Monday, June 11, 2012

"The" in Geography: Why it is "Ukraine" and not "the Ukraine"

Right now the UEFA Euro 2012, or Euro 2012, is being held.  The soccer playoffs feature the best of Europe fighting for their country's claim to best the greatest on the continent.  The games are being played in Poland and Ukraine.

However, news reports will sometime say "the Ukraine" as opposed to "Ukraine".  The use of the word "the" in geography confuses the country with the region.  "The Ukraine" refers to the region of the world where Ukrainians are live, and arguably excludes the Crimea and far eastern Ukraine with its large ethnic Russian population, while "Ukraine" refers to the country.  There are strong arguments that by using the term "the Ukraine" demotes the country to a non-independent area that forms a part of a larger country (i.e. the Soviet Union).

"The" also greatly separates "Sudan" from "the Sudan".  The word "Sudan" comes from the Arabic meaning "land of the Blacks".  Sudan and South Sudan are two countries in eastern Africa.  However, "the Sudan" refers more specifically to the region of the Sahel, forming the northern most limits of black Africans expansion.  This explains why French Sudan is today's Mali in western Africa.

According to the United States Board of Geographic Names only The Gambia and The Bahamas should be referred to with "the" in their name.  However, other countries do use "the" in their official name such as the Republic of the Philippines, Republic of the Sudan, and both Congos with Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  To use "the" with these countries is debatable.  However, as Ukraine desire to be known as "Ukraine" and not "the Ukraine", that debate is closed.

1 comment:

Yosef said...

Argentina, at one point, was often known in English as "the Argentine".