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3 Country Names You've Been Spelling Wrong
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June 4, 2019
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Dillon McLaughlin
Dillon McLaughlin is a freelance writer/editor from Wilmington, Delaware. Besides travel, he’s written about history, gaming, movies, TV, beer and whiskey.
americas

The vast majority of the time these country names are coming from languages we do not speak, which means we’re predisposed to trouble. Here’s our effort to set our own record straight and maybe help you out at the same time. These are three country names you’ve been spelling wrong.

Colombia

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Colombia should be easy to spell. And in reality it is. The problem is Columbia is also a place. So when you want to talk about the country of Colombia, you could accidentally end up talking about a clothing company, the United States’ female personification, the District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.) and a couple dozen towns and cities across North America.

If you want to talk about the country in South America, which is what we’re assuming you want to do, you have to make sure you have go with an "o" instead of a "u" in the name. As you can imagine, that’s where pretty much everyone is getting tripped up. Maybe the best trick for remembering how to spell it is to try to make your brain voice say the country name with its citizens’ accent. What we mean is, any time you need to write it out, have Sofia Vergara say it to you.

Luxembourg

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We like to think Luxembourg’s obscurity is encouraged by its natives. They’re hard to find, they don’t call attention to themselves and their presence on the international stage is always a surprise. None of that is meant as an insult, we just mean they seem to be satisfied with their more obscure status. That could be why we always have to Google how to spell the country’s name. We simply don’t encounter it that often.

This problem is compounded by the fact that there’s an X in it, which puts every English speaker at an immediate disadvantage. X is a letter we know exists, but any time it gets used it confuses us the way zebra stripes confuse a lion. You know you’re looking at it, but you’re not quite sure what exactly you’re looking at. Then when you throw it into a distinctly European name like Luxembourg and we’re all just spelling in the dark. Also, tossing an "h" on the end isn't out of the question.

Kyrgyzstan

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We’ve finally come to the one that’s a complete crapshoot for anyone who’s not in the United Nations, from the country itself or who got really into Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell novels. Now, in our own defense, it seems like the country itself still hasn’t figured the spelling out either. The Britannica page has five separate alternate spellings and titles, with a few language variants to boot.

We don’t have any spelling tips or mnemonic devices to help you remember this one. We’re all out in the weeds, blind and leading each other. The tip we can give you is to treat it like an acquaintance’s name you forgot. Orchestrate a situation where someone else has to say their name, then do your best to remember after that. So find some way to make someone else say and spell Kyrgyzstan, then take notes as they do.