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Wednesday, 7 October 2020

Nuts and Bolts: The Hyphen War.

It will be no surprise to anyone to know that The Hyphen War wasn't actually a war, and that according to the belligerents it wasn't even over a hyphen.

To make things even more difficult, we have to tell the tale of the Hyphen War in three languages: English (because this is The Word Den) Czech, and Slovak.

The whole battle was over what to call the new country of ....um...well, it was the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic until the USSR broke up in 1989.

To begin with, the government just dropped the word Socialist from the name, but that didn't satisfy the Slovak people, who felt they were being portrayed as subservient to the Czech people because slovak didn't have a capital letter. The Slovaks demanded a hyphen: Czecho-Slovak. The suggestion from the government was Republic of Czecho-Slovakia - but the Czechs didn't like this because it was under that name that Hitler had taken over the country during the Second World War.

The next suggestion was Czechoslovak Federative Republic, showing that both countries were of equal status. As well as this, the name was spelled without a hyphen in Czech, but with one (but no capital letter) in Slovak.

Well, that idea lasted about a month. Next up was The Czech and Slovak Federative Republic. This still caused problems, though, because, as all the words in the county's name (except and) were capitalised then this took away the prestige of the capitalisation of Slovak.

Not only this, but although the Slovaks were demanding a hyphen (spojovnik in both Czech and Slovak) the Czechs insisted on calling it a dash (pomička). 

By 1992 there were so many other irreconcilable differences between the Czechs and the Slovaks that they decided to split the country into two in a process known as the Velvet Divorce.

And, mostly, they now seem to be living happily apart.

Phew!

Nuts and Bolts: The Hyphen War was called Pomičková válka in Czech and Pomičková vojna in Slovak.  

Pomičková means, in both languages, not hyphen, but dash.







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