Christopher Columbus, the much maligned explorer, broght the word canoe to the Europeans, stealing it from the Haitians. Later, the Europeans stole what little the Haitians had left, (but that’s for another eblog). Czechs immediately began using the term, and vigorously exploiting the recreational activities available on the many rivers and streams in the lovely bohemian basin. After a few unfortunate mishaps on the waters, they discovered that it is necessary to speak to other kanoisti. As a result, the Czechs invented the useful phrase „ahoj“. As is natural, enough Czechs later turned to piracy on the high seas that the entire maritime world took up this way of greeting each other. Though we spelled it „ahoy“, even on a nuclear aircraft carrier we’d all say „ahoy“.
I said „ahoj“ to the photographer just before he snapped this picture. Yes, that’s brave, intrepid, fearless Fred dauntlessly taking on the terrifying rapids of the wild Sazava River. Note the determination. Note the firm grip on the paddle. Moments later I tipped over, spilling into the rushing water. Surprisingly, the rocks under the fast moving water are quite hard and sharp. And there is no sunglasses retrieval service…
„You’re waiting for high water“ is a taunt I’m quite familiar with. Of course, the kids usually said, „where’s the flood?“ The meaning was clear. Wearing my older brother’s hand-me-down pants that were too short for me, I had on „high waters“, which is an unforgivable crime on the playground. Of course, those pants finally came in handy in summer of 2002 when I could wade through the Vltava’s flooding waters in comfort and style.
When being treated to a Czech home cooked meal, be sure to know this word first. „Enough“, comes in handy when granny, grinning widely, ladles a pool of pan grease onto your food to show how extra welcome you are as a guest. Granny will continue piling food on your plate, and plying you with drink, and later cookies and maybe shots of Becherovka. Granny can drink you under the table. You may find yourself with granny in a disco later. If you do not know how to surrender, with this simple and easy to pronounce word, you may receive so much hospitality it puts you into the hospital. Know when to say, „dost“.
Yesterday’s headline in Express: Nazi cykliste protestovali proti autum. This translates to: Nazi Cyclists Protest Against Autumn
Why do Nazis hate Autumn?
Why do Nazis ride bycycles? I thought they drove Volksvagens.
If Czech is the land of illusions, the property market is a horribly distored magic mirror designed to deceive. Rude, arrogant, incompetent individuals with absolutely no training or service skills expect the equivalent of a month’s rent just to show you an apartment, doing nothing to earn their money but eager to rip off gullible foreigners who have foolishly fallen in love with a romantic illusion of Prague. The one thing these people can never be expected to understand is that quirky little thing we call reality, or everything that exists. But that’s what they call this scam business here, „Reality“. This is a perversion of the term Real Estate, which derives from the Latin „res“ or thing. In otherwords, it deals with things that actually exist. In English the profession is called Realty services, without the extra „i“. Why and how this mispelling, so obvious and easily corrected, has come into the lexicon is a mystery that probably only slovo dne readers can solve. (And if any slovo dne readers are currently involved in the real estate industry here, well, you should be ashamed of yourselves, or if you actually know what you’re doing you should contact me immediately because I’m trying to find an agent to help me here and have so far failed completely to find even one who is remotely competent and honest.)
Go to any restaurant in the Czech lands and you’re likely to see something on the menu described as Gordon Blue. This is one of the most persistent and stupid translation mistakes here, but nothing we do will ever change it. Listen you silly Czechs, it’s spelled with a C, not a G! Gordon is a man’s name. Cordon is the French word for a ribbon . Cordon Bleu means „blue ribbon“, worthy of awards. Gordon Blue means poor Gordon has drowned and is now a corpse. A Cordon Bleu dinner is delicious. A Gordon Blue dinner is an example of cannabalism . If anyone has an explanation of this monstrously stupid mistranslation, please comment here. And if you want to see a picture of an actual living Gordon, have a look here
One of the grandest experiments in socialized industrialism was the Bata shoe empire in the early decades of the last century. There workers were given housing, education, and a wide range of services. They were also expected to have a great deal of loyalty to the Bata organization. They originated the greeting, „Čest práci„, which means something like „honorable work“. This phrase was appropriated later by the communists, and is therefore not much used today. But if you are a non-native Czech speaker with a funny accent, and use this phrase with your co-workers, the famous dark sense of humor kicks in. Try it at work sometime and you’ll see…
Special thanks to today’s special guest, special professor Vaclav Trojan
When I was younger, I had what we call in American English a „cast-iron stomach“. This means that I could eat everything and anything anywhere with no problems. Jalapeno peppers? No problem. Rats, snakes, dogs? No problem. Nowadays, however, my stomach is no longer so strong and reliable (maybe all those rats and dogs?). I have a weak stomach and cannot eat many foods for fear of excruciating pain, astounding flatulence, and embarrassing runs to the restroom. My co-worker Helena (surprisingly attractive and very intelligent, like all of my colleagues) tells me that the name for a strong stomach in Czech is Kachní žaludek or duck’s stomach. But what is the opposite? The lovely, warm, wise, and surprisingly attractive readers of SlovoDne should know…
Czechs have a sometimes perverse pride in incompetence. An example of this is the horrible bureaucracy, among the worst in Europe. You’d think that they’d be eager to change this, but in fact they are reluctant to do so, typically saying Blbej, ale náš, which means „stupid, but ours„. Just the other day, Jiri Pallas, the world-famous and widely respected genius behind SlovoDne and other insidious plots, responding to one of the many complaints about my often erroneous explanations of Czech used this valuable phrase. (I suppose if I were female, he would have said, „Blbá, ale naše“.) Perhaps the loyal, devoted, and very smart readers of SlovoDne can give some other examples of how to use this wonderful description of life here in Bohemia and Moravia?
KSČM is the party for the Native Americans known as Comanchees. They were a powerful force in Czech politics until recently, when they were tricked out of power in exchange for 23 colorful beads and a nice piece of velvet. Today they want to come back into the fold, but their previous tactics of staking political opponents onto ant heaps in the hot sun has given them a bit of bad publicity.