Some follow-ups from last weekend’s Radio Derb
and my December Diary
(1) On Radio Derb I grumbled about “The Czech Republic.”
Why are we still saying “The Czech Republic”? That’s what we’re supposed to say, “The Czech Republic.” It’s what the country calls itself inEnglish-language promotional materials. It’s what the State Department calls it. It’s what the CIA calls it. It’s what the U.N. calls it.Why? Is there some other Czech nation it’s differentiating itself from, like back when Taiwan was officially “the Republic of China” and mainland China was “thePeople’s Republic of China”? Is there a Czech People’s Republic? A Czech Federation? A Czech Kingdom? A Czech Despotism? A Czech Empire?When Czechoslovakia broke up 23 years ago last week — when the Czechs decided they’d prefer to be governed by Czechs and the Slovaks by Slovaks — the Slovaks set up Slovakia and the Czechs set up … the Czech Republic. Why not just “Czechia”?
A listener elucidates:
In 1993, when the Slovaks again had the chance to escape the Czechs, the Czechs had to pick a name for their newly re-rumped state. “Czechia” was thought too disphonious, so it went down to the wire and they wound up with the unimaginative “Czech Republic.”For a while there was a movement by a few wags to call it “the Central European Republic” (parallel to the Central African Republic) but this was motivated by the fact that in Czech it would be “mid-European Republic” or “St?edoevropská republika”, whose acronym SER in Czech is the imperative of srát, “to s**t.”Naturally, in casual speak Czechs today say “?esko”, which is directly equivalent to “Czechia”, but for diplomatic purposes we’re stuck with “the Czech Republic.”
All right, but I wish at least they’d drop the “the.” When I did geography in school the world was thick with “thes”: The Lebanon, The Argentine, The Ukraine, The Netherlands, The Sudan, The U.S.A. We’ve since dropped most of the thes. Can’t we drop this one?
(2) To my diary entry on fruitcake I got a large and wellnigh unanimous recommendation from readers for the Collin Street Bakery
in Corsicana, Texas. I shall sample their fruitcake and report back … next Christmas.
(3) An especially punctilious reader of my diary objects that the French language contains no such word as bidetiser
. At any rate (he says) it’s not in either of his French dictionaries.
It’s not in either of mine, either (Collins, 1952; Cassell’s, 1968). A google search turned up only a facetious, hyphenated version.
All right, I made it up.
bidetiser, v.t. — to bidet-ize; to convert a person or nation to appreciation of the bidet
I am actually flushed with pride here. Coining new words isn’t easy. To coin a new word in a language you barely speak
But as Orwell—George, not Sonia—remarked in a letter to Alex Comfort (7/11/43): “There is no respect for virtuosity nowadays.”