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unblock Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 06:09 AM
Original message
how exactly do "they" decide on country names in other languages?
i'm curious as to how country names evolve in the various languages around the world. america refers to itself as, variously, "the united states of america", "the united states", "u.s.", "u.s.a.", or "america". quite a choice, but in languages, it's either exactly the same or a direct translation of one of these.
"les etats-unis" in french or "los estados unidos" in spanish are direct translations of "the united states".

but then, why is "germany" so different in other languages? the germans themselves call their country "deutchland", whereas the french call it "allemagne".

we have two names, "holland" and "the netherlands" for the land of the dutch. i think they only call it "nederlands". so where did "holland" come from?

and when did "switzerland" stop being "helvetia"? in french it's "la suisse". where did the "land" part go?


does anyone have a good link for these kinds of questions?


(note to, um, mods: i think this is general discussion rather than lounge because, i suspect, there is much politics involved in such naming conventions)
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Cessna Invesco Palin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 06:15 AM
Response to Original message
1. God dammit I LOVE the internet!
List of country name etymologies:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_country_name_etymo...

# Germany: from Latin "Germania", of the 3rd century BC, of unknown origin. The OED2 records theories about the Celtic roots gair, neighbour (from Zeuss), and gairm, battle-cry (from Wachter and Grimm). Partridge suggested *gar, to shout, and describes the gar (spear) theory as "obsolete". Italian, Romanian, and other languages use the latinate Germania as the name for Germany.

* Allemagne (French), Alemania (Spanish), Alemanha (Portuguese): either "land of all the men" i.e. "our many tribes" or from the Alamanni, a southern Germanic tribe.
* Deutschland (German), Duitsland (Dutch): from the Old High German word "diutisc", meaning 'of the people' (itself from ancient Germanic "thiuda" or "theoda" 'people') and "land" 'land': "land of the people". In English, "Dutch", the equivalent word to German "Deutsch", came to refer to the people of the (Netherlands).
* Nemtsy (Russian), Niemcy (Polish), Německo (Czech), Nemecko (Slovak), Nmetorszg (Hungarian): from a Slavic root meaning "mute", "dumb", i.e., metaphorically, "those who do not speak our language".
* Purutia (Tahitian): Prussia.
* Saksa (Estonian, Finnish): from the name of the Germanic tribe of Saxons (in turn, possibly from Old High German sahs, 'knife').
* Tyskland (Danish, Norwegian, Swedish), Tedesco (Italian adjective form): also ancient Germanic "thiuda" or "theoda" 'people' (see above under "Deutschland").
* Vācija (Latvian), Vokietija (Livonian):

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unblock Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 06:32 AM
Response to Reply #1
4. the "pennsylvania dutch" is particularly interesting
we them that because we mistook "deutch" for "dutch". they're originally from germany, not holland. stupid early americans, right?

but we call the dutch "dutch" in the first place because of germany's (deutchland's) involvment in that country. so using the term "dutch" to refer to germans is closer to the original meaning of the term anyway.

kinda odd, that.
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Kolesar Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 07:00 AM
Response to Reply #4
15. "Dutch" Schultz was an early 20th century NYC gangster from Germany
I think the languages of Germany and Flanders have similar origins, as does Denmark. Don't quote me on that, though, it is early and I did not sleep well. :boring:
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Crayson Donating Member (463 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 07:46 AM
Response to Reply #15
21. Roots of European Languages

They have all very similar roots.

German, Dutch, Danish, Swedeish, Norse? Norwegian? Norgeish?
Islandish they have all the same "nordish/viking" roots.

For example the the Islandish capital of Reykiavik..

Reyk + vik
= Rauch + bucht (German)
= Smoke + bay
Because it was a bay with smoke (fog from hot springs) when they first discovered the island)


if you have an eye (ear) for it you can find tons of single words in different languges which are in fact the same.

For example in english "look" and in Swiss dialect "lug" is the same word... to "see".... or "show" and "schau"

The wohle of northwestern Europe is actually just dialects of the same basic language pattern. A German can understand a Dutch if he concentrates. Swiss people can follow a Dutch or Sweedish conversation...
And it's the same with the latinic languages and the slavic languages.


in fact Europe knows only 4 REALLY DIFFERENT languages which date back to 4 different people when they populated Europe in wave after wave coming from the east mostly.

There is the nordic/germanic root.
The Slavic (from Russia to Jugoslavia most eastern Europe countries)
The latin root (all countires where Romans were, southern Europe)
And oddly there is one language that doesn't fit in... and thats the Hungarians and the Fins who are related and have a totally different language than the rest, although those two countries are quite far apart from each other.
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EFerrari Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 08:41 AM
Response to Reply #21
25. Welcome to DU, Crayson
That's really interesting. Got a link? I'd like to read more. :hi:
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Dorian Gray Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 10:49 AM
Response to Reply #21
29. What about the Celtic languages?
Are they derivitive of Slavic? Nordic?

And Welsh, I think, is also a pocket of unknown origin.
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eridani Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-20-05 06:47 AM
Response to Reply #21
39. Don't forget the Basques
Not only is their language not related to any of the European groups, but it isn't related to ANY known language. This is true for very few other languages.

http://pandora.cii.wwu.edu/vajda/ling201/test3materials...

18. Language isolates--several isolated languages that cannot easily be fit into any of the above large families. Isolates include Basque of northern Spain, Ket of central Siberia, Georgian of the Caucasus mountains, and Burushaski of northern India. Isolates are thought to be remnants of ancient families once spoken more widely. Some linguists lump together Basque, Ket and Burushaski and a number of extinct languages into an ancient superfamily called Paleo-Eurasiatic. For linguists who believe that all languages stem from a common source (proto-World, or the Mother Tongue), the term "language isolate" simply means a language without any close relatives.

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Dorian Gray Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 10:47 AM
Response to Reply #15
28. Yes, they do.
They are all Germanic languages, as is English. All come from the same root.
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ComerPerro Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 10:54 AM
Response to Reply #1
32. That is fascinating
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REP Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 06:20 AM
Response to Original message
2. Wales = "The Foreigners" Cymru = "The People"
Just one example. When the non-Celtic invaders took over, they called the original inhabitants "waelisc" meaning "foreign" (also the root of "walnut"). The Welsh call Wales Cymru (pronounced "kum-ree").
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Cessna Invesco Palin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 06:31 AM
Response to Reply #2
3. I remain convinced...
...that the Welsh language is nothing more than a practical joke they played on the invading English.

"You spell that how?"

Llylngdlfllyndning

"And how do you pronounce it?"

Steve.
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REP Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 06:37 AM
Response to Reply #3
5. "Ghoti"
How George Bernard Shaw spelled "fish" using the gh from enough; the o from women and the ti from nation.
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unblock Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 09:52 AM
Response to Reply #5
27. check out mark twain's suggestions:
http://www.msu.edu/~jerrymc/humor/spelling.html

A Plan for the Improvement of English Spelling
by Mark Twain

For example, in Year 1 that useless letter "c" would be dropped to be replased either by "k" or "s", and likewise "x" would no longer be part of the alphabet. The only kase in which "c" would be retained would be the "ch" formation, which will be dealt with later. Year 2 might reform "w" spelling, so that "which" and "one" would take the same konsonant, wile Year 3 might well abolish "y" replasing it with "i" and Iear 4 might fiks the "g/j" anomali wonse and for all.

Jenerally, then, the improvement would kontinue iear bai iear with Iear 5 doing awai with useless double konsonants, and Iears 6-12 or so modifaiing vowlz and the rimeining voist and unvoist konsonants. Bai Iear 15 or sou, it wud fainali bi posibl tu meik ius ov thi ridandant letez "c", "y" and "x" -- bai now jast a memori in the maindz ov ould doderez -- tu riplais "ch", "sh", and "th" rispektivli.

Fainali, xen, aafte sam 20 iers ov orxogrefkl riform, wi wud hev a lojikl, kohirnt speling in ius xrewawt xe Ingliy-spiking werld.

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muriel_volestrangler Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 06:53 AM
Response to Reply #3
11. Scots Gaelic is worse
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WildClarySage Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 07:13 AM
Response to Reply #3
19. The Welsh are still mad because when they divvyed up the letters
the Irish got all the vowels.
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REP Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 07:23 AM
Response to Reply #19
20. What's To Be Mad About? Cymric is Still Spoken!
Erse, on the other hand...
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LostinVA Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 08:21 AM
Response to Reply #3
22. Hehehehehhehehe....
I've studied some Gaelic, and that's how that strikes me, too....
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EFerrari Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 08:36 AM
Response to Reply #3
24. Shhhhhhhh!
Never know when we'll need to pull that out again. :)
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Crayson Donating Member (463 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 06:43 AM
Response to Original message
6. Helvetia

Holland:
Holland is actually a small part of the Netherlands. Most people think it's the same but Holland is actually just the center part of the whole.

Switzerland:
I'm an expert here.. (I'm Swiss)
Well.. there was of course the Romans who had an xxx-ia name and a girl with a shield for every country. Germania, Britannia, etc... so there was a Helvetia too.
Then there are the other names:
Suisse (French)
Svizzera (italian)
Schweiz (High German)
and Schwiiz (dialect; is only spoken.. not written, but it would look like this)...

Switzerland is made up from about 25 states (cantons) and one of the three founding states was "Schwyz" (only a tiny part of the whole Switzerland now, but in dialect this canton has the same name as the whole country.


Where did the "land part" go?
We never had much land anyway..
You need 3 hours to cross the whole country lenghtwise and our oh so glories airforce needs about 5 minutes at full throttle to cross the country before they have to step on the brakes in order not to violate Austrian, German, Frech or Italian airspace... lol
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Dorian Gray Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 10:53 AM
Response to Reply #6
31. The Netherlands
I thought that Holland was most of the country, minus a few counties up on the northern border.

It's a cool country! :) And it's possible to read menus and other objects in Dutch and understand what a some of it means.
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Xipe Totec Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 06:45 AM
Response to Original message
7. You're right about the political angle
Edited on Wed Oct-19-05 06:48 AM by Xipe Totec
The more countries invaded, the more names in more languages for the same country.

Take the word for a German, for example. It is Deutch in Germany, Allemagne in France, Aleman in Spain, Tedesco in Italy, and Nemetz in Russia.

I don't know all the words for an American, but I suspect they are all loose translations of "go away" (gringo), as in Mexico, or "Capitalist Imperialist" (however that translates into Chinese).


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REP Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 06:52 AM
Response to Reply #7
10. America in Chinese is Mei Gua
Mei Gua means The Beautiful Country; Mei Guaren means Beautiful Country people, but what they call Americans is Dao Beza ("big nose").

*note: my Pinyin sucks
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Xipe Totec Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 09:24 AM
Response to Reply #10
26. Thanks!
Dao Beza, I love it!

The Tarahumaran word for white man is Chavochi, which means spiderweb face. It is a reference to the white beards of the Spanish explorers.

William B. Traven, the author od Treasures of the Sierra Madre, was dubbed Chavochi Luiame, or pregnant white man, because of his beer belly.





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Dorian Gray Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 10:58 AM
Response to Reply #10
34. You beat me to it, REP
And my pinyin sucks, too. I just spell it as it sounds to me. Dao Beza, huh? That must be why all my students were suprised by my small nose! ;)

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Xipe Totec Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 01:01 PM
Response to Reply #34
37. Thank you too, for the second source
Always good to have confirming references. :thumbsup:
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Dorian Gray Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 10:57 AM
Response to Reply #7
33. In Chinese
America is pronounced (closely) like Mei Gwa. (It means beautiful country!)

They tend to call all white westerners Gwai lo (Foreign devil or White Ghost, depending on who you ask). I don't know any negative terms that are geared toward Americans, solely, but that doesn't mean that they aren't there.

I think it's interesting that Gwai lo seems to be considered more of an insult by the Northern Chinese. They'd be embarassed about the term if asked about it. In Hong Kong, the word would freely fly without any embarassment or sense of insult. It was just a word that was commonly used to describe white people.
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REP Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-20-05 04:16 AM
Response to Reply #33
38. "Hai Qui" For Black People
It's not a complimentary term, and sometimes I hear "Hai qui li" announced in some places (loosely translated, "black people are here.").
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muriel_volestrangler Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 06:46 AM
Response to Original message
8. Some of them have so much history
with their neighbours - but I didn't realise quite how many names Germany till I saw post #1. The further back the history, the less standardised the names, in general - because it goes back beyond the modern concepts of nation-states.

"Holland" is sort of the historical core of the Netherlands - I think the 2 most populous provinces are 'North Holland' and 'South Holland' (Dutch people please correct). "Holland", at a total guess, may mean 'low land' as well - there is a low lying district in eastern England also called Holland.

The 'land' is Switzerland is more an addition in English than something that's been lost - 'Schweitz' in German, 'Svizzera' in Italian.

These days it's a formal name that the countries are known as at the United Nations - and I suppose the countries get to choose the names thery're known as in the official languages too (so Deutschland doesn't object to 'Germany', but Burma insisted everyone start calling it 'Myanmar'. I would, if the government who made the change weren't a military junta).
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Kolesar Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 06:58 AM
Response to Reply #8
13. Netherlands is Flanders and Walloons
where they speak Flemish and French, respectively. I learned that chatting with a Nederlander last year. Correct me if I missed that.
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muriel_volestrangler Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 07:04 AM
Response to Reply #13
17. That's Belgium
Although the name dates back to the Romans and the Celtic tribe in the area at that time, Belgium was only created as a country in 1830. But before that, it was known as Southern Netherlands, among other things.
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Kolesar Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 07:09 AM
Response to Reply #17
18. Should not match wits when I first wake up...eom
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readmoreoften Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 06:47 AM
Response to Original message
9. The one I don't get is Hungary.
They call themselves the Magyar Republic. Not even close.
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Cessna Invesco Palin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 06:56 AM
Response to Reply #9
12. From the wikipedia link I posted above...
Hungary: Turkic on-ogur, "(people of the) ten spears". In other words, "alliance of the ten tribes". Named after the seven Magyar tribes and three Khazar tribes who settled in the region. The ethnonym Hunni (referring to the Huns) has influenced the Latin (and English) spelling.
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muriel_volestrangler Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 06:59 AM
Response to Reply #9
14. Wikipedia country name etymologies:
# Hungary: Turkic on-ogur, "(people of the) ten spears". In other words, "alliance of the ten tribes". Named after the seven Magyar tribes and three Khazar tribes who settled in the region. The ethnonym Hunni (referring to the Huns) has influenced the Latin (and English) spelling.

* Uhorshchyna (Угорщина, Ukrainian), Vuhorčyna (Вугоршчына, Belarusian), Węgry (Polish), Wędżiersk (Kashubian), and Ugre in Old Russian: from the Turkic "on-ogur", see above. The same root emerges in the ethnonym Yugra, a people living in Siberia and distantly related to Hungarians. As a matter of trivia, the first letter (transliterated as the two letters YU) in the name of the Russian oil-company Yukos represents an abbreviation of Yugra.
* Magyarorszg (native name - land of the Magyars): According to a Hungarian legend, the Hungarians descended from Magor, the son of Nimrod of the Hebrew Bible. (Other sources call the father "Menrt" (Persian); and many ancient kings had the name "Nimrod", so any of them could serve.)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_country_name_etymo...

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Lindsay Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 07:02 AM
Response to Reply #9
16. Well, I can tell you that Magyars are extremely proud
of being Magyars. (I used to work for one - born in America but proud and active member of the Magyar Club in Cleveland, OH.)
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spindoctor Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 08:31 AM
Response to Original message
23. Netherlands and Holland
The Netherlands became independant from the Spanish empire sometime in the 17th century and innitially consisted of 7 provincies.
Two of these provincies were North- and South-Holland, which held most of the important harbors. So people from the young republic were likely to identify themselves as coming from Holland, rather than from the Netherlands.
Today people from the Dutch south still commonly object to being called 'Hollanders'.
The term Dutch comes from the German 'Deutsch', as the Netherlands were really part of the Western German swamps. The first Dutch king was brought in from Germany and their national hampton still proudly chants a reference to his German blood (although its probably a good thing that most Dutch people don't realize this. lol).
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all.of.me Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 10:51 AM
Response to Original message
30. i have wondered this, too
i have a friend in italy, and all his names of cities and countries is different than what i call them. switzerland is svizzera, paris is parigi, sardinia is la sardegna. it's very interesting to me. part of it makes sense, part of it does not.
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trof Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 11:01 AM
Response to Original message
35. And why do we "Americanize" foreign place names?
Tell someone you just returned from Paree instead of Parris and they think you're "putting on airs".
Same for Milan (me-LAHN-oh), Roma and many others.
Where do we get off with that?
;-)
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Cessna Invesco Palin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 11:54 AM
Response to Reply #35
36. Have you ever had to pronounce Salzburg correctly?
God help you. We do it because it's easier.
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