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Colombians Are Tired of People Misspelling Their Country's Name as 'Columbia'


columbia danmolinski walll street journal

Photo: Dan Molinski/Wall street Journal

BOGOTÁ, Colombia—”Just landed in Columbia. On my way to the hotel,” Paris Hilton tweeted last year as her plane touched down in Bogotá for the opening of one of her handbag shops.
But before she left the airport, there were scores of replies like this: “PARIS, IT’S COLOMBIA, NOT COLUMBIA!!!!” The celebrity great-granddaughter of hotel magnate Conrad Hilton soon corrected her tweet.
Big outfits including Virgin Mobile, P.F. Chang’s and Lufthansa—and performers including Justin Bieber and Ozzy Osbourne—have all in the past year committed this boo-boo, which really annoys Colombians. They have spelled the country’s name with a “u” the way you would spell Columbia the university, or the sportswear company, or the U.S. capital, Washington, District of Columbia.

Even presidents have made the mistake. In 1973, the Nixon administration gave Colombia a lunar rock collected during the Apollo 17 landing on the moon. Along with the rock was a metal plaque that sits in the Bogotá Planetarium. It reads: “Presented to the People of the Republic of Columbia. Richard M. Nixon.”

Carlos Pardo, a digital-media executive, helped create the “It’s Colombia, NOT Columbia” campaign last year at a global social media event. Initially a lighthearted presentation for Zemoga and Compass Branding, digital media and marketing firms in Bogotá, it has become a force all its own. Make the mistake on social media and you are very likely to be corrected.

“We’re not trying to insult the people or companies that make this mistake,” says Mr. Pardo. “We don’t say…..

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