Back in April, on the advice of some bureaucrats, the parliament of the Czech Republic officially shortened the country’s name to “Czechia.” The Central European nation’s full, formal name would still be the Czech Republic, but the newly tampered-with name would be a punchier, breezier expression of national identity. That was the plan.
The plan has failed in epic, hilarious fashion because nobody — least of all the 10 million or so people in the Czech Republic — is actually calling the country “Czechia.”
“Nobody calls it Czechia. I don’t know why,” 40-year-old Prague resident Lukas Hasik told The Guardian this week. “People are used to the name Czech Republic by now and I would say we should stick with it.”
“It’s the Czech Republic,” agreed Charles University medical student Zdenek Cech. “I would like a shorter name but Czechia doesn’t sound nice. It sounds too small, or like some dialect.”
“Czechia sounds too eastern,” obstetrician Jana Stejskalova told the British newspaper. “It’s not a good sound for a western country.”
Czech language teacher Eliska Cmejrkova summed up the reasons for the failure of the “Czechia” very nicely.
“Czechia makes some sense historically but the common people will call it the Czech Republic,” Cmejrkova said. “You cannot change a language by law. It’s like a living organism. Only linguists and nationalists care about this. When I talk about Czechia with my friends, we make fun of it and never use it.”
Adherents of the name change, including current Czech Republic president Milos Zeman, have argued that “Czech Republic” — two words and four whole syllables — is just too much of a mouthful. It sounds provincial. It turns off investors from the West.
Also, the word Czech is an adjective only and, apparently, no human has the ability to turn into a noun.
The new-fangled, short-form appellation is similar to many such names which already exist around the world. France’s official name is the French Republic, for example. Denmark is officially the Kingdom of Denmark. There’s also the Hellenic Republic, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and the Czech Republic’s neighbor, the Slovak Republic — Slovakia.
Zeman, the president, has tried to use the word “Czechia” in interviews and statements in recent months.
The United States Department of State, the British government and the United Nations did their parts by officially adopting “Czechia” and trying really hard to use it. (RELATED: The Czech Republic Wants To Be Called ‘Czechia’ Now, You Guys)
There’s even a website, Go Czechia, dedicated to the name.
“The Dominican Republic and the Central African Republic are the only two countries in the entire world that do not have readily available short names,” the site explains. “Furthermore, the history of Czech statehood is much longer than its republican political system. Czechia can be applied throughout the entire history of Czech statehood and irrespective of its actually existing political system.”
The Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic became independent countries in 1993, four years after the Velvet Revolution eliminated Communist rule in what had been Czechoslovakia since 1919.
Prior to the name Czechoslovakia, the locale was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It has been known variously as the Duchy of Bohemia and the Kingdom of Bohemia.
The word Bohemia was considered as a short-form name — and it seems like a natural fit — but the Czech government rejected it because maybe some people would feel historically left out.
Other names considered for the Czech Republic’s casual name included “Czechlands.”
For the record, the way to pronounce Czechia is “CHEH-khiyah” or “CHEK-iyah,” as NPR has noted. So, if you insist of saying “Czechia,” don’t sound like a yokel and say a “ch” sound in the middle, even though the letters “ch” are clearly right there together in the middle of the word “Czechia.”
Critics of the failed sobriquet have noted that Czechia looks and sounds too much like the word Chechnya — the Chechen Republic, an unhappy and generally miserable precinct of Russia. (RELATED: The Last Days Of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev)
The Czech Republic — or Czechia, or whatever — has several excellent exports including Pilsner Urquell beer and Victoria’s Secret supermodel Karolina Kurkova. (RELATED: Check Out These Sexy Snowbunnies)