CZECHIA.

When I read this post by Joel of Far Outliers, I felt a lightbulb go off in my head:

Last weekend, I also had the opportunity to meet a scholar visiting from the Czech Republic, who repeatedly referred to her nation as Czechia—a most sensible formulation which I subsequently found to have had official sanction since 1993 (along with Česko, the Czech equivalent), but which seems to be very slow to spread among English speakers, who perhaps still feel guilty about agreeing to carve up Czechoslovakia in 1938 and want to compensate by resisting any attempt to shorten the fuller form of its current name. However, feeling no guilt on that score despite my English heritage, I henceforth resolve to refer to that glorious center of historic dissidence as Czechia, plain and simple. In fact, I’ve just added Czechia to my list of country categories for this blog. I had already added Bohemia before, but that does no justice to Moravia, which has, if anything, an even greater tradition of religious dissidence.

Sure enough, the Czech Republic Country Guide says: “Czechia is the official one-word name of the Czech Republic. In 1993 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic in its memorandum to to all Czech embassies and diplomatic missions recommended to use the full name ‘Czech Republic’ only in official documents and titles of official institutions.” I have often lamented the absence of a simple term like “Czechia” in English, but never realized that I could be helping to spread it and save people the trouble of constantly repeating “the Czech Republic.” I hereby join Joel in his resolve.

Comments

  1. Paul Clapham says:

    Czechia. Just like Slovakia. Makes perfect sense.
    Although I have a co-worker who came from that country — actually it was before 1993 but she did come from the Czech part — and she always refers to it as “Czech Republic”. I’ve never heard “Czechia”.
    Not “the Czech Republic”, mind you, just “Czech Republic”. The word “the” seems to be a problem area for speakers of Slavic languages.

  2. Pronounced [tSEkij@], I take it? For some reason that doesn’t sound terribly natural to me.

  3. Cool! I never knew there was a real one-word name. Thanks for the link, Languagehat.

  4. Here in NYC we talk of the Dominican Republic a lot more than the Czech Republic, and we get along with “D.R.” without a problem. “Dominica” is already the name, pronounced with penultimate stress, of a different country, so it’s unavailable.

  5. It took a while, but I got used to Czechia. I will probably never get used to “Česko”, though. Far too many Slovak comedians used this name to a humorous effect for me to take it serious. Honestly, it almost sounds like a slur, especially when I hear it from the mouths of nationalist politicians. I think I’ll stick with “Čechy”, it’s got a nice dialectal ring to it.

  6. A.J.P. Crown says:

    The biggest advantage is in describing the citizens. I mean, who wants to be called a Czech Republican, especially this week? Czechian is better, we use it in Norwegian and German.

  7. Tjekkiet and Slovakiet here in Denmark. Quondam Tjekkoslovakiet.
    And the people are Tjekker and Slovakker.

  8. Artifex Amando says:

    In Swedish Czechia has been called Tjeckien from the split onwards, I believe. Many countries do end in -(i)en* in Swedish, and I’ve always been curious of the etymology of this suffix. Is it German, Italian, French (which has the -ien/-ienne suffixes), a mix or something completely different?
    Similarly, it is Slovakien in Swedish, and before that Tjeckoslovakien. The peoples are called Tjecker and Slovaker.
    * Actually, I can only think of Polen (Poland) which does not have an -i- before the -en, but there are probably more country names with this construction.

  9. marie-lucie says:

    The unstressed suffix -(i)en in Germanic languages such as German and Swedish is not of Romance (Latin) origin. French -ien/ienne, Italian or Spanish -(i)ano/-(i)ana refer to the inhabitants or the language of a country, not to its name.

  10. michael farris says:

    I seem to recall that Czechia as a name has been around but was avoided directly after the split because of unpleasant WWII connotations.
    In Polish Czechy technically refers to Bohemia alone (though nb it’s a plural form like the Polish words for Germany, Italy and Hungary – Niemcy, Włochy and Węgry respectively) and there is no single word for the whole country (which also includes Morawia and Śląsk Czeski) and it’s officially called Republika Czeska. I suppose Czechia could be used but doesn’t sound so good in Polish (to my non-native ears). Informally Czechy is used for the whole country just as Anglia (England) is used for the Great Britain, the UK and sometimes for all the British Isles together though Wyspy (islands) has gained in usage since EU accession just as Stany (states) is often used for the US.
    Now that I think about it, a good option for Polish might be Czechia for Bohemia and Czechy for the whole country (don’t think that’s gonna happen though).

  11. michael farris says:

    oops just fact checked myself and Moravia is Morawy (again a plural form) in Polish.

  12. Stamps from Bohemia and Moravia had from 1939 to 1941 the names “Böhmen und Mähren” as well as “Čechy a Morava”.

  13. Artifex Amando says:

    marie-lucie: Thank you for the information, immediately after posting my comment I thought that you would be of help!
    I shall direct my interest towards the Germanic languages, having not done so before, to find out the answer.

  14. Can you persuade the Irish Republic to go back to Eire?

  15. Some people go with plain old Czech, as I discuss in this Language Log post (which also touches on Czechia).

  16. Well, ultimately Swedish (and German) -ien likely derives from Latin -ia, by analogy to the purely Germanic names in -en. -en is an old Dat.Pl. that was reinterpreted as a Sg.: “i Polen” literally means in (the domain of the) Poles.

  17. @dearieme: the Irish Republic has never ‘gone away’ from Eire. Éire (with a so-called ‘fada’ over the E to signify a long vowel) is the word for Ireland in the Irish language. It is only so well known in English because it is useful in crosswords and sounds good in poetry.

  18. Yes, I’ve known this for a long time, but never had a chance to use it, damn it! Don’t talk about Czechia much….
    German was historically Tschechei, but the Czechs decided early on to call their new country Tschechien because Tshechei had bad associations from the Nazi era (this info from German Wikipedia). Pennsylvania Dutch uses Tschecherei (see the Wikipedia article http://pdc.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tschecherei).

  19. komfo,amonan says:

    I’ve always thought that ‘Czechland’ sounds about 112 times better than ‘Czechia’.

  20. Artifex Amando says:

    Lukas: Thank you for your theory, and for reminding me that Swedish has had more cases – or to be exact, I guess, more case endings – which I forget all the time, although I say e.g. “lagom” every day!

  21. komfo,amonan,
    that reminds me of The Czechlands (as in The Netherlands) which was floated for a while in 1993. It’s a pretty good equivalent of the somewhat archaic “České země” (Czech lands; lands of the Czech crown), i.e. Bohemia, Moravia and Moravian Silesia. I liked it, but apparently it failed to catch on.

  22. In Norwegian, the country is Tsjekkia. Interestingly enough, it’s pronounced as though it’s written Sjekkia (i.e. with a ʃ as the first sound); at least that’s the way I pronounce it (I looked it up in a dictionary, which specified that the ‘t’ was pronounced as well).
    On a side-note, some Norwegians (myself included) find Swedish country names amusing because they use the -ien suffix. The suffix -en in Norwegian is added to masculine nouns to mark their definiteness, the suffix -a to feminine nouns (with exceptions, but I won’t digress).
    Therefore, whenever I hear a Swede talk about Tjeckien, Italien, Spanien, Belgien or Slovenien (the Norwegian words are Tsjekkia, Italia, Spania, Belgia and Slovenia) it sounds so very, well, definite. Probably because I’m so used to the Norwegian word that I don’t analyze the -a suffix the same way as in, say, jenta (‘the girl’), while the unexpected -en suffix makes my brain do a double-take.
    And that’s not to mention Turkiet, which has the neuter suffix -et (Norwegian: Tyrkia).

  23. marie-lucie says:

    Lukas: Well, ultimately Swedish (and German) -ien likely derives from Latin -ia, by analogy to the purely Germanic names in -en. -en is an old Dat.Pl. that was reinterpreted as a Sg.: “i Polen” literally means in (the domain of the) Poles.
    You mean that the -i- comes from the Latin name, but the final -en has nothing to do with the -n- of the French, etc version: German Italien ‘Italy’ only looks the same as French italien ‘Italian (masculine word)’, neither of these words is a borrowing from the other language.
    That the German suffix has its origin as a dative or genitive plural makes good sense, especially in the light of the Slavic plural names also: the name of the country means, as you say, “in the domain of the …s”, or, as in French, “chez les ….s” (“in the home of the …s”, or “among the …s”).

  24. marie-lucie says:

    about “Czechia” and/or “the Czech Republic”:
    for a perhaps similar example, the official name of the country known as la France is la République Française, but the official name is only used in very restricted contexts: even diplomats are called Ambassadeur/Consul de France. So there is no reason not to use two denominations for the same country (unless, of course, using the word Republic is considered to make an important political statement, as in Republic of China versus Taiwan).

  25. Artifex Amando says:

    Nick:
    Do you also, as I do, wonder why there seems to be a switch of definite -n and -t (neutrum and utrum, I think the forms are called) in many words between Swedish and Norwegian, e.g. Sw. Polisen versus Nor. Politiet?
    Turkiet, I think, is the only country ending in -iet, whereas it’s an ending often used of certain areas that are not countries, such as Manchuriet and Valakiet. Why this is, I don’t know. I’ll have a look at the Germanic linguistics section at my local library the next time I’m there, for sure.

  26. komfo,amonan says:

    Czechlands: Even better.

  27. They felt so guilty about agreeing to carve up Czechoslovakia in 1938, that they abandoned it again in 1968…
    Also, Hebrew has been using ‘Czechia’ forever.

  28. Artifex: in German these are female and require the article (die Türkei, die Mandschurei, die Walachei and of course die Slowakei). German Wikipedia says Tschechei originated as a contraction of Tschechoslowakei, and Tschechien is actually the older term but fell in misuse with the “Angliederung der Resttschechei” that has given Tschechei its revanchist overtone.
    Country names ending in -(i)en are vaguely neutral. I’d almost say they are so genderless they’re not even neutral–using them with an article or adjective sounds odd, which may be a vestige of their plural origin.

  29. Crown, A.J.P. says:

    “Böhmen und Mähren” is still used in Germany — Bohemia and Moravia, in English, but in English they wouldn’t be linked like that into one phrase.

  30. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Nick:
    It’s good to see a proper Norwegian person say something here about your language. I, the Sarah Palin of linguistics, normally have to represent Norwegian. Most of the time I say what I like without contradiction.

  31. I’ve been living here for 8 years and have never heard anyone – whether Czech or otherwise – actually use the name ‘Czechia’. Whatever the Ministry claims, ‘Czechia’ simply is not the name of the country.

  32. The biggest advantage is in describing the citizens. I mean, who wants to be called a Czech Republican, especially this week? Czechian is better, we use it in Norwegian and German
    I would just describe them as “Czechs”. There’s no minority situation, as there is in – say – Central Asia, where you have to make a distinction between Tajiks – members of the Tajik ethnic group – and Tajikistanis – citizens of Tajikistan, who may or may not be Tajiks.

  33. michael farris says:

    “There’s no minority situation”
    Roma are now the majority in Czechia?*
    *D0 I get extra credit points for using the word in a sentence? maybe a star?

  34. Whatever the Ministry claims, ‘Czechia’ simply is not the name of the country.
    That used to be my attitude, but if enough English-speakers use it, it will be the name of the country, so I’m doing my bit.

  35. Completely OT:
    Why does the “Posted” line say “at November 7, etc.” ?
    Surely it should either say “at 06:35 AM, November 7″ or “on November 7, 2008 (at -optional) 06:35AM.
    To go back on track, if, as outeast says, no one there uses Czechia in ordinary speech, why should we ?

  36. Per Google Trends, “Czechia” is not really hitting the radar screen yet relative to “Czech Republic”:
    http://www.google.com/trends?q=czechia%2C+%22czech+republic%22

  37. I’ve seen Chequia in Spanish newspapers, but I don’t remember hearing or reading the English or French equivalents. However, I usually say Czechia myself, as I’ve always thought “the Czech Republic” a ridiculous name for a country (though maybe not as ridiculous as “the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”). As Marie-Lucie says, absolutely no one calls France “the French Republic”.
    In the days when the United Arab Republic existed I sometimes wondered what one was supposed to call its citizens: United Arabs?

  38. I, the Sarah Palin of linguistics, normally have to represent Norwegian. Most of the time I say what I like without contradiction.
    If you are the Sarah Palin of linguistics, what does that make me, the George W. Bush, perhaps? Unfortunately the languages I know most about are English, French and Spanish, which means that there are lots of people able to contradict me when I says things that are particularly silly. I’ve occasionally said things about Mapudungún, and that’s a lot safer!

  39. michael farris says:

    Derivationally Czechia is weird in that it does suggest Czechian as an adjective and not Czech. Is there any other case there the adjective for a country is the base form and the noun is formed with -ia?

  40. Is there any other case there the adjective for a country is the base form and the noun is formed with -ia?
    I’m not sure if these count, but what about Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia? — the first two existed as geographic entities when they weren’t countries, but one could still argue that Serb and Croat existed independently of Serbia and Croatia. In terms of Slovenia, however, I’m pretty sure I knew of Slovene before I heard mention of Slovenia.

  41. Slightly different, but there is “Arab”, “Arabia”, and “Arabian”.

  42. Not to mention “Lett” and “Latvian”.

  43. “Slovak” and “Slovakian”.

  44. “Turk” and “Turkish”.

  45. “Swede” and “Swedish”.

  46. Not to say that the above are all completely parallel, but it seems to me there is no real requirement for one to come before the other. A Czech from Czechia and a Swede from Sweden don’t seem terribly different in practice. And if Czechia takes off, can Czechian be far behind?

  47. There can be a distinction, as in Arab and Arabian, Mongol and Mongolian. No one ever said these things had to be tidy.

  48. if, as outeast says, no one there uses Czechia in ordinary speech, why should we ?
    Well, because it’s a lot shorter than “the Czech Republic.”
    No one ever said these things had to be tidy.
    Exactly. Down with tidiness!

  49. michael farris says:

    “And if Czechia takes off, can Czechian be far behind?”
    That was my question, my assumption is that if Czechia becomes widely known for the country then the adjective will shift to Czechian (without completely replacing Czech just as Serbian and Serb and Mongol and Mongolian co-exist). Eventually
    I’d assume that Czech would be restricted to persons and the general adjective, including the language, would shift to Czechian. I have no problem with that, I just hope nobody acts surprised and gets a bug up their butt about it.

  50. Czechnian–is that what the Chechens speak in Chechnya?

  51. Michael Farris says:

    Well Chechnian does get 6590 google hits.

  52. marie-lucie says:

    Czechnian–is that what the Chechens speak in Chechnya?
    No. the cz and the ch are pronounced differently in Czech: the cz like English “ch” but the ch as in German Bach. The ch in Chechen is like English “ch”.

  53. We’ve always used this name (Чехия) in Russian.

  54. I just hope nobody acts surprised and gets a bug up their butt about it.
    Come now, you know what an unrealistic hope that is.

  55. marie-lucie says:

    After all, GWB took the lead in calling the inhabitants of Greece “Grecians”. (Although, commendably, he does not seem to use “Grecian Formula).

  56. John Emerson says:

    I’ve always thought that “Griekenland” is the worst name anyone has ever given any country. (“Always” in the sense of “ever since I first saw the word”).

  57. John Emerson says:

    I’ve always thought that “Griekenland” is the worst name anyone has ever given any country. (“Always” in the sense of “ever since I first saw the word”).

  58. A.J.P. Crown says:

    It’s even worse than you thought, John. It’s actually the Griechische Republik.
    On the other hand, Amerika is a tiny improvement.

  59. mollymooly says:

    I don’t see how English speakers can be expected to use a word the Czechs themselves seem to have given up on. The UN, the IOC, and the Czech embassies in Washington and London all use “Czech Republic”. The French equivalents use “France”, not “French Republic”.

  60. A.J.P. Crown says:

    I think the worst name anyone has ever given a country is ‘The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’. Quite apart from the politics, it’s not a name, it’s a nine-word sentence. Almost a paragraph.

  61. michael farris says:

    If we’re talking about worst names “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” is right up there.

  62. Tékkland is what the country is called in Icelandic, i.e. Czechland.
    However, Czechland is a lake near Wahoo, Nebraska. That doesn’t have much to do with anything but I did get to mention one of my favorite place names in the world, Wahoo, Nebraska.

  63. mollymooly says:

    Looking at the other-language links on the Czech Republic wikipedia page, I see that the Anglo-Saxon name is apparently “Cecland”.

  64. If we’re talking about worst names “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” is right up there.
    True, but it’s a name that was imposed on them from outside. They didn’t choose it for themselves.

  65. I’m sure the Scots didn’t choose to be called “The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”, either :)

  66. I’m sure the Scots didn’t choose to be called “The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”, either :)
    Yes, they did – Union of Parliaments, 1707; the Scottish Parliament passed the Act of Union, which created “The United Kingdom of Great Britain”.
    I think the most interesting one is probably “the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics” – the only country name to have no geographical terms in it at all.
    one could still argue that Serb and Croat existed independently of Serbia and Croatia.
    One could do more than argue – one could spend most of the 1990s fighting over it. The difference between (for example) an attack by Serb forces and an attack by Serbian forces was not a petty one.

  67. Crown, A.J.P. says:

    ‘The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’
    Apart from the nine-word thing, if you’re from Belfast and you want to look ‘it’ up, say at an airport (in a hurry), do you start under T, U, G, B, N or I? It could be under any one of them (just in English).
    ‘The Islands Formerly Known As British’ is only six words.

  68. “It’s even worse than you thought, John. It’s actually the Griechische Republik”
    According to the German Foreign Ministry, the official German name is now Hellenische Republik.

  69. Graham Asher says:

    I vote for Bohemia, on grounds of euphony. And for Bombay, Peking, and Burma on grounds of tradition. And for The Argentine, The Ukraine and The Gambia on rather shaky grounds, probably just cussedness. And for Neustria, Austrasia, Thomond and Tannu Tuva because I like old names.

  70. I too like old names, and I’m fond of Bohemia; the problem is that it only refers to half of the Czech Republic, Moravia being the other.

  71. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Moravia is not the proverbial chopped liver. Gustav Mahler came from Moravia.

  72. michael farris says:

    As did Dvorak and Janacek (the latter being my favorite Czech composer).

  73. “the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics” – the only country name to have no geographical terms in it at all.
    Which explains why they’d think Commonwealth of Independent States was a reasonable name.

  74. I like Tannu Uriankhai better

  75. “…the only country name to have no geographical terms in it at all.”
    Having said that, there is also the Taiping Tianguo – the Heavenly Kingdom of Perfect Peace. Though that never really made it to nation state status.

  76. Crown, A.J.P. says:

    According to Wiki, apart from Macao, the only ‘country’ with a longer name than the UK is a former British colony: Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. 11 words.

  77. the cz and the ch are pronounced differently in Czech: the cz like English “ch” but the ch as in German Bach.
    A bit confusing, that: the cz is pronounced like English ‘ch’ in the English word ‘czech’, but in Czech the letter is č (‘cz’ does not exist in any Czech word I know). The terminal ‘ch’ is pronounced like the ‘ch’ in German Bach, but only in Czech – in English, the sound becomed ‘k’.

  78. I think the most interesting one is probably “the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics” – the only country name to have no geographical terms in it at all.

    Well, it became a geographical term in due time. And it’s far from the only country name without any reference to Geography, cf. Zhong Guo, Burkina Faso, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, to name just a few.

  79. Erm, forget about Zhong Guo, I should have drunk more coffee before commenting.

  80. Kyrgyzstan
    Doesn’t “stan” mean “land”?
    What does that mean, “no geographical terms in it”? “United States”: is “state” a geographical term?

  81. Part of the English-speakers’ reluctance to relinquish the term Czechoslovakia could come from confusion about the difference between Czech and Slovak to begin with.
    I have a Czech last name, great-grandson of Czech immigrants. But my own grandfather (born in the U.S.) was unaware of whether we were Czech or Slovak until I found our family’s hometown on a map, just outside of Plzen. If a first-generation Czech immigrant doesn’t know the difference, how are the rest to differentiate?

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