Place Names with Definite Articles

Why is it called The Hague instead of just Hague? New York City has Manhattan and The Bronx. Why not The Manhattan? Or just Bronx? And when did The Ukraine become plain Ukraine? It turns out that place names with definite articles all have a different story to explain the name, and different languages have their own peculiar rules and exceptions for naming places.
Those who live in The Hague never stopped using an old-fashioned name that described the place according to its medieval use. We get the official name Den Haag from Des Graven Hage, which means "the counts' hedge" and refers to the fact that Dutch noblemen once used the land for hunting.


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The Dalles IS NOT a miserable place. Let's just call it an un-gentrified, yet-to-be-ruined-by-yuppies gem of a town.

The origin of its name is well documented. Prior to inundation by the backwaters of The Dalles Dam in 1957, the Columbia River flowed through a narrow, tortuous, rocky course just upstream of the present location of City of The Dalles. French-Canadian fur traders named this feature "Les Grandes Dalles de la Columbie," which translates to "The Great Flagstone [-lined Gutter] of the Columbia" in English. Over time, the name evolved to "Les Grandes Dalles," "Les Dalles," and finally "The Dalles." The official name of the city had been "Dalles City" but was changed to "City of The Dalles" in 1967. The USPS has always used the unofficial name "The Dalles" to refer to this town. CASE CLOSED!
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Another factor for The Hague, I believe, is that one-syllable placenames are rare. Naming a town "Haag" would just be odd, as it needs an article (compare a town named "Hedge" in English speaking countries) and the single syllable is metrically awkward as well. But we do have towns named "Beek" ("Brook").
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In some cases at least, the decision whether to use the definite articule was made through consultation between embassies of Anglophone countries and officials of the country concerned. This was done after Zaire (originally the Belgian Congo, then the Congo) took back its former name after the ouster of Mobutu, who'd chosen to rename it Zaire. The decision was made at that point to call it "Congo", not "The Congo." I have the impression the same procedure occurred in Gambia and Sudan.
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