Saturday, June 20, 2009

Slovak Names

When my wife and I were married, we decided that she would take my name, but keep the Slovak feminine ending -ová. We thought it would be a nice sort of compromise, so we could have the same surname but she could still keep a bit of Slovak to it. In fact that turned out to be a good call, because when we were married they told us at the matrika (the local administrative office) that she had to have the -ová ending unless she declared herself to be of non-Slovak nationality. (In case you're wondering, národnosť (nationality) is a different thing from štátne občianstvo (citizenship) and might apply, for example, to ethnic Hungarians who are Slovak citizens).

Despite this, it's not at all strange in Slovakia to create a feminine form of a foreign name. It still strikes me as funny the way the Slovak media add the -ová ending to foreign women's names - as in this story about expenses claims by husband of the former British Home Secretary, Jacqui Smithová or this one about the well-known actress Angelina Jolieová.

I do think they may have a little trouble with my wife's name in England though. If you watch Wimbledon this week you will find the commentators struggling with the names of the two Slovak women in the draw, Daniela Hantuchová and Dominika Cibulková. They usually talk about Daniela "Hančukóva", which must sound terrible to Slovak ears. Fortunately my wife will have to work on her serve a bit before she troubles the commentators at Wimbledon. But a while ago, I heard an announcement for a "Mrs Koverkover" ("kover" pronounced both times to rhyme with "Dover") at Stansted Airport and wondered whether Pani Kováčová would have any idea she was being summoned.

The Slovaks are very happy with their system, though. It is so simple that it's used even if there is a perfectly good native feminine form of the name. For example, how would you think the Slovak media discusses Svetlana Kuzentsova? After all, her name already ends in -ova, and it's already the feminine form of a masculine name, Kuznetsov (which is, incidentally, the Russian for "Smith"). So the Slovak media just use her own name, right? Wrong - she is known as Svetlana Kuznecovová!

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