Friday, December 09, 2005

No work for a month and a half.

Yesterday was my last day at work (that is, until I have to go back at the end of January). I hadn't even thought of that until about ten minutes before I left. I looked around and realized I should pack up my books and tea (which I did in a burst of frenzy--like my ass was on fire). Then I got out of there so fast the other people working there didn't even have a chance to say good-bye (okay, I could have crawled out of there at a snail's pace and they wouldn't have said good-bye. But that's neither here nor there). I got a few steps out the door, stopped, took a deep breath, forced my shoulders down, and then walked on to class.

Seperate topic:
What I've learned about the politics of definite articles.
Last week I had a student come in to see me. She was absolutely livid that, in English, we use a definite article in front of her home country, Ukraine. She had just gotten a paper back from her professor, who had subtracted points because there was no "the" in front of Ukraine. She wanted to know why we said "the Ukraine." It does not fit any of the rules governing the use of definite articles in front of place names. I mean, it's not like we say the China or the France. I told her that I had no idea why we said the Ukraine, that we just did. (And I still cringe at my insensitivity in dealing with this issue).
Anyway, I mentioned it to someone (who had studied Russian) in an e-mail, and he responded that Ukrainians are a fiercely proud people, and that the use of a definite article before their country's name was a political issue. He sent me a link, and I did a little more research on my own.
Turns out it all goes back to communism and Ukraine's independence from the USSR. By using a definite article in front of Ukraine, we English speakers designate it as a region, not as a country (think the Rocky Mountains). At one point it was a region of the USSR, but it is now a separate country. So why should we say the Ukraine, especially when we don't say the Belarus or the Latvia?
Not only that, but most (if not all) journalism style guides say that Ukraine, as the name of a country, should not be proceeded by a definite article.
Needless to say, I sent off an e-mail to the student, apologizing for my insensitivity and giving her the links to a few sites she could use to support her argument should she decide to bring the issue up with her teacher. I hope she checks her Salisbury e-mail account.


At 10:55 AM, Blogger Captain Disgruntled said...

Huh--I've never heard of this controversy in regard to Ukraine, but it is, I guess, paralleled in the case of Sudan...


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