For years, the misspelling of Colombia with a “u” instead of an “o” has irked citizens of the South American country. The furor has recently surfaced online as a social media campaign accompanied by the hashtag #itscolombianotcolumbia and a Facebook page with more than 24,000 likes.
The two spellings both mean effectively the same thing: Land of Columbus. The spelling of Columbus in Spanish (Colon) is followed by the letter “o”, and so it is in the Spanish-speaking country of Colombia.
The Anglicized spelling, Columbia with a “u”, is the correct spelling in many other instances, such as Columbia University in New York; the Canadian province, British Columbia; the American capital, Washington, District of Columbia; and a sportswear company.
The mistake of substituting the “o” for a “u” is a common one. It has been made—not unnoticeably to Colombians—by celebrities such as Paris Hilton, Justin Bieber, Ozzy Osbourne, and even former President Richard Nixon. In 1973, Nixon gifted the country with a piece of moon rock recovered by Apollo 17. With it he included a plaque that read, “Presented to the People of the Republic of Columbia.” Also guilty of the spelling mistake are Virgin Mobile, P.F. Chang’s, Lufthansa, Starbucks, the NBA, ESPN, as well as news networks NBC, CNN, BBC, and CBS.
The campaign aims to end the confusion between the different spellings through publicly posting the spelling transgressions on social media platforms to raise awareness of the issue. Public shaming may appear to be a spiteful reaction for what many might call an innocent or even inconsequential mistake, but Carlos Pardo, a digital media executive behind the campaign, explains, “We’re not trying to insult people or companies that make the mistake. We don’t say ‘Hey, idiot, fix it!’ We just say ‘Dear so-and-so, it’s Colombia, not Columbia.'”
Source: Wall Street Journal, Colombians Are Tired of People Misspelling Their Country’s Name as ‘Columbia’
Photo Credit: It’s Colombia, NOT Columbia Facebook Page