"the" before country name

Mon May 12 00:31:54 UTC 2008

But "the United States of America" is just the formal political name of the American state, and the formal political name typically is preceded by "the."  E.g., the Commonwealth of Australia, the Kingdom of Belgium, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.  There may or may not be a corresponding country name that can be used without "the"; there was none, for example, with the Soviet Union (only Russia, which for political reasons could not be used as such until the Soviet Union's dissolution).
We say America, not the America.  (I put aside for now the ambiguity of "America," which can refer either to the USA or to North and South America.)  The Netherlands and (formerly) the Ukraine are the only examples of country names with "the" that come to mind.  The Netherlanders also choose to call their seat of government The Hague, which always struck me as even more anomalous.
John Baker


From: American Dialect Society on behalf of Mark Mandel
Sent: Sun 5/11/2008 3:25 PM
Subject: Re: "the" before country name

On Sun, May 11, 2008 at 12:11 AM, Your Name <ROSESKES at aol.com> wrote:

> If "the" before a country's name is belittling, why is there not one single
> American objecting to "the United States"?
> Rosemarie

Because we chose that name ourselves? And consequently it describes us as we
want to see ourselves, rather than as 'the border territory'?

Mark Mandel

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org <http://www.americandialect.org/> 

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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