26 Jan 2008

Ruritania? Graustark? Erewhon?

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National Emblem of Lithuania

(Disclosure: This blog’s author is an American of Lithuanian descent.)

Reuters reports:

A commission led by the prime minister (Gediminas Kirkilas, Social Democrat) approved a marketing concept which says the country of 3.4 million people should promote itself as daring. A name change is also being mulled.

“Lithuania’s transcription in English is difficult to pronounce and remember for non-native English speakers, but the name change is only an idea under consideration,” said government spokesman Laurynas Bucalis, who led the group behind the recommendations.

No ideas have been presented yet as to what the name should be in English. In Lithuanian, the country is called Lietuva. …

Bravery marks our history — from being the last pagan nation in Europe to a nation which sparked the Soviet Union’s downfall, and today’s resolute steps,” Bucalis said.

One tends to doubt that the Slavic Litva will be their choice.

I suppose they could go back to Chaucer’s Middle English:

A knyght ther was, and that a worthy man,
That fro the tyme that he first bigan
To riden out, he loved chivalrie,

Trouthe and honour, fredom and curteisie.
Ful worthy was he in his lordes werre,

And therto hadde he riden, no man ferre,
As wel in Cristendom as in Hethenesse,
And evere honoured for his worthynesse.

At Alisaundre he was, whan it was wonne;
Ful ofte tyme he hadde the bord bigonne
Aboven alle nacions in Pruce;
In Lettow hadde he reysed, and in Ruce.

The Canterbury Tales, Prologue, 43-54.

(A knight there was, and that a worthy man,
That from the time that he first began
To ride out, he loved chivalry,

Truth and honor, freedom and courtesy.
Full worthy was he in his lords’ wars,

And thereto had he ridden, no man farther,
Both in Christendom and in Heathen lands,
And was everywhere honored for his worthiness.

At Alexandria he had been, when it was won;
Often he had occupied the seat of honor at the dinner-table,
Above men from all nations, in Prussia;
In Lithuania he had raided, and in Russia.)

But would “Lettow” actually be better?

All this is, of course, precisely the sort of renaming-the-months, inventing-a-new-system-of weights-and-measures kind of thing modern linguistic nationalist governments like to focus on.

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Hat tip to Sandip Bhattacharji.

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