Changing the Greece’s name would be ridiculous, says expert

Greek branding expert Peter Economides has made himself a name lately coinciding with Greece’s image troubles. He made a brilliant speech last autumn in Athens, and I’m happy now to read that he has said that changing Greece’s name to Hellas, as a Greek-German MEP suggested last week, would be ‘ridiculous’.

In this interview with the Athens News, he is asked this,

At a time when some, like Greek-born Eurodeputy Yiorgos Chatzimarkakis, suggest that Greece should change its foreign name into “Hellas” to restore its image, you insist that the country has got a “brand-DNA” linked to its name that should be respected at home and abroad. Could you explain?

And Peter Economides says,

Absolutely! It’s only a couple of extreme people who have that point of view that would let the country’s identity perish for the sake of something totally new or very old. To change our name at this point would be the most ridiculous thing on earth.

Some good common sense.

By the way, it’s not that I’m against changing the name of our country to Hellas (or to any other name). In fact I wrote a short essay about it back in November 2004 (read it here: Naming Brand Greece) about this issue. And it is a fact that many other countries have done it, or considered it (like the NetherlandsLithuania or Slovenia) before. Moreover, Hellas is certainly a great name, and is in fact the name of Greece in some languages, like Greek, where we call it Hellás, and Norwegian, where Greece is also called Hellas.

What I am against is the perfidious, misleading and deceitful idea that such a name change would make any difference or that it would improve our country’s image abroad. That’s complete rubbish. A scam, in one word.

6 thoughts on “Changing the Greece’s name would be ridiculous, says expert

  1. Sounds to me like they are wanting to remove the Greek image completely, and turn it into an image THEY recognise. I agree with Mr Economides and hope Greece regains her credibility on her own terms.

  2. The brand of a country, its reputation, cannot be changed in such a simple way. Greece should build a plan to restore its reputation. And it will be a question of time, attitude and commitment to achieve it.

  3. Changing the name of “Greece” to “Hellas” is simply another way to impose ancient Greek identity on the modern nation. This was very divisive for the country in the 19th century when Western powers “branded” the nation based on its classical roots. Why can’t Greece simply be Greece?

  4. Well, we’re talking about “changing the country’s name” in English, which is the majority language in only about 6 countries that I can think of (US, UK, Aus, Can, Ireland, NZ), plus a handful tiny countries that speak English-based Creole languages (Antigua, Jamaica, etc). Total population of persons that speak English or an English-derived language as mother tongue amounts to less than 7% of the world’s population

    And yes, countless people speak English as a second language, but they would still use a name other than “Hellas” when referring to Greece in their mother tongue. Should we also pursue this “name change” in other languages? From the French Grèce to Spanish Grecia, Russian Gretsiya, Japanese Girisha, Arabic Yunan, and Bengali Jobonan?

    And how exactly does Greece “change its name” in another language? Burma/Myanmar has attempted it with limited success. Most of the US media has embraced the new “Myanmar”, but the UK media still call it Burma. As do I…”Burma” just falls easier on Anglo ears and tongues than does “Myanmar”.

    Assuming a name change in foreign languages -such as English- has been established, how does this help the country’s branding? I don’t quite see it.

    Although not a serious proposal, whoever made this or seriously considered it, didn’t quite think it through. But it does have SOME merits, as I’ll explain at the very end of this post.

    But first:

    Regarding Taso Lagos’ above comment on “imposing ancient Greek identity on the modern nation”

    Well, no. You’re wrong.

    Although I think the proposed name change is a bit misguided, this has nothing to do with “imposing a ancient identity” on the contemporary culture.

    This proposal actually intends to have English-speakers call Greece by a name much closer to what the country’s name already is in its own language, including the modern variant of Greek.

    Greeks already call themselves “Ellênes” and their country “Ellada”. “Hellas” is an archaic name for the country, and is still used in a limited capacity; “Ellada” is the modern name used far more often, but is clearly descended from the ancient “Hellas”.

    While you’re right that there were efforts in the 19th century to revive antiquity in some way, it’s not true that the words Hellenes/Ellas/Ellada had disappeared in antiquity. They went into disuse after the arrival of Christianity, because “Hellenes” was associated with being pagan (thus “Romaioi” came into common use for Greek-speaking Christians), but the name “Hellenes” had actually been revived a number of times in the Middle Ages, so it never actually went away.

    “Greece”, BTW, and any name derived with some form of “Gr” is a foreign name for the country, usually by peoples and languages to the north and west (i.e. most of Europe).

    Such as Gretsiya (Russian), Griechenland (German), Grecia (Italian), Grecia (Castilian/Spanish), Grčka (Serbian), and so on. The Greeks never called themselves this…ever. These names all come from the Latin/Roman name for Greece/Greeks. The origin of that name is unknown, but some people have hypothesize that it’s descended from a specific tribe of ancient Greeks that settled southern Italy.

    Likewise, from the east (Arabic, Turkish, Armenian, Hebrew, Indonesian, Persian, etc), those names for Greek all have some form of “Yn”. For example Yūnān (Arabic, Persian, Hindi), Yavan (Hebrew), Yunanistan (Turkish), Yunani (Indonesian), etc. The origin of THESE names are believed to be derived from the Iones, again a specific tribe of Greeks that had settles parts of Asia Minor.

    All that being said, I wouldn’t mind some sort of name change LITE, as I always hated the name “Greece”…it’s not what Greeks call their country and “Ellada” is much prettier.

    But instead of mounting a campaign to force English speakers to change a word in their own language (after all, “Greece” is their own word for Greece, in their own language), we can instead educate English speakers so that they recognize “Ellada”…just as they recognize “España” and “Italia”. Those words haven’t replaced “Spain” or “Italy” in the English language, but if you put up a tourism advertisement for Spain on a giant billboard, and it says “España” on it -rather than “Spain”- most English speakers (especially in Britain and Ireland) will know that that’s Spain.

    Some sort of name-branding in *that* sort of direction would make much more sense, and could be applied in non-English speaking markets as well.

  5. Thanks for your excellent insight, Eric. Nonetheless, as you say was not a thoughtful proposal and no one should take it very seriously…

  6. I agree that the name “Ellada” is mostly used amongst greeks, but this is not an official word, as belonging to the oral traditional language (dimotiki). The official would definitely be “Hellas” as it was ever used by our ancestors centuries ago. The problem had always been that Hellenes (the only ones allowed to participate to the Olympic Games) were not only the inhabitants of the little portion of land that Greece occupies nowadays. It also included S.Italy, a part of S.France, western Asia Minor and other parts that today belong to established mediterranean or balkan Countries. So, the name Hellas (Ellada, or whatever we ‘d call it), would never be accepted by our neighbours, as it hasn’t been some 180 years ago, after the greek revolution against the Ottoman Empire.

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