Friday, August 8, 2014
It's not just semantics
You will note that I don't write The Ukraine here in my blog, though I've slipped up a few times in conversations. Why not?
We've all grown up calling the country The Ukraine. But the Associated Press dropped the article 'the' back in 1991, and you know how much I love the AP Style book.
Ukrainians believe that saying The Ukraine denies their sovereignty, their nationhood - that it makes them a thing, a territory owned by someone else - the Russians. They will point out that we don't say the Germany, the France, the Canada, the Mexico, so they believe it should also not be the Ukraine.
Although I know that, once my sister reads this, we're going to immediately start saying the Germany, the France, the Canada, the Mexico… we already say the Google and the Twitter and the Facebook...
And, yes, it's THE United States of America and THE Netherlands and THE Philippines - but these are recognized nations and the The was never a put down by rulers from another country. Those are also all plural. And it's THE Islamic Republic of Iran, to distinguish it from all the other Islamic Republics. It's THE United Kingdom because, indeed, there are other kingdoms.
You may still say the Ukrainian nation, just as we all say the State of Kentucky. But I kinda would love calling it The Kentucky…
It may seem silly… but it's a very big deal for Ukrainians (you MAY say the Ukrainians, BTW). But they know that Russians don’t really, in their gut, accept that there's an independent, sovereign Ukraine. And in Russia, they are still using The Ukraine, as a way to assert that belief.
So, there's your cultural lesson for the week. On the anniversary of the death of THE King, Elvis. Enjoy.