Thursday, May 20, 2004

I'm back.

Just noticed there's a nice little discussion going on over at Arellanes.com about what to call this godforsaken country we live in.

I don't have a solution, but here's my 20 hellers.

First, we have to recognize the actual problem, if there is one. There is one. Traveling in Egypt and Jordan over the last nine days, I went back and forth between saying I was from America and saying I was from the Czech Republic. (This was for a number of reasons, the big ones being that people think you have more money if you're from America, they want to talk your ear off about their cousin working in Jersey City, and being from the Czech Republic is just hella more interesting than being from the U.S.A. Fear of anti-Americanism is actually sort of low on the list, but I can't deny it's there. My fear, I mean.)

Where we traveled, everybody upon everybody recognized us foreigners (we are white) and many of them called out, unprompted, "Hello! Welcome to Egypt! How are you? Where are you from?" and so on. (Coming from here, talk about culture shock.)

As I see it, the main problem is that "Czech" is too short for a country's name, and more to the point, it will never, ever register for foreigners. I recall one person who recogizned "Czech Republic," out of the dozens on whom I used the words.

Czech? Check? You want the cheque? A chick? A shack? Shaq? You wanna shag? I'm sorry, it just doesn't work.

"Czechslovakia?" OK, now you're talking. Everybody knows Czechoslovakia, even if they have no clue where it is (sorry, was). Five years ago I thought it was just a matter of time before people got used to the non-existence of Czechoslovakia. But now I've given up. In 20 years, I think the situation will be the same, or only marginally better at best. Heck, do you realize they still say "Czechoslovakia" in most of Western Europe?

The problem's the name itself. You want to do something about this, get to the root of it. People, you need a long name that sounds funky, just like you had in the olden days. And "Czech" just isn't working.

To test this hypothesis, I'd be interested to know how Slovaks who travel abroad are received. In other words, do people recognize "Slovakia" as an obvious component of the former "Czechoslovakia"? I bet they do, or at least far more so than "Czech."

A modest proposal: "Czechoslavia." And why not?


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