Why Not Sakartvelo?

Georgia and Georgia - quite a topographical contrast
(screenshots taken from Google Maps)
Well, here's a question for you: Why don't we call other countries by the names they call themselves? For example, the names of Germany seem particularly silly, with different languages using radically different words to refer to the same place. If we all just called it Deutschland it'd be quite a bit easier to understand each other. I mean, Deutschland isn't that difficult to pronounce, and I'm sure the Germans (excuse me, the Deutsch) would appreciate the gesture of respect toward the name they use for themselves.

If you don't agree with me on that point, however, consider this: Why don't we at least call other countries by the names they call themselves when doing so would make things easier for us?

In this case I am referring specifically to the country we call Georgia, located in the Caucasus Mountains along the divide between Europe and Asia. In the United States, however, (and probably in English generally), the name Georgia typically refers to the American state, the southernmost of the thirteen original colonies. It doesn't make sense to have two Georgias. Let's call the country in the Caucasus by its real name: Sakartvelo.

the flags of Georgia and Georgia
The history of calling the country of Georgia "Georgia" seems to go back a long time—much longer than the American state of Georgia has existed, in fact. Crusaders from Western Europe likely derived the name from a Persian-Arabic term, but then the name was justified on the basis of Georgians' seeming devotion to Saint George. There were also many kings of Georgia named George, including the country's last monarch, George XII (d. 1800). In Kartuli (the Georgian language), however, his name was Giorgi, and even though Georgia is a name for the country that has lasted for centuries, it existed as such only in England, France (as Géorgie), and elsewhere in Western Europe.

"Georgia" is ultimately an exonym—a name for a place that doesn't originate in that place. I don't think all exonyms should be done away with; sometimes exonyms are merely translations, like calling the United States los Estados Unidos: That's just a translation and serves to preserve the meaning of the country's name. On the other hand, names like "America" and "Canada" aren't really translatable, although other languages may spell them differently according to their own orthographies. The name for Georgia in Kartuli is Sakartvelo, meaning "land of Kartvelians." In English we could call the country Kartvelianland if we wanted to, but it really just sounds better as Sakartvelo.

"Georgia" when used for the American state of Georgia is an endonym—that is, a name for a place that originated in that place, (or, in this case, among its European settlers). It was founded by British settlers in 1733 and named for the British king George II, who "granted" the land to the settlers, in spite of it being actively possessed by numerous indigenous peoples. In any case, ever since the United States gained its independence and especially since Americans drove most indigenous people out of the region, almost everyone living in Georgia has called their state Georgia, as do most people around the world, according to their own spellings and pronunciations (see picture). That's a perfect example of people around the world using the endonym to refer to a place, and I think we should do the same for Sakartvelo.

Finally, I'd like to conclude my argument by pointing out that there's plenty of precedent for calling places by their endonyms, although typically that has happened when new countries were created or governments officially changed their names. In the case of Sakartvelo, it would really just be a lot less confusing and ultimately more rational to refer to the country in the Caucasus by its endonym. Our own interesting exonym may have had a long run over the centuries, but I think it's time for that name to become history.