What’s In A Name?



Macedonia and Former Greek Macedonia


Macedonia became an independent country in 1991 when Yugoslavia, of which it had until then been a part, disintegrated. Ever since that time Greece has been loudly proclaiming its objections to the use of the name Macedonia because it is the same as one of Greece’s own historic regions (of which what is now called Macedonia was a part).

There are strong feelings on both sides and the dispute has yet to be resolved. In antiquity Macedonia was a part of the Roman and Byzantine Empires. Alexander the Great launched his conquests from ancient Macedonia.


Georgia State Flag

Georgia is a state of the United States, the last of the original 13 colonies, named after King George II of Britain.

Georgia is also a country situated at the intersection of Europe and Asia and a former Soviet Republic. Its red and white flag features St. George’s cross.

Georgia Republic Flag

The capital is Tbilisi which used to be called Tiflis. Russia and all the other Slavic countries call it Gruzia. Georgians hate that name because it is associated with the times when Georgia was part of the Russian Empire. Georgia would like to stop other countries from calling it Gruzia.

People sometimes confuse Slovenia and Slovakia, both middle European countries. Slovakia used to be married to Czechoslovakia, but they divorced amicably in the 1990s. Slovenia was another one of Yugoslavia’s component parts, which was cast adrift after Yugoslavia ceased to exist.

It is not unusual for countries or cities to call themselves by one name while other countries call them by a different one, often one that they have discarded. Bombay became Mumbai, Peking is now Beijing.

The French, however, continue to use the old names. This is not surprising. They also call Torino Turin. We refer to Firenze as Florence and what we call Venice is in fact Venetia. Old habits are hard to forego and sometimes we never bothered to learn the correct names anyway.
Name origins have mostly faded into oblivion. Here are some curious ones:

Sudan means The Land of the Blacks (for obvious reasons). Ethiopia (erstwhile Abyssinia): The Land of Burned Faces. The Greeks called Spain: The Land of Many Rabbits and Burkina Faso means: The Land of Honest Men. Nigeria is not the Land of the black People as one might think but: The Land of the Most Beautiful People in the World.

If you Google country names or some equivalent expression you can find many more fascinating ones.

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  1. Parallel to the Macedonia situation is the name of Luxembourg. Luxembourg is the name of a country, and it is also the name of a province in Belgium that borders the country by the same name. As far as I know, no one is bothered about this as they are about Macedonia.

  2. The term “Indian” also lends itself to confusion due to a geographical misunderstanding. When Christopher Columbus landed in the “new world,” he thought he had landed in India. Thus he named the inhabitants of this land “Indians.” To this day, if you use the term “Indian,” you have to specify which Indians you mean. The term “native Americans” is thus more useful. But people from India are still Indians, thus sometimes need clarification, as in “He’s an Indian from India.”

  3. What is in a name? Perhaps a lot: emotional, political, and although far-fetched, economical.
    The Korean Peninsula is located between China and Japan. The body of water between China and Korea is referred to as West Sea( Korean point of view), the East China Sea, or Yellow Sea, Yellow Sea it is because of yellow particles from Gobi Desert and lately from the pollution.
    The name of the water between Japan and Korea has been in disputes for a long time. Many commissions and meetings between the two nations have failed to reach a resolution. Google map calls it The Sea of Japan. I hope they come up with a name like yellow Sea that is neutral. How about the sea of “delicious, fresh fishes”!

  4. also reminds me a lot of the conflict over the use of the word “Palestine” and if it’s a place or a country or who has the right to use it. So much emotion and conflict gets fraught up in the name of the thing. I didn’t realize the passion the Greeks still had for Macedonia.

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