The social media campaign aimed at getting the world to spell Colombia correctly
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The social media campaign aimed at getting the world to spell Colombia correctly

It’s a common mistake. Colombia is a South American country, not normally confused with the district of Columbia in the United States  or the Ivy League college, Columbia University – except when it comes to its spelling.

Spelling woes

Colombia is commonly misspelled Columbia. Much to the chagrin of Colombians, the misspelled country crops up everywhere from news reports to academic journal articles. Even CNN has made the mistake.

On Wikipedia’s entry page for Columbia, which lists all the places, companies, and schools with that name, there is notification which states that ”Columbia’ is a frequent mistaken spelling of Colombia, a large country in South America. See also Colombia (disambiguation) for other uses of that spelling.”

Fed up with seeing their beloved country’s name commonly misspelt, employees at a Bogotá -based digital company launched an online campaign ‘ It’s Colombia, NOT Columbia’, in 2013 to combat the problem.

One of the campaign’s co-founders, Emilio Pombo, told CNN this week that he and his fellow Colombians are sick and tired of the misspelling. “When people are referring to my country, that’s Colombia with an ‘O’. People say it mostly like Columbia with a ‘U’… like the place in Washington State of the U.S,” Pombo said.

Just to confuse matters, pre-Columbian, however, should indeed be spelled with a ‘u’ and not an ‘o’. But a quick sweep of the internet shows that people also get this wrong too.

The founders launched ‘It’s Colombia, NOT Columbia’ across several online platforms, including Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. The Facebook page, which describes the campaign “as a social movement that promotes the beginning of a change on the perception held abroad about Colombia”, has some 27,000 followers.

Todos con la camiseta puesta apoyando a La Selección Colombia. Unidos con la tricolor. #ItsColombiaNOTColumbia

Posted by It’s Colombia, NOT Columbia on Thursday, 8 October 2015

The popular hashtag #ItsColombiaNotColumbia is frequently used to correct misspelling, and merchandise, such a t-shirt and hats, sporting the campaign’s slogan can be found for sale online.

Social media success

The idea to start ‘It’s Colombia, NOT Columbia’ came when Bogotá-based digital agency Zemoga, and a public relations firm Compass Porter Novelli were invited to present at Social Media Week New York. After receiving an irritating email invite which referred to Colombia as Columbia, they decided to use online platforms to challenge the world’s outmoded perception of the country and the misspelling of its name.  Focused on utilizing social media as powerful tool, one of the campaign’s founders, Carlos Pardo, Vice President of Operations for Zemoga, told Huffington Post in 2013 that the company’s  “objective is to show as a company that you can change the image of a country, or improve the image, through social media.”

Pombo reiterated Pardo by stating that the campaign is also about promoting what the country has to offer and showing how Colombia has changed over last few decades.

Telling CNN that Colombia is one of the best countries in the world, Pombo listed some of the country’s most international influential people such as pop singer Shakira, actress Sofia Vergara, star of U.S. comedy ‘Modern Family’ and footballer James Rodriguez.

The latest CNN report on the campaign has generated lots of discussion with people taking to social media to comment on what is an annoying widespread mistake.

One Twitter user, Cami@catchmemku tweeted: “If you’re talking about the country its spelled COLOMBIA not Columbia. It’s so annoying when people don’t know the damn difference”, while another, Santiago@Donkeynones, wrote: “We might as well remind our friends at the @OCED @OECDEduskills its Colombia, not Columbia”.

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