Country names, their origins, and a minor UN question

The Germans don’t call their country Germany. They call it Deutchland.

The Japanese don’t call their country Japan. They called it Nippon, and now Nihon.

So where do these names we have for other countries come from, and why do we use them? Don’t the citizens of a country basically determine what their country is called? If the Germans call it Deutchland, why do we persist in calling it Germany? Germany isn’t a translation of Deutchland, because Deutche doesn’t really mean “Germans”, it means what it says. They call themselves the Deutche, so that’s what they are, right?

And at the UN, do the placards with the countries names use their proper name, what the people of that country call it, or do they use Anglicized names and these other basically made-up names we have?

In NY the placards are in English. I imagine they might be in French in Geneva, since that’s another one of the working languages of the UN.

The Master on the question of Germany/Deutschland.

>Don’t the citizens of a country basically determine what their country is called?

In their own language, yes. In others’ languages, of course not. They can ask to be known as what ever they like, but there is no imcumbency for someone to change a term in their own language just because someone else asks them to.

Really? How/why did that happen?

Internet extensions seem to be based on the country’s internal name. For example, the extension for German websites is .de

This question has been asked before:

Names of Countries, but in other languages.
A question about the word “Germany”
The Dutch Netherlands
What do Chinese people call China?
Why do Germans call their country Deutschland?
Why do we translate countries names
Names of foreign places
etc. etc.

Another question that could be asked is “Why don’t people bother running a search before they post to GQ”?

That doesn’t stop them from trying though! cf Burma / Myanmar and Kazakstan / Kazakhstan.

And Diceman, that is indeed true, because with only one exception that I can think of (uk/gb) the top-level-domains come from the ISO-3166 country codes, and there the individal countries do have a say. (Burma managed to get their ISO3166 country code, and subsequently TLD, changed to MM.

amanset: It didn’t happen. There’s more than one pronunciation in Japanese for the name of their country: Nihon/Nippon.

Ah, OK.


Some country names courtesy of *Jomo Mojo

Some info on Japan/Nippon/Nihon

*Not to be confused with Mojo Jojo

Actually it’s more complicated than that. The Japanese don’t have an ‘h’. Their ‘h’ is slightly labialized, so it is something between an ‘f’ and an ‘h.’ In the days of exploration, ‘pp’ was the accepted way of pronouncing this translingually, but now ‘h’ is more accepted.

But that’s a side issue…

The same applies to cities. Wien=Vienna, Praha=Prague, Mockba (or moskva)=Moscow, etc.

I don´t know of any other cases, but it is actually impolite for Finns to call Estonia “Eesti”, even though this is the Estonian name for their country. For a variety of historical and cultural reasons it is considered much more appropriate (by Finns and Estonians alike) to use the Finnish name “Viro”.

As for the UN: I´m not sure about the placards, IIRC, at the Vienna HQ they are in English. On documents and when speaking, however, they are in the language used (i.e. one of the six official languages), and the interpreters of course use the appropriate name in the language they are interpreting into.

To quote Chefguy:
*Mockba (or moskva)=Moscow, *

But “Mockba” is Cyrillic. “Mockba” is pronounced “moskva”, not “mock-bah”.

'Fraid not.

Japan (Nihon) = .jp
Russia (Rassiya) = .ru
Thailand (Not sure, but probably not Thailand) = .th
China (?) = .cn

English prevails.

Well, duh, did you read my entire post?

If you read the link to the thread (which was posted here) I guess it boils down to what the country itself wants. Cote De Ivorie means Ivory Coast in French. But until the Ivorians insisted we call it Cote De Ivorie we called it Ivory Coast.

China insists we call it Bejing (Sp??) not Peking. So we do.

The Burma / Myanmar question exists because the United States does not recognize the government that changed the name of the country to Myanmar.

When I went on a tour of the UN the guide said they do rotate the names of the countries in alphabetical order according to a certain language. So the seats in the General Assembly do change. I can’t remember what the criteria is offhand though.


Peking & Beijing, IIRC, are actually pronounced identically. They’re just different romanization systems.