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.

Jařmo a jho

Čeština pražských cizinců bývá často zdrojem zábavy. Zdrojem poučení byly otázky Skota Jamese D. Nautghtona, studenta slavistiky ze země golfu, sukní a whisky. Jim při jedné z prvních návštěv v Československu překvapil otázkou položenou téměř bezchybnou češtinou: Jaký je rozdíl mezi jařmem a jhem?
Jho nezná ani kontrola pravopisu ve wordu a vysvětlit rozdíl asi umí málokterý z českých maturantů.
Jim, jak se Jamesovi říkalo, se později vyznamenal i sepsáním učebnice Colloqial Czech, kde vystupují dvě studentky – moje manželka Jitka a naše kamarádka Zina. Následovala dlouhá řada knížek

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.

Kvačit s klikou

Kdo by do kvačení řekl, že pochází z “připínání hákem“? Kwaka býval nejen hák, ale i klika. Já, jako jazykový amatér, si dovoluji poukázat i na příbuznost s výrazem: Beru to hákem. Mistr Třešňák zpívá o nabodnutí novin na záchodě na hák. Dlouhá léta jsem si říkal, kde se ten hák na záchodě u Třešňáků vzal a dnes při psaní slova kvačit jsem pochopil, že Vlasta noviny nabodl po staročesku – na kliku.

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”.

Proletář

Proletář zavání bolševickou hantýrkou, ale kořeny má daleko před Gottwaldem, Leninem i Marxem. V latině byl proletářem občan nemající pozemky, člen nejnižší společenské třídy. Proletář byl užitečný jen svým potomstvem, nikoli majetkem a potomstvo také tvoří v latině druhou část slova proletář. Nepřekvapí nás, že je v latině proletář příbuzný i s alimenty.
Alimenty však nejsou pouze pro proletáře.

Tak jo, Tak nic

Tak jo – Agreement, meaning roughly, “so yeah”.

Tak nic – Dismissal, meaning roughly, “so nothing”. Can also be used to express the fact that not much interesting happened.