Why is South Africa abbreviated as ZA?
September 9, 2008 8:30 PM   Subscribe

Why is South Africa abbreviated as ZA?

I just got back from South Africa, where most of the URL's end with .co.za. I've also seen the country abbreviated as ZA. Is there a reason why ZA is used instead of SA? None of the official names for South Africa involve a Z and the domain .sa doesn't seem to be used by any other country, as far as I can tell.

The only answer I got so far was something along the lines of "they ran out of letters by the time they got to the bottom of the world."
posted by theseampsgoto11 to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total)
 
It's from the Dutch Zuid-Afrikaanse.
posted by jschu at 8:38 PM on September 9, 2008


cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.za
posted by celkins at 8:43 PM on September 9, 2008


It's from the Dutch Zuid-Afrikaanse.

Which means "South African"; the Dutch for "South Africa" is "Zuid-Afrika."

This raises more questions than it asks, though. Why would the official abbreviation come from the country's name in Dutch?

The Afrikaans for "South Africa" is "Suid-Afrika" so SA would be more logical.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:44 PM on September 9, 2008


Aha! Thanks, celkins. Of course! Saudi Arabia had first dibs on ".sa" because "Saudi Arabia" comes before "South Africa" in English.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:46 PM on September 9, 2008


Thanks for this one. I always believed it to be from Zaire.
posted by tcv at 9:20 PM on September 9, 2008


@Sidhedevil, the alphabet is irrelevant - what's more important is the ISO country code ... way more information on wikipedia
posted by unsliced at 12:23 AM on September 10, 2008


You're missing my point here: South Africa is twice as large as Saudi Arabia, so one might think that it would have more of a claim to SA as its code; the only rationale I can see for Saudi Arabia getting dibs is alphabetical.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:41 AM on September 10, 2008


This raises more questions than it asks, though. Why would the official abbreviation come from the country's name in Dutch?

Because until 1925 Dutch was the official language of South Africa (along with English, I think). I can imagine a lot of these country abbreviations were decided upon a long time ago.
posted by bjrn at 3:00 AM on September 10, 2008


This raises more questions than it asks, though. Why would the official abbreviation come from the country's name in Dutch?

Because it was founded by the dutch and .sa was given to Saudi Arabia.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:35 AM on September 10, 2008


Forget 'Dutch' for a moment. When the codes were being handed out the first language of (most of) the arseholes in charge of the country was Afrikaans.

So the abbreviation is from the Afrikaans.

Other 2-letter country codes are derived either from a local language or some other non-English too: .aq, .hr, and .is spring to mind, there might be others.
posted by genghis at 8:56 AM on September 10, 2008


Thanks for this question; I learned something today.
posted by languagehat at 9:01 AM on September 10, 2008


the only rationale I can see for Saudi Arabia getting dibs is alphabetical.

Possibly. When they need a tie-breaker they may have other reasons. For instance, Saudi Arabia's independence dates to 1932, but South Africa's to 1934.

Though the ISO country codes were developed in the 1970s, even before the need for top-level domains, at least some may derive from older codes developed by the Universal Postal Union. The UPU was established in 1874.
posted by dhartung at 2:44 PM on September 10, 2008


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