Saturday, July 18, 2009

Slovak Word of the Day 11: kloktať

klotať v. gargle

So, the in-laws are visiting. Coming back from an evening at the theatre, I offered my brother-in-law something to eat, but all he wanted was salt. Now, I know about the importance of salt in Slovak culture, but it seemed a bit odd to just want salt for supper. He explained that his girlfriend had a sore throat and wanted to gargle with salt water.

I do realise that the word kloktať may not seem like a very useful one to know. The number of occasions where you need to tell someone you want to gargle will probably be few, and a little demonstration will probably make the point clear on those occasions. But this might just be a word that punches above its weight. After all, if you know how to say "gargle", you must speak the language pretty well...

Friday, July 17, 2009

Slovak Word of the Day 11: zápästie

zápästie n. neut. wrist

In the latest in an occasional series about famous people with broken bones, the Pope fell and broke his wrist while on holiday in the Italian Alps. Fortunately, the operation was a success.

I wonder how long I will be able to keep this going...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Slovak Word of the Day 10: dych

dych n. masc. breath

So I was sitting next to my wife on the train the other day and she offered me a mint. Wondering whether there was a subtext, I asked her quite simply či smrdí duch. She fell about laughing.

I had thought I was doing quite well to remember the word for breath, but I had confused dych (breath) with duch (spirit). What I had asked was either a deeply metaphysical question, or a hilarious error.

I should have known better. From duch comes duchovný (spiritual; also used as a noun to mean "priest). Hence the fact that for a Slovak speaker, David Duchovny, from The X-Files, has such an appropriate name. It should have been unforgettable; it will be now!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Slovak Word of the Day 9: sýty

sýty adj. satiated, full

This one came to mind when reading Janette Maziniová's blog. I can't claim to really follow everything she is saying, but I did notice a nice Slovak idiom - vlk sýty aj ovca cela (a full wolf and a whole sheep). It's quite a common idiom as far as I can tell and the meaning is fairly obvious - something like to have your cake and eat it. I suppose it's exactly the same idea, except that in Slovakia the poor sheep takes the place of the cake...

Another good Slovak wolf-related idiom which you hear a lot is hladný ako vlk (hungry as a wolf, which again is pretty self explanatory). Of course foreigners wanting to look smart by knowing the idiom have to get their pronunciation right, because announcing you are chladný ako vlk is, as we have seen, likely to provoke more hilarity than admiration!

By the way, this blog approaches the Anglo-Slovak communication issue from the other side. It mentions hladný ako vlk (as an alternative to "hungry as a hunter", which I didn't realise was an English phrase...), but I am particularly proud to discover that "cool as a cucumber" should be translated pokojný ako Angličan!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Slovak Word of the Day 8: verný

verný adj. faithful

This one is designed to explain the comment on my earlier post that a translation is like a woman: ak je verná, nie je pekná, ak je pekná, nie je verná (if she is faithful, she's not pretty; if she's pretty, she's not faithful).

It's and easy word to remember because it is obviously related to veriť (to believe). It also calls to mind nevera (unfaithfulness), as in the Elán song Amnestiu na neveru (Amnesty for Unfaithfulness).

I'll come back to Elán when I can - in fact, it's remarkable that I have managed to write even this much about the Slovak language and culture without mentioning Slovakia's biggest rock band. I joke with my wife that 50% of the songs on Slovak radio are by Elán and I don't think that is much of an exaggeration. Fortunately their music is excellent, as well as being a brilliant source of Slovak idiom.

Incidentally, my wife's friends, who were already suspicious as to why rozvod came up earlier, will really be wondering what is going on now. I'm on the lookout for something cheerier for Word of the Day 9

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Slovak Word of the Day 7: obežník

obežník n.masc. circular

Most of the time I find it hard to remember Slovak words, because I'm new to Slavic languages and it's hard to relate a new word to something I already know. I remember, when my wife and I were first dating, her trying to teach me some basic words of Slovak. The names for the colours bore no resemblance to their names in any other language that I knew, and pretty soon I was wondering whether I would ever make any progress with this language.

Three years down the line, somehow through endless repetition those things have stuck. But it's still very nice when a word creates an image which sticks in your head all on its own. Obežník is a good example - bežať means to run, so of course an obežník is a runner-around: a circular.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Slovak Word of the Day 6: novela

novela n.fem. amendment

SME informed us yesterday that Gašparovič opäť nepodpísal protiextrémistickú novelu. This false friend was news to me. My first thought was how strange it was that Gašparovič, the Slovak President, was refusing to sign copies of his anti-extremist novel. Why was he ashamed to be associated with such a novel and who knew that, like the British Prime Ministers Disraeli and Churchill, Gašparovič was a novelist?

But sadly, that was not the case. Novela (which according to my dictionary can also mean "novella"), in this case meant "amendment". As far as I understand the story, the Slovak Parliament has just passed an amendment to the Criminal Code providing for penalties in the case of violence committed with extremist motives and production, dissemination or possession of extremist material, over the President's veto.

The proper word for "novel" in Slovak, by the way, is román.