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THE FIGHT FOR COMMON SENSE IS OBLIGATORY

Linguist Eva Horová in her analysis :

 

English-speaking/writing media and institutions are usually somewhat embarrassed when we try to inform them about CZECHIA as the standard one-word geographic name, authorized and recommended by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1993) and included in the UNO Gazetteers of Geographical Names. On the other hand, the German equivalent TSCHECHIEN was almost immediately adopted in German-speaking countries and has been widely used there as a natural and necessary counterpart to „die Tschechische Republik“. If users of English language ignored CZECHIA, it would be a serious and needless deviation from traditional rules underlying the system of geographic names in general:

An overwhelming majority of modern states have adopted two names. The political name gives information about the type of government (Kingdom, Federal Republic) and therefore usually consists of more than one word; it is applied in diplomatic negotiations, in texts of treaties, etc. The geographic name, as a rule in one word, appears in maps, on postage stamps, on the outfit of national football teams and, in particular, in daily conversation and in texts of non-official character. In accordance with this model, this country used to be known under the names Československá republika / the Czechoslovak Republic, and Československo / Czechoslovakia.

After the „velvet divorce“ in 1993, each of the two newly arisen states followed the traditional model: the Slovak Republic/Slovakia, and the Czech Republic/ —?? I think, that the most non-prejudiced persons would automatically add what is missing: CZECHIA. Quite right. Why should there be a gap in the system ? There are no rational reasons for that, either historical or linguistic. The name CZECHIA is no ad hoc invention. In terms of linguistic, the suffix -ia is a frequent phenomenon in English language and the word is derived naturally from the name of the nation. Then, why to hesitate to use CZECHIA? Let us recall the period following the separation. Unlike the Slovaks, the Czechs had always felt that it was sufficient for them to call their country Československo/Czechoslovakia. In fact, most of them (except linguists, historians and geographers) did not know that their territory had its own geographic name Česko, which only needed to be revived and re-adopted. Most citizens of the separate „new“ name Česko (which actually dates back to 18th century). Thus it happened that the political name Česká republika/the Czech Republic entered all fundamental laws and documents whereas Česko/Czechia had to wait for a sort of „public consensus“. As a result, a simple directive „from above“, although professional discussion and assessment had been finished by that time; it only could be recommended could not introduce a one-word geographic name. 

An explicit approval was given to the one-word geographic name Česko/Czechia by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a memorandum sent to all Czech embassies and diplomatic missions in 1993: the Ministry recommends to use the official title „only in important official documents and texts (such as laws, treaties, notes, etc.), in titles of important institutions of the state (such as Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, Embassy of the Czech Republic in ....) and in official speeches and addresses. In all other cases, the one-word name Česko can be used. (....) Its equivalents in some of the worldwide languages are: Czechia in English, Tschechien in German, Tchéquie in French, Chequía in Spanish, Cecchia in Italian, Čechija in Russian.“ 

This statement could encourage all users of English language, both native and non-native, to adopt CZECHIA as easily as the Germans had adopted TSCHECHIEN. Unfortunately, the information was not published on a large scale and did not reach all areas of social activities other than foreign service (such as international trade and industry, culture, sports, schools, and all kinds of international contact). If no help comes „from above“, we will gave to help „from below“ - this is what we had in mind when we founded in 1998 the Civic Initiative Czechia (Občanská iniciativa Česko/Czechia) in Brno, a group consisting of linguists and other professionals who work mainly at universities and research institutes in Brno and in Prague. A detailed description of our activities lies outside the scope of the present article. The following are only a few examples of our target groups.

1) Organizers of international events, such as conferences, congresses, exhibitions: The desk of any Czech delegation is always provided with the label „Czech Republic“ although the name sticks out among others (Austria, Denmark, Spain, Finland, .....) as „something exclusively official, artificial, lacking for naturalness, intimacy and general solidarity. (....) A combination of a political name of one state and the geographic names of other states is felt as communicatively inappropriate, stylistically clumsy, affected, and undiplomatic.

2) Sports organizations, TV and radio reporters: TEAM CZECHIA (the same as Team Canada, Team Sweden ezc.) should be seen on the players´ jerseys instead of such odd „inventions“ as CZECH TEAM or more complicated CZECH NATIONAL ICE-HOCKEY TEAM.

3) Trading and/or producing companies: Managements should review the labels and covers of their products. „MADE IN CZECHIA“ in the most appropriate inscription. „Czech Republic“ is not wrong but it is clumsy. There also accrue bad errors in denominations of companies, e.g., Alcatel Czech, Maspex Czech instead of Czechia.

4) Organizations whose names include the word BOHEMIA. This geographic name is often misunderstood. It does not mean the entire territory of the Czech Republic but only one of its historical parts (Čechy). Czechia consists of Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia. Thus, if an American company exports its product to this country under the label „Nature’s Bounty Bohemia“, it is an error, unless the company wants to limit its activities to one region only.

If some readers have decided to joins us, they will soon find out a lot of other objectives and they certainly will not suffer from a lack of work. We all feel it is high time we helped CZECHIA as fast as possible, before the opinion „Czech Republic is good in any context“ becomes deeply rooted. For this reason, I would recommend to tackle the task in a very pragmatic way, namely, to separate CZECHIA from ČESKO. We cannot waste time waiting for all inhabitants to get accustomed to Česko: some people will not be able to understand our rational reasons till the end of their lives. But this, in my opinion, should not prevent us from using the English equivalent in English texts. The word Czechia could be acceptable even to hard-core opponents of Česko.

It is both interesting encouraging witnessing a similar situation occurring – vice versa – in German-Czech relation. As we know, native speakers have commonly used the name Tschechien. I listened recently to a Czech interpreter (who is not very enthusiastic about Česko) translating simultaneously a German politician’s speech. I wondered what she would do when the politician said „Tschechien“. If she translated „Česká republika“, it would cause a shift of meaning because the two words are not pure synonyms… I will keep her decision a secret but I do hope that it has helped her to overcome her prejudice.

I can imagine the readers asking: „Why on earth do the people complicate their lives? Why so much ado about a name?“ Well, I think the answer is simple: * First, our country needs it. * Second, we follow the example of Jan Werich, the wise Czech comedian, who said approximately this: „The fight for common sense is obligatory.“ 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eva Horová in Proceedings of the 7th Public Hearing of the Senate, May 11, 2004