Gossip Girl: The Princess Dowry (S05E17) contains the following exchange:

William vdW: I'm just sorry that Eric couldn't make it back from Zaire.

Serena vdW: I think they call that the Democratic Republic of Congo now.

William vdW: They do, but trust me, it's not.

William van der Woodsen refers to the Democratic Republic of the Congo as Zaire and is corrected, but replies "They do, but trust me, it's not.". Can someone explain to me what this comment means.


1 Answer 1


Anecdote time. Please feel free to skip to Paragraph 3 :-)

When I studied politics, my tutor would persistently refer to "Hopfl's rule of Country Naming"; essentially that whatever a country named itself was actually the diametric opposite of what their system of government really is, citing examples like the 'People's Republic' of China (which is actually authoritarian and communist) or the United Kingdom (which, he argued, is basically a republic and not especially united).

William is (ostentatiously) displaying his superior knowledge of the country. He's suggesting that, in line with Hopfl's Rule, that while the rulers of the country may want people to call it democratic and republican, it's been a corrupt dictatorship for most of its recent history and is presently best described as "not very democratic".

  • 12
    My personal favorite: the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, which contains "people" thrice in three different languages (Greek, English, and Latin) and essentially means "the Ruled by the People People's People's Matter of Korea". Or, more recently, the "United" States of America, which couldn't be more divided. Jan 8 at 23:07
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    It should also be noted that Zaire was the name for the country in this region from the '60s until the late 90's. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zaire Jan 9 at 2:02
  • 10
    Another classic example is the Holy Roman Empire, which is accused of being neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire. Jan 9 at 3:37
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    @Randal'Thor - Ah, I see the confusion now. This was my tutor and the 'rule' was self-titled
    – Valorum
    Jan 9 at 12:21
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    Without further context, I don't see what's "ostentatious" about William's statement. It just comes off as insulting the country ("But of course it's really an oppressive dictatorship"), rather than him claiming to be an expert in African politics. Maybe his tone doesn't come across well in text.
    – dan04
    Jan 9 at 17:33

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