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Praha, Texas. Miroslav Konvalina, Aida, Wikimedia Commons.

What’s in a name?

It’s official. The new name for our beloved Czech Republic is….”Czechia.” This linguistic deformity has succeeded in one thing – in unifying Czechs like nothing else before. Everyone hates it. Except for president Miloš Zeman, who supports it.

In the last century, we Czechs have seen our nation change its name nine times: Austria-Hungary, Republic of Czechoslovakia, Czechoslovak Republic, Czech-Slovak Republic, Protektorate Böhmen und Mähren, Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, Czechoslovak Federative Republic, Czech and Slovak Federative Republic, Czech Republic.

Most just shrug their shoulders in light of the news, but others still carry on a brave search for the ideal name, proposing, for example, “Bohemia.” But that leaves out Moravia, not to mention that in French, the Roma gypsies – whom the Czechs are sensitive to - are referred to as bohème.

Some say that it’s not the name, but the character that counts. I don’t think so, not when it comes to a nation. Changing the name of your country roughly twice every generation is not a great nation-builder, not to mention an identity securer.

Speaking as a physician, from a biological perspective, being exposed to a given phenomenon over five generations can lead to genetic encoding. Since five generations of Czechs have been subject to the mess of national name changes, not to mention the national mess in general, it’s fair to say that our perception of “mess” regarding our name (as well as the political goings-on associated with it) is now genetically encoded.

Which leave s me with no alternative but to adhere to these now-established genetic traits, and suggest the name “ZEMANIA.” This has wonderful dual relevance: the name of our illustrious president as well as the mental mess that he has (us in). Furthermore, as per the aforementioned stalwart and dependable tradition, it should take no more than eight years from now for the name to get replaced by something more up-to-date.

Published in Lidové noviny.

 

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