference is like, before 1918, being one of the “lands of the Austrian Crown” vs. being part of Austria. But a Moravian could tell it better.

  11. Filipouf or Patafer?

  12. For my part as a non-Czech, I like this decision. I think the use of “Czech Republic”, an explicitly political term, imparts a regrettable sense of artificiality when dealing with a people as well established as the Czechs, and it forces us to introduce additional terminology like “the Czech lands” in discussions that transcend the present. My grandmother, who came here from Lancashire as a young woman, had a similar distaste for the now predominant “United Kingdom”; she told me that it sounded like the United Arab Emirates.

    Like Hat, I’m inclined to think there’s no problem as long as the names for Czechia and Bohemia are kept at least nominally distinct. I’ve noticed that there are some languages which merge the two – Polish with Czechy, and Hungarian with Csehország – but I don’t see why they couldn’t distinguish them, Polish by calling the nation Czechia (cf. Lechia which has some use among Polish football clubs), and Hungarian by calling the region Bohémia or Bohémország (cf. Morávia or Morvaország for Moravia).

  13. So is “Czechia” to be pronounced /ˈtʃɛkiə/? (Like “Czech + -ia”?)

    I think part of why people are worried about confusion with Chechnya is that the pronunciation of the <ch> is not so obvious.

    (Well, and that they know from experience that people confuse Slovakia and Slovenia, even though the stressed syllables /vɑːk/ and /viːn/ are quite different.)

  14. So is “Czechia” to be pronounced /ˈtʃɛkiə/? (Like “Czech + -ia”?)

    Most certainly, though now that you mention it I guess there’s bound to be a bit of confusion till people get used to hearing it from broadcasters.

  15. gwenllian says:

    Somehow, people already manage to confuse the Czech Republic with Chechnya. The Czech ambassador in the US had to step in and clear things up after the Boston Marathon bombing.

    The Moravian dissatisfaction reminds me a bit of name discussions between Bosnians, many of whom would like to drop the Herzegovina, and Herzegovinians, some of whom resent being referred to as Bosnians (and few of whom would be happy to be referred to as Bosanci in ex-Yu media). Of course, as with most things, in Bosnia and Herzegovina there’s also something of an ethnic aspect in addition to (and conflicting with) the regional one.

  16. Greg Pandatshang says:

    /ˈtʃɛkiə/ strikes me as an awkward-to-pronounce word, although I’m not sure what about it is the problem. “Czechonia” would be a bit more euphonious. Oh, well, what’s done is done and, for whatever reason, they did not ask my opinion.

    It’s true that “Bohemia” is properly a subset of the current Czech Republic. But, on the other hand, the Czech word for Bohemia seems to be in all cases something derived from Čech-, so any Czech- related word has the same metonymy problem that Bohemia does. I could imagine, although I don’t know about this specific case, that people outside of Bohemia proper might even find a misapplied exonym less uncomfortable than a misapplied native name. Oh, well, what’s done is done.

  17. It seems to be that Czech can mean, in different flavors, either the whole country or just Bohemia, and for whatever reasons this new flavor triggers the latter interpretation.

  18. Turks are discussing how to reflect the naming change in Turkish. Currently, Czech Republic is called Çek Cumhuriyeti in Turkish. Now the Czechia needs to be translated differently.

    Some propose Çekya, while other prefer old-fashioned Çekistan

  19. “Czechonia” would be a bit more euphonious.

    Maybe a little too euphonious: “Hail, hail, Czechonia, land of the brave and the free!” (see Duck Soup).

  20. From the comments I’ve seen on various articles where this name change is discussed, it seems that a lot of people are bringing up the possible confusion with Chechnya. I can only conclude that a lot of people are getting tripped up by the pronunciation of ‘ch’ in Czechia. I’m a bit exasperated to be honest. If they are already used to the correct pronunciation of ‘Czech’ and ‘Czechoslovakia’, they really should be able to tell that the ‘ch’ is pronounced /k/ in any formation with ‘Czech-‘.

    Of course, if the name Czechia catches on in English, the pronunciation will not pose any more of a problem than ‘Czech’ or ‘Czechoslovakia’ did, or such words as ‘anarchist’ or ‘masochism’ for that matter. I do wonder what people will make of the less familiar name ‘Wallachia’ though.

    I personally hope that ‘Czechia’ catches on, and I’ve already been using this form sparingly for a few years now to subconsciously plant the seeds among the people I talk or write to. ‘Czech Republic’ is too unwieldy.

  21. the new name is too close to Chechnya
    Cry us a river.

    Çekistan
    I’ve been using that half-jokingly ever since 1993. The Slovak word is “Česko” and even after all these years, it still sounds just weird. Plus it featured in one of the jokes in a play everyone around here knows by heart, so every time I hear “Česko”, I just have to think of that line and chuckle.

  22. “Hail, hail, Czechonia, land of the brave and the free!”
    The actual Czech anthem starts with “Where is my homeland, where is my homeland?” Will they add a line saying “I can’t find it because it’s called something else now”?

  23. David Marjanović says:

    Cry us a river.

    “Staff of Slovak and Slovenian embassies meet once a month to exchange wrongly-addressed mail! :)”

  24. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    I have called it Czechia for years. Just because the country I live in is officially The French Republic doesn’t mean that anyone actually calls it that, except in very unusual contexts. It would be regarded as weird if I told people that I live in the French Republic.

  25. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    Well, and that they know from experience that people confuse Slovakia and Slovenia, even though the stressed syllables /vɑːk/ and /viːn/ are quite different.

    It doesn’t help that the Slovenian for “Slovenian” (slovensko) is almost exactly the same as the Slovak for Slovak (slovenský).

  26. I’m a bit exasperated to be honest. If they are already used to the correct pronunciation of ‘Czech’ and ‘Czechoslovakia’, they really should be able to tell that the ‘ch’ is pronounced /k/ in any formation with ‘Czech-‘.

    Yes, exactly!

  27. Is the new suggested German form “Tschechien”? I thought it was always “die Tschechei”.

  28. Good decision. I just dont understand wy the name in english needs such an irreggular spelling, with a CZ wen the českis dont spel it that way, and a misleeding CH.

    In my alternativ spelling sistems and languages (for watever language) the rule is to spel the name as in the original language (provided it uses the roman alfabet), and yu can pronounce it acording to the original pronunciation or acording to the rules in your own language. If the word has diacritics, yu can use them if yu can and feel like doing it, or yu can just ignor them. Some cuntries pose problems, like the Czech Republic, and thare i decided to use the word ‘česka’. Yu can spel it česka or ceska, and yu can pronounce it cheska or seska (nobody can know wat all the diacritics meen in all languages). And that would be the same for all languages (or at leest for the ones that use the roman alfabet).

    If the anglos use a new name and something mor english, they should at leest spel Chekia.

    By the way, bosnians ar bosnis (bosnos ar the men, bosnas the wimmen, bosnis the persons), hercegovinians ar hercegovinis, and if yu want to refer to all inhabbitants of Bosnia i Hercegovina, yu say ‘the bihis’. And yu do that for all cuntries that hav mor than 2 names in the name…

  29. Ксёнѕ Фаўст says:

    Polish by calling the nation Czechia (cf. Lechia which has some use among Polish football clubs)

    Ain’t gonna happen – Czechy are pretty ingrained and few people realize nowadays that this also refers to a historical country that isn’t equal to the whole Czech state.

  30. Slovak-Slovenian confusion was predated by surprisingly common confusion between Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, especially in the Third World countries.

    I remember reading in Czechoslovakian travel book in 1960s that the author got visa to one extremely anti-Communist Third World country only because the customs officer mistook Czechoslovakia for Yugoslavia (known to be hostile to the USSR unlike Czechoslovakia)

  31. @Vasha: As far as I know Tschechien already predominates in German, so there’s no change there. As Studiolum notes, Tschechei is deprecated because of its associations with the occupation: Czechia, stripped of the Sudetenland, was officially called the Protektorat Böhmen und Mähren and informally Rest-Tschechei.

    @Ran, SFReader: Also the Swiss and the Swedes, and the Danes and the Dutch.

  32. Congo R and Congo DR; Dominica and Dominican Republic. Persia and Prussia?

    I would guess that most of the people who confuse Austria and Australia or Niger with Nigeria are people who have not heard of Austria or Niger and simply autocorrect.

  33. “What’s the correct spelling? Iran or Iraq?” (c) Russian joke about American journalism

  34. Well, when you consider that they are often pronounced /aɪˈræn/ and /aɪˈræk/ in the U.S. instead of better approximations like /iˈrɑn/ and /ɪˈrɑk/ (which is what I say), mistakes are easy to make.

  35. Myself, I say /ɪˈræn/ (with /ɪˈreɪniən/) and /ɪˈræk/. I think the /aɪ/ pronunciations have become entrenched in the armed forces – soldiers almost always seem to say /aɪˈræk/.

  36. My father said /aɪtæljən/ his whole life (1904-1993). I’m not sure if this pronunciation is or was considered derogatory, but he certainly didn’t mean it to be. In the movie Breaking Away (1979), which I just saw last night, the father of the fanatically pro-Italian main character says /aɪti/, which is plainly meant as derogatory.

    I remember reading, during the Gulf War, a British correspondent who had noted his American counterparts talking of hypothetical “eye-racky antie-antie-missal-missals”. They might have retorted that he called them “ih-rocky antee-antee-missyle-missyles”.

  37. My aunt says /’ɪtli/ for Italy. I’m not sure where she picked that up, since my mother (her sister) thinks it’s unusual.

  38. We can solve problems with confusion between Czechia and Chechnya by adopting Ichkeria for the latter. It will annoy Russia to no end, which is a bonus, I guess.

  39. Ayran is actually a cold beverage made of yoghurt and salt, very pleasant in the summer. Nothing to do with Iran, other than I’m sure it’s also drunk there in one form or another.

  40. To add to mollymooly’s examples, there are reports out there that some people a trying to call African embassy about something or other relating to, well, Africa. There’s simply no way to be safe from stupid insufficiently informed people.

  41. SFReader says:

    And of course, John Kerry once invented a new nation of Kyrzakhstan, apparently confusing Kazakhstan with Kyrgyzstan.

  42. SFReader says:

    I am sure Guinea, Equatorial Guinea, Papua New Guinea and Guyana get confused all the time.

  43. And Guinea-Bissau, and French Guiana (officially, simply la Guyane). And, uh, let’s just not mention Herman Cain.

  44. January First-of-May says:

    I have called it Czechia for years. Just because the country I live in is officially The French Republic doesn’t mean that anyone actually calls it that, except in very unusual contexts. It would be regarded as weird if I told people that I live in the French Republic.

    Basically my situation as well (except with “Russian Federation” instead of “French Republic”).

    Ayran is actually a cold beverage made of yoghurt and salt, very pleasant in the summer. Nothing to do with Iran, other than I’m sure it’s also drunk there in one form or another.

    I’ve been told that it is part of the national cuisine in both Armenia and Bulgaria, but this doesn’t say anything about Iran (the former were both Ottoman, the latter was Persian).

    I am sure Guinea, Equatorial Guinea, Papua New Guinea and Guyana get confused all the time.

    Don’t forget French Guiana! And Guinea-Bissau, for that matter.
    [EDIT: ninja-ed… though I suppose I can add Ghana?]

  45. Rodger C says:

    Jimmy Carter got accused of being a bigot for saying /aɪtæljən/. If he hadn’t lengthened the vowel, in his dialect it would have disappeared. I always wanted to say, “Hey, Virgil lengthened that vowel in the second line of the Aeneid. Go call him anti-Italian.”

  46. Yes, but once you start to compare the meaning of a word in the native language with the meaning in another language, things get hopeless fast. Polack and Chinaman are no less insulting in American English for being a direct loan and a direct loan translation, respectively, from the dominant languages of those countries.

  47. David Marjanović says:

    As far as I know Tschechien already predominates in German, so there’s no change there.

    Correct.

    Ayran

    Ayrak, in contrast, is a Turkish surname, and then there’s this.

    If he hadn’t lengthened the vowel, in his dialect it would have disappeared.

    …as has indeed happened in, specifically, Croatian.

  48. gwenllian says:

    It doesn’t help that the Slovenian for “Slovenian” (slovensko) is almost exactly the same as the Slovak for Slovak (slovenský).

    And the Slovakian for Slovenia and Slovakia – Slovinsko and Slovensko. And the Slovenian for the Slovenian language (slovenščina) and Slovak for the Slovak language (slovenčina). And the Slovenian for a Slovenian woman and Slovakian for a Slovakian woman, which really are the same – Slovenka. It really does get a bit confusing when you look at it like that.

  49. See this old LH comment, on Slav ethnonym confusion.

  50. That’s still hilarious!

  51. Rodger C says:

    JC, you overestimate the seriousness of my remark. Obviously Virgil was just banging along in his hexameters. The whole line, after all, demands to be read Iitaliam fato profugu Slavinnjaque venit.

    At any rate, you already noted that the pronunciation usually rendered “Eyetalian” doesn’t necessarily imply any prejudice. In Carter’s case the objection itself seems to me to encode prejudice, like the statement from some quarters that his nonrhotic accent sounded “like a foreigner.”

  52. Austria and Australia

    When scanning news about the Eurovision Song Contest last year — not my core subject, but it was plastered on evening paper front pages for two weeks — and seeing discussions about the chances of the Australian contribution, I was initially sure it was someone mistranslating from English. (Swedes don’t confuse Australia and Österrike in Swedish, but might conceivably not know the English for the latter).

    Turns out the ESC is big in Oz and a contribution had been invited in some sort of intercontinental outreach.

  53. Stating the obvious: the confused have isolated minds.

    Greetings from San Cristobal de la Laguna, Tenerife, Canarias. Salud!

  54. “Czech Republic” has kind of grown on me over the years. As a marketing tool to Westerners it was a good idea. It distinguishes the Czech lands from the mob of Slovakias, Slovenias, Latvias and Croatias of the world. The Republic moniker adds a touch of (unearned) class. It is reminiscent of the Venetian Republic or Greek republics, conveying the idea that the Czechs are somehow special and not like the rest of those backward Central & Eastern Europeans. Of course, if I were a Slovak the “Czech Republic” moniker would annoy the hell out of me.

  55. The Czech Republic came to be called Tékkland in Iceland, plain and simple, rather than the official sounding Tékkneska lýðveldið. I sincerely hope they’re not going to switch to Tékkía (a godawful word and borderline laughable) but I fear officialdom might, out of respect for Czech authorities. Tékkland is just fine. In fact, I might write to the Czech authorities and gently point out to them that Czechland would solve all their problems in the international arena. It has certain heft and the virtue of familiarity.

  56. It really does get a bit confusing when you look at it like that.
    Not to mention that there is such a thing as Moravian Slovakia which in both Czech and Slovak is called Slovácko which, come to think of it, is what Slovakia should be called in Slovak.

  57. Of course, if I were a Slovak the “Czech Republic” moniker would annoy the hell out of me.
    I don’t give two lion shits, but come to think of it, some of our nationalists did interpret this lack of an official one-word name for their country as a sign of Czech condescension. Then again, our nationalists interpreted just about anything as a sign of Czech condescension.

  58. For Turkish, maybe Çeklik? 🙂

    By parallel with Arnavutluk for Albania, which always sounds funny to me, as if it were “Albanian-holder” (cf.: kitap=book, kitaplık=bookshelf; tuz=salt; tuzluk=salt-shaker).

  59. I don’t give two lion shits

    Lion manure for sale (500g box, £8.99). It is sold as organic fertilizer, but also has the side effect of deterring cats (one may well suspect that at that price it is used mostly for the latter, officially off-label, purpose).

    I note that Masaryk came from Moravian Slovakia, which explains a lot.

  60. I always thought pan-Slavism was a silly idea, but it would help with the nomenclatural problem: everyone would be Slavs from Slavia and speak Slavic (in various dialects, just like Arabic and Chinese).

  61. everyone would be Slavs from Slavia and speak Slavic
    We would of course write Old Slavic – yat, yery, nasals and all – but speak our own dialect. And then we could spend hours upon hours and pages upon pages arguing about whose dialect is closes to Old Slavic. Well, some people would, I mean it’s pretty obvious it’s the dialect of Abov.

    Why yes, that’s a good guess, I am indeed from Abov. A coincidence, nothing more.

  62. North Abovian, I suppose you mean. As opposed to South Abovians, who are anti-Slavic heretics. And Slobbovians, about whom the less said the better!

  63. Trond Engen says:

    SFReader: Turks are discussing how to reflect the naming change in Turkish. […] Some propose Çekya, while other prefer old-fashioned Çekistan

    AThRd: The Czech Republic came to be called Tékkland in Iceland, plain and simple, rather than the official sounding Tékkneska lýðveldið. I sincerely hope they’re not going to switch to Tékkía (a godawful word and borderline laughable) but I fear officialdom might, out of respect for Czech authorities.

    It’s been Tsjekkia in Norwegian ever since a name had to be crafted. I wanted Tsjekkland, so it annoyed me at the time. But then, I like Tyrkland too.

  64. SFReader says:

    I foresee great confusion between Tsjekkland, Tyrkland and Tyskland

  65. Trond Engen says:

    Tyrkland and Tyskland might indeed be mixed up, if not by confusion (both being prominent entities in current Norwegian folk-geography) so by typography. Tsjekkland is distinct enough to ear and eye to avoid being confused with the other two.

  66. David Marjanović says:

    This picture can be bought on T-shirts that are sold all over the country.

  67. J. W. Brewer says:

    Do the Czechs have any suggestions for a catchy new name for the Central African Republic? I think the only thing that’s been tried post-independence was the detour into Central African Empire, which perhaps did not end well.

  68. J. W. Brewer says:

    Both Bohemia and Moravia seem like better names than Czech-anything. Once upon a time (I doubt the Anglo-Saxons talked about the place much, so this may in English be a purely retroactive usage) Greater Moravia comprehended all of the Czech lands. Then for many centuries Bohemia did (in ordinary English usage). Maybe it’s time to cycle again and let Bohemia be resubsumed into Moravia for purposes of the exonym in English. Return of the Son of Greater Moravia? Greater Moravia 2: Electric Boogaloo?

  69. Well, under the French the CAR was called Ubangi-Shari (Oubangui-Chari) after two of its rivers, along the lines of Niger and Senegal.

  70. -Do the Czechs have any suggestions for a catchy new name for the Central African Republic?

    How about Středoafricko?

  71. Ксёнѕ Фаўст says:

    In fact, I might write to the Czech authorities and gently point out to them that Czechland would solve all their problems in the international arena. It has certain heft and the virtue of familiarity.

    It looks like Czechland was taken into consideration but they rejected it for obscure reasons.

  72. “Centrafrica” seems to have currency in Italian.

  73. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    Greetings from San Cristobal de la Laguna, Tenerife, Canarias. Salud!

    Greetings to you too. I just comment that the Canaries are champions in the use of confusing names. Santa Cruz, the capital of Tenerife, is not to be confused either with Puerto de la Cruz, on the other side of the island, or with Santa Cruz, capital of another island, La Palma, itself not to be confused with Las Palmas, capital of Gran Canaria. When I was in Puerto de la Cruz ten years it was one of the last places in Spain to have a major street named in honour of Generalísimo Francisco Franco, but it seems to have been renamed, maybe to Avenida Zamora.

  74. Greg Pandatshang says:

    I doubt the Anglo-Saxons talked about the place much

    Later Anglo-Saxon royals seem to have had lots of ties to eastern Europe. Edward Ætheling spent his exile in Hungary. Harold Godwinson’s daughter was married to Vladimir Monomakh. They must have also been quite aware of Bohemia and/or Moravia.

  75. Athel, and Gran Canaria itself is neither biggest in population nor in land area!

  76. David Marjanović says:

    Greater Moravia also included large parts of Slovakia and Hungary, it seems.

    “Centrafrica” seems to have currency in Italian.

    Straight from Centrafrique.

  77. That’s what makes it “Greater”.

    “Greater Gaul is divided into three parts, of which one is inhabited by the Belgians, another by the Basques, and the third by those who in their own language are called Celts, but in our language Gauls.”

  78. BTW, Russian soldiers fighting Chechen guerrillas in the 1990s called their adversaries “чехи”, “chekhi”, which literally means “Czechs” in standard Russian.

  79. Il vergognoso says:

    Is that from the Czechs in the Russian Civil War?

  80. During Afghan war, Soviet soldiers called the enemy “dushman” (Persian “enemy”). It was shortened to “dukhi” (literally “ghosts”) in informal speech.

    Shortening ‘Chechen’ to “chekhi” follows this pattern.

  81. @Il vergognoso: Of course not. It’s just the way the language works, as SFReader has noted.

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