Monday, June 22, 2009

Slovak Word of the Day 4: chladný

chladný adj. cool, chilly

Today's Slovak Word of the Day comes thanks to a friend of my wife's, and as a little warning to us about the importance of proper pronunciation.

The word chladný means cool or chilly not only in the literal sense (chladné pivo, cold beer), but also applies figuratively to someone who is cool or distant (an Englishman, for example...)

My friend's English colleague, very proud of his Slovak and wishing to show it off, arrived at a party and announced, very reasonably, Ja som hladný (I am hungry). Unfortunately he must have been trying quite hard at that time to get his ch sound (rather like the ch in "loch") just right, because it came out as Ja som chladný (I am cold, distant, English...)

There's an encouraging side to this, and a disheartening one. The encouraging side is that everyone makes mistakes. The downside is that the accidentally hilarious ones will never be forgotten.

My wife still reminds me of how, visiting Slovakia at New Year and noting how everyone around me was always saying zima je (it's cold, in the sense of cold weather) I announced about a soft drink, zima je (I should have said it was studená). Psychologists say we are more likely to remember things we have learned if they are associated with strong emotions. Well, it works with embarrassment!

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