"I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting."

- The Apostle's Creed
In the Minor Pet Peeves Department . . .

Since there's a lot of talk these days about Ukraine, can we please get one thing straightened out?

It's "Ukraine". Not The Ukraine.

I've been there twice, which doesn't make me an expert, but I never heard anyone in-country call it "The" Ukraine.

You don't take a trip to "The" Russia, or "The" Germany, right?

It's simply "Ukraine".



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Comments on "In the Minor Pet Peeves Department . . .":
1. Bird - 02/24/2014 2:17 pm CST

Here's something that speaks to this issue.

A Google Ngram search can tell us the frequency of the phrases “in Ukraine” and “in the Ukraine” over the last 50 years in books, and there’s a definite shift around 1993, soon after Ukrainian independence (and the same year that the Ukrainian government requested the preposition shift from “on” to “in”) from “the Ukraine” (red) to “Ukraine” (blue).


2. Bill - 02/24/2014 3:51 pm CST

Good catch Bird. My guess is that it was called "The Ukraine" more naturally when it was the Ukrainian region of Russia, versus a country in its own right.

3. Flyaway - 02/24/2014 8:09 pm CST

We could say the country of Ukraine.

My minor pet peeve is when I hear people say, "Where is Ukraine at," when it should be, "Where is Ukraine?"

4. Karl - 02/24/2014 9:17 pm CST

I agree it made more sense to refer to it as The Ukraine when it was a region within another nation. Seems less appropriate now that it's a nation in and of itself.

Do you say "Netherlands" or "The Netherlands?"

5. jez - 02/25/2014 4:14 am CST

And what do you call The United States?

6. British Nathan - 02/25/2014 7:01 am CST

Karl is right. The United States and the Netherlands are so called because they're normal nouns as well as names. A state is a thing; some united ones are a thing. Netherlands is harder to argue... but I guess being a "netherland" just means being a geographically low country, so here's a collection of some that share a queen and some really great cycle tracks. In the UK we call the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg together "the Low Countries", so it's just another name for that. Confusingly.

But calling it "the Ukraine" is to suggest that it's less a political and more a geographical entity, like "the Cascades", "the Pennines", "the Dust Bowl", "the West Country". "Ukraine" originally meant something like "the Borderland", because it was the Western edge of the Russian Empire. Ukrainians find this anachronistic and get a bit defensive because now they're independent, they're not anyone else's border country but their own free State.

A similar thing has happened in the Russian language itself, cos you used to say "at the Ukraine" (na Ukrainye) but now you have to say "in Ukraine" (v Ukrainye), which is semantically doing the same thing as removing the "the".

And THAT, my friends, is why political language is mental.

7. Bill - 02/25/2014 9:02 am CST

Well said, BN. (and good to see you round these parts, mate)

To me the most important thing is to call the country what the inhabitants want you to call it. When you go there, you start feeling like a real rube after saying "The" a few times and then noticing no one else is.

Of course, remember the title of the post - it's a minor pet peeve of mine ;-)

8. Brian - 02/25/2014 9:24 am CST

Also - Kyiv, not Kiev.

9. Daniel Ross - 02/25/2014 9:32 am CST

I always think of the Seinfeld episode when I hear of Ukraine.

"I'm from Ukraine! Ukraine not weak!"

... back to your discussion ...

10. British Nathan - 02/25/2014 10:04 am CST

Well it's nice to be around, Bill =o) I still lurk quite a bit but now have a proper job (I was freelance - oh! simpler times ;) ) so can't comment as much.

When and why were you in Ukraine? I spent a year in Russia with the wonderful IFES (international version of InterVarsity Fellowship) and we had a training week in Kiev (I still feel okay calling it that in English, just as I'd say "Moscow" or "Rome" not their local names, but I understand if some wouldn't do that). Beautiful city. Weird and horrible to see it in flames.

11. Shrode - 02/25/2014 10:26 am CST

sorta non-sequiter -

I remember more than one historian type saying that before the U.S. Civil War you said, "the United States are..." and after the Civil War you said, "the United States is..."

I don't know if it's true or not...but I find it fascinating.

12. Bill - 02/25/2014 10:39 am CST

Shrode, that's true. The historian was Shelby Foote, who definitely knows his stuff (he wrote a multi-volume definitive history of the Civil War).

Nathan - in both cases I was visiting missionaries, undisclosed location. I love Ukraine!

My only view of Kiev (I agree, it's OK to use English spellings. "Kyiv" isn't actually correct anyway, since it needs to be spelled in Cyrillic) was from the inside of the airport. I have some funny stories about getting through customs and crossing the border.

13. Brian - 02/25/2014 11:06 am CST

Kyiv is the requested spelling. Kiev is considered Russian.


14. Bill - 02/25/2014 11:09 am CST

Ah - good call, Brian. If "Kyiv" is how they want us to spell it, I'm all for that.

15. k. r. - 02/25/2014 7:51 pm CST

Kyiv is good. Pronounce it Kaaa eeeev, (hard a, hard e). Keeee ev ( hard e, soft e) is Russian

16. British Nathan - 02/26/2014 8:23 am CST

Well, colour me corrected about the request for the international community to call it Kyiv - I'm more than happy to go with what people themselves want.

Bill: aw, way cool! Yes, Ukraine seems a wonderful place, even though I didn't get to spend much time there. Russia is amazing too... although I've a horrible feeling it will be increasingly frowned upon to have the same opinion of both countries for the next while... =o(

17. Ugo - 03/16/2014 5:05 pm CDT

I don't know about 'The Ukraine',but Gabon is also referred to as 'The Gabon'.

18. Ugo - 03/18/2014 6:41 pm CDT

Sorry. Correction in order.

It's 'The Gambia' not 'Gabon'

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