Saturday, February 08, 2014

What's in a name?

Apparently, the president of Kazakhstan is considering changing the name from K-stan to "Kazak Yeli."  Kazak Yeli means "country of the Kazakhs."  His premise is basically having a "stan" in your name links you with Afghanistan and Pakistan and all the other "icky-stans," as a stewardess once referred them to me as I was trying to explain after the Della tour of why I deserved a free drink.

He does kinda have a point that the "stan" suffix has a negative connotation for much of the Western world. But of all the 'Stans, Kazakhstan probably has the biggest nation brand recognition because of Borat.  For years Kazakhstan was indignant about the movie until the foreign minister finally fessed up and said it had been a great thing for global recognition of Kazakhstan, and that it was far more well-known than its neighbors.  With that said, I still have met a number of Americans who didn't believe I had been to Kazakhstan because they thought it was a made-up place.

And the name tinkering is not without precedent in Kazakhstan. Nazarbayev already changed the name of Alma Ata to Almaty, and changed the capital to Akmoli with a new name Astana.

My worry is that there are not a lot of people who know where Kazakhstan is, and even more will be confused by Kazak Yeli.  I would leave it as is Sr. Nazarbayev.  

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