Paraguay and Uruguay

A friend recently posted on Facebook about some geographical confusion he had over what was to the north of what. That got me thinking, and I asked myself, "Could I say, for any pair of neighboring countries in the world, 'X is to the (north / south / east / west) of Y'?"

Well, I thought, I'd have a lot of trouble with some of the former Soviet Republics: I have no idea how Kyrgyzstan stands in relation to Uzbekistan. And the smaller Pacific and smaller Caribbean island nations: pretty tough as well. They appear as a bunch of tiny dots in a sea of blue, which makes it hard for me to remember their "look."

But otherwise, I felt pretty good: let's say, every mainland nation that existed before 1960, I could do every one, right?

And then I remembered Paraguay and Uruguay. Aargh! Whose idea was that, anyway? Let's stick two minor South American countries right near each other, and then give them sound-alike names. That will make sure no one can ever remember which one is which!

Queries: How many people do you think have intended to take a vacation in one of the two, but wound up booking a trip to the other by accident? And do you think anyone has ever invaded the wrong one? Imagine the embarrassment when you march your army into what you think is Paraguay, only to discover you've accidentally attacked Uruguay!


  1. That's funny. Guess who lives in Uruguay.

    1. Eduardo Galeano?

    2. Well, I wasn't thinking of him, but yes, he does live in Uruguay. That he's the first Uruguayan you can think of is interesting.


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