Počítat

Now everyone else in the world has just given up and taken the English word “Computer” into their language. Not the Czechs. They cling to their equivalent, based on their verb for compute, pocitat. When I look up the stem of that verb, “čítat”, in my Slovnik Spisovne Cestiny, it defines it as meaning the same as “číst”, or read. So here the computer can also read, as well as calculate sums. I suppose this means Czech computers are more clever than their counterparts abroad. Judging from the programmers I’ve met here, this just might be true.

Vadit a Bavit

Vadit and Bavit – these two verbs are diametrically opposed. One of them means “bother” while the other means “enjoy”, kind of. The problem is, the sounds are so similar that it is easy to get confused. I never know when to say “nevadim” or “nebavim”. It’s like I’ve got aural dislexia, unable to differentiate between the positions of the consonants. One wonders how it is possible to communicate at all in Czech sometimes.

Šachy

The Czechs are not chess fanatics like Hungarians or Russians, so you can actually relax and enjoy the game here. Naturally, when you have the other player’s king in jeapardy in English, you say “Check”. One would think that here, you could simply say “English” to show the king’s about to get clobbered. But no, you have to say “Shock!”. No wonder more people don’t play here. Too much trauma and stress.

Pokoj

A Pokoj (“poke oi”) is where you likely live. It is a room where you can be at peace. Consequently, many people say “dejmi pokoj” which means “leave me alone” or “give me some peace”. But if you happen to get involved with a gold-digger, this may take on a more literal meaning, and you’ll find yourself buying a new flat for your lover.

Czech affixes

Czech is a highly synthetic language, as English was once long ago. Where English has been dramatically simplified over its brutal history of conquest and assimilation, Czech has retained its complexity. Why this should be so is a matter of debate. Certainly, it serves the purpose of invidious distinction.

Jiří – George

What is it with first names? People are so sensitive about them, demanding that we call them by what they have decided, rather than by what makes sense. Take the case of Jiří. All the Jiří’s I know a swell fellas. All of the insist that the proper way to address them in English is “George”. Sorry, but this just doesn’t sound right. It may be linguistically correct, but wouldn’t it make more sense to call them Jerry? Let’s not even get started on the rolling r with a hacek. We just don’t have this sound. But to transform this into George? Similarly, a Czech friend named “Jakub” insists that this translates properly into James. He knows it’s true because he saw it in a dictionary. Nonsense. I declare that Jiri shall henceforth be named Jerry, and Jakub is Jacob. If they don’t like it, they should change their names to Fred!

Salát

This should be an easy one. Obviously, it is the same as the English word “salad”. Unfortunately, what passes for a salad in this country is far, far away from what we have back in sunny California. My favorite is “rybi salat”, fish salad. There doesn’t seem to be any vegetable matter in much of the “salát” here, but it is darned tasty. Trying to pass off these concoctions in California though, might get you arrested.

Kradlík

After having my pocket picked, I thought I learned the verb to steal, “kradit”. It turns out this is not true, as the verb (inexplicably) seems to be “krast”. Nonetheless, I began refering to a person who steals as “kradlík”. Everyone understood this word. Unfortunately, this is a neologism, and the actual word for thief is “zlodej”. Of course there is no corresponding verb “zlodit” either. Someone seems to have stolen some verb/noun pairs. Call the language police!

Dárek, díky

Dárky
The plural of dárek, (gift).

Díky
Prounounced “dee kee”, it is the short form of the much more difficult to say děkuji (dee eh ku ee). Unfortunately, it is also considered quite informal to say díky, so don’t test it out on your boss.

Jasně

“Clear”, is used more and more frequently to have the same meaning as, of course, or obvious. (E.g. Farmer one: “It’s cloudy today. Farmer two: “It’s clear.”) In the bohemian metropolis, the ending has been shifted to a sneering “ej”, so you can agree disagreeably by answering a statement with “to jasnej”.