The Czech Republic has just announced that it plans to change its name to Czechia. Presciently, CTTR linguist Dr Tom Dickins wrote a long article a few years ago entitled ‘The Czech-speaking lands, their peoples and contact communities: titles, names and ethnonyms’, published in The Slavonic and East European Review, 89 (3), 2011, pp. 401–54, which is generating new interest in the light of current events. In the article, Dr Dickens writes:
“The degree of acceptance of short forms for the Czech Republic in foreign languages varies significantly. Some languages have largely embraced a new descriptor; for instance, French Tchéquie, German Tschechien and Spanish Chequía. Others have proven more resistant. Neither Czechia in English nor Cechia in Italian (which is perhaps too close to cieca [blind woman]) have become so well established, despite their endorsement in 1993 by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, and their appearance in official geographical lists.105
There can be few precedents of a small state attempting to impose usage of this type on the speakers of major foreign languages, so it is difficult to predict the likely degree of acceptance of the promoted forms. For what it is worth, a poll conducted in 2006 found that ordinary Czechs overwhelmingly prefer the adjectival form Czech (used as an odd-sounding substantive in English) to Czechia, Czechlands and Czecho.106 Amongst native English speakers, Czecho, the misnomer Czechoslovakia (cf. continued references to ‘Yugoslavia’), the Czech-speaking lands and the Czechland(s), all appear to be more common than Czechia, for which there is only one citation in the Bank of English corpus.107 It is striking that even English-speaking Bohemicists are reluctant to adopt Czechia, and in some cases oppose it on the not altogether rational grounds of euphony.
To some extent, the Czechs recognize the anomaly of the situation, as exemplified in the variety of terms which they use to promote themselves abroad, including Czech/CZ made (which invites the unfortunate pun šmejd [junk]), Made in Czechia, Made in (the) Czech Republic, Made in Czech R./Rep./CR/CZ, Czech (Team) or Czech Republic (on sports kit), Czech beer or Brewed in Bohemia/the Czech Republic/in Plzeň, Czech (on the Prazdroj bottle) and Moravian wine.”
105 Pavel Boháč, Geografické názvoslovné seznamy OSN – ČR: Jména států a jejich územních částí, Prague, 1993.
106 ‘Které anglické označení České republiky se vám líbí nejvíce?’, iDNES.CZ, 2 March 2006 <http://zpravy.idnes.cz/ankety.asp?id=BKTERANG> [accessed 22 November 2010]. The preferences expressed were Czech – 13,340, Czechia – 4,412, Czechlands – 1,113, and Czecho – 366.
107 The Bank of English comprised 450 million words in 2007. See <http://www.titania.bham.ac.uk/>.