Today I read a well done article at a major business website. The piece was informative but the writer misspelled the name of the country of Colombia. He wrote Columbia instead. That’s a common and simple mistake. It might have even been the fault of an autocorrect spell checker.
As that website has a global reach, I penned the writer a short note, thanking him for his writing and pointing out the understandable error. Instead of ignoring my comment, or thanking me for it, he wrote a defensive e-mail back.
He said the matter wasn’t so simple, that either use may be correct. He then cited two articles at Quora, a question and answer site. Quora? Really? What kind of authority is that? Certainly not primary.
I went to the web site for the Colombian Embassy in Washington, D.C. Not a single use of Colombia with a ‘u’. The BBC and CNN only use Colombia. Heck, even Wikipedia spells it Colombia. While the names of some countries are unsettled in English, the use of Colombia is not in debate.
This one comes easy for me. My mother was a Latin American studies major at Michigan. For many years she edited the Spanish language edition of an international magazine. I remember her gently correcting people on Colombia. There was never any difference in Spanish or English writing.
Columbia is only used by the misinformed, harmless people, or obstinate, defensive souls using some strange place on the web to defend their ignorance. I know what the Colombians would call these people: gringos.