I was working late again the other night (perhaps I shouldn’t use the word “again” to describe my daily work habits, but… oh well) and asked my colleagues (who also happened to stay late yesterday) what the country abbreviation for Switzerland was (you know, that two-letter abbreviation for countries, such as PH for the Philippines, US for the U.S., UK for the U.K., and CN for China). Well, she told me it was CH and another colleague agreed with her and reminded me why their currency, Swiss Francs, was abbreviated to “CHF.”
Out of curiosity, I Google why Switzerland had such a country symbol when the letters don’t appear in the country’s name. Well, here’s what I found (I laughed when I saw the name of the inquirer). This article is from Straight Dope and its quite old but who cares?
Well, the story goes that following a religious civil war in 1848, a new constitution was written and the Swiss had to pick an official name for the country. Because of the multilingual nature of the country, they wanted to keep it neutral and keep everyone happy. So they chose Latin and called the country Confoederatio Helvetica, or CH for short, which stands for the confederation of the Helvetians.
So there you go. Quite some random trivia here. All I really wanted to show was the coincidence between my name and the one that Straight Dope as the inquirer. Hehe.
The name also survives in the typeface Helvetica, created by the Swiss type foundry Haas in the 1950s and since ripped off by Microsoft and renamed Arial. Apple Computers has their own knockoff of the Helvetica font, appropriately named Geneva.