Sympatický host

When I was in the Navy, the Master Chief used to say, “if you want sympathy, you can find it in the dictionary…right between shit and syphillis”. This was good advice, but it doesn’t help when a Czech word has an almost opposite meaning from English. A great example of this is “host”. A host in English is the person who provides accomodation for a guest. In Czech, the word host means guest. Similarly, in English sympathy is something you get for being a pathetic loser. Here, being sympathetic is more akin to attractiveness or likeability. So when someone says you are sympathetic, it means you look good instead of act kindly. So a sympathetic host in Australia may be willing to hear your hard-luck story and give you a discount off your night’s stay. Here, it’s just a good looking lodger.

4 odpovědi na “Sympatický host”

  1. Reading this I noticed this little bizzarrerie in english language:
    sympathy – sympathetic (sympatie – sympatický)
    antipathy – antipathic (antipatie – antipatický)

    I must say I don’t really understand this misuse of logic in word formation.
    Maybe I’m also dumb ignoramus. Can anyone explain it?

  2. Interesting question, Mr. Jamie! It got me curious.

    I’ve never heard or seen the word “antipathic,” and Webster’s dictionary does not list it. So I was going to tell you the word doesn’t exist. However, I did a Google search and found that it does exist. It can mean conventional or traditional medicine as opposed to “homeopathic” medicine, such as herbs, yoga, meditation, acupuncture etc. It is also used for a medication that will produce the opposite reaction from the one caused by the illness. For example, if a patient is suffering from a rapid heartbeat, an antipathic remedy would be something that would cause the heart to slow down.

    The word “antipathetic” is more common. It means having negative feelings, or it describes something that causes you to have negative feelings. Example: The old man was antipathetic to any change in his lifestyle.

    As for the question of why these two words are formed differently in English, that is an interesting bit of trivia. Ultimately, both words come from the Greek words “anti-” (against, opposite) and “pathein” (to suffer, to feel). In English, there are some words with the ending “-pathy” which retain the original meaning of “feeling” or “suffering,” and others which use the same ending, but its meaning has shifted to “treatment” or “remedy.” The ending “-pathic” (as in homeopathic) is simply the adjective form of that ending, and it, too, can have either meaning (“psychopathic” means suffering from mental illness; “homeopathic” is a non-traditional form of treatment).

    The ending “-pathetic” also comes from the same Greek root word “pathein,” to suffer or feel, but it comes into English by way of the Greek “pathetikos,” which is an adjective meaning “sensitive.” So the difference in formations and meanings was already there in Greek, and both variations of the word came into English.

    I am not an expert on Czech etymology, but it appears to me that when Czech borrowed the same Greek word, it borrowed only one form, namely the “-pathic” ending (-patický), not both forms as in English. But I may be wrong on that.

  3. Elena, as always erudite, kind hearted, and suprisingly attractive:

    But “homeo” means something like “same”. So a homosexual likes the same sex.

    The “alternative medicine” claim of homeopathy is that a very small amount of a poison will react with the body’s “feelings” (pathy) to make the larger poison go away…or something like that.

    I’m keeping my vow to eschew any activity that smacks of research, learning, or erudition, but a wiser and better educated person may have something valuable to contribute to this vital discussion.

    At any rate, I think both languages, English and Czech, evoke the original sense of “pathy” or feeling, but the result is different. Czech seems to imply a “fellow feeling” while English gives off “sorry feeling”.

    As many venerable linguistics professors have remarked, “ain’t language a bitch!”

    Fred (the dumb ignoramus)

  4. Wow, thanks, Fred. As Mark Twain said, I can live for two months on a good compliment. The only problem is that, with my head now significantly inflated, I will have to get a larger door so I can get into and out of my house.

    You are right about “homeopathy.” I was fuzzy on it, and I should have looked it up. You are also right about the origin of the word “homosexual.” I thought it was from the Latin word “homo,” meaning “man,” but I was wrong. That’s why I like this forum; I learn something new every day.

    However, there are two different Greek prefixes being confused here: the first is “homeo-,” meaning “similar,” and the second is “homo-,” meaning “the same.”

    As long as you are stroking my ego, you are not, repeat not, a dumb ignoramus. You are a person of extraordinary intelligence and excellent taste. Of course, if you ever meet me in person and retract all the nice things you’ve said about me, I may have to modify my position.

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