Colombians Are Tired of People Misspelling Their Country’s Name

GEOGRAPHY

It’s Colombia, not Columbia. Organizations including Virgin Mobile, P.F. Chang’s and Lufthansa—and performers including Paris Hilton, Ozzy Osbourne, and Justin Bieber—have all made the mistake recently, which really annoys Colombians. (Wall Street Journal)

Don’t be like Bieber. Use our mapping resources to put the right names with the right places.

Map by National Geographic Maps, photographs by NASA (Columbia space shuttle), Andrew Chen (Columbia University), Shaun Flynn (Washington, District of Columbia), Sam Pan (British Columbia), Stuart Thornton (Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River), Herbert Hoover Library, National Archives (personification of Columbia, personification of liberty)

Map by National Geographic Maps, photographs by NASA (Columbia space shuttle), Andrew Chen (Columbia University), Shaun Flynn (Washington, District of Columbia), Sam Pan (British Columbia), Stuart Thornton (Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River), Herbert Hoover Library, National Archives (Columbia, personification of liberty)

Discussion Questions

  • Why does it matter that people misspell Colombia? Read the terrific Wall Street Journal article, as well as our excellent blog post “Why it Matters that Chechnya is not the Czech Republic” for some help.
    • It’s (usually) not just a typo. Consistently misspelling “Colombia” can sometimes represent a misunderstanding and dismissal of national identity—if people, companies, and other organizations can’t even get the name of the country right, why would they respect anything about that country? From the article: “Spell our country correctly, [Colombian critics] say, and at the same time recognize that Colombia is no longer just a land of cocaine, coffee and leftist guerrillas, but one of natural beauty, a thriving economy, innovative cities and globally famous singers like Shakira and artists like Fernando Botero, the painter and sculptor.”

Colombia-Columbia and Chechnya-Czech Republic are just the tip of the geographic homophone mix-ups. See if you can spot these others.

The continent of South America is not the same as the country of South Africa.

The continent of South America is not the same as the country of South Africa.

Austria is not Australia.

Austria is not Australia.

Georgia (the state) is not Georgia (the country).

Georgia (the state) is not Georgia (the country).

Switzerland is not Sweden.

Switzerland is not Sweden.

Slovakia is not Slovenia.

Slovakia is not Slovenia.

Guyana is not French Guiana.

Guyana is not French Guiana.

Guinea is not Equatorial Guinea, is not Guinea-Bisseau, is not Papua New Guinea.

Guinea is not Equatorial Guinea, is not Guinea-Bisseau, and is not Papua New Guinea.

Grenada (a country) is not Granada, a city in Spain.

Grenada (a country) is not Granada, a city in Spain.

The Baltic region is not the Balkan region.

The Baltic region is not the Balkan region.

Prussia, the leading Germanic state in the 19th century, is definitely not Russia.

Prussia, the leading Germanic state in the 19th century, is definitely not Russia.

The city of Kozhikode, formerly known as Calicut, is not the same as the city of Kolkota, formerly known as Calcutta.

The city of Kozhikode, formerly known as Calicut, is not the same as the city of Kolkota, formerly known as Calcutta.

Macedonia is not a macadamia.

Macedonia is not a macadamia.

2 responses to “Colombians Are Tired of People Misspelling Their Country’s Name

  1. Wonderful web site. Plenty of helpful information here.
    I’m sending it to a few friends ans also sharing in delicious.
    And certainly, thanks to your effort!

  2. Pingback: Record Number of Internally Displaced Persons | Nat Geo Education Blog·

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