I’m taking a break from renovating our new flat to unleash my inner pedant on you all. Again. I intend to do so in less grumpy and more helpful fashion than last time.
The front page of Mlada Fronta Dnes (a Czech national newspaper) is the inspiration for this post.
Yesterday’s lead article focused on proposed changes to the Czech language, such as whether it is ever ok to say “abysme” instead of the more formal “abychom” (note to self – must look at that chapter on ‘aby’ clauses again) and which words borrowed from English should be officially included into Czech. Unfortunately for those of you who are keen to master my native tongue, many of the words which have been borrowed actually mean something quite different when used in English.
Unfair, isn’t it? Worry not: Girl in Czechland is here to sort out some of the confusion.
Here’s a bit of Czechlish to start us off.
“Unlike almost every other Czech citizen, I’m not going to the cottage this August weekend because I have to reconstruct my flat.”
Gasp! What misfortune could have befallen this unfortunate Czech speaker of English? Has their flat been reduced to a pile of rubble by a bolt of lightning in the recent storms?
Nope. They’re simply mistranslating “rekonstruovat” which in English actually means “to renovate” or “to do up” if you want to show off and use a phrasal verb. So for example, “Czechman and I are having a simply delightful time dedicating every minute of our spare time to doing up our new home together.”
Which we are. But more of that another time.
2. They wanted her to go to rehab
Another dull afternoon stuck in a poorly ventilated office somewhere in Prague. It could be worse: I could be a Hooters Girl. Or a management consultant.*
As part of the general chit chat which passes for fluency practice, I politely enquire how Bozena’s teenage daughter is getting along. Last week she had to be brought home from summer camp early after spraining her ankle.
“Monika is fine but she needs to go to rehab.”
Surely a week at summer camp somewhere in Bohemia hasn’t transformed Bozena’s thirteen year old daughter into Czechland’s answer to Amy Winehouse?
Thankfully not. Bozena simply mistranslated ‘rehabilitace.’ Today young Monika needs physio but as for the future – who knows?
3. Tunnelling your way to a quick profit
This is a common error so please do pay attention.
If you want to discuss the financial dodgy dealings which are apparently rather common here in Czechland, and you find yourself using the word “tunnel”, be prepared to be met with bemused looks on the faces of your native speaker audience.
You probably mean asset stripping.So for example, rather than saying “The Russian mafia bought the bank and then tunnelled it” which makes it sound vaguely like they were locked in the vault during a failed robbery and then tried desperately to escape before the police arrived, you should say, “Those damn Russians bought the bank and then stripped its assets.” Simple, eh?
If you’re the lead character in The Shawshank Redemption, you can tunnel your way out of a high security prison with a lot of patience and a tea spoon. Moles do a lot of tunnelling too but I’ve never heard of one being prosecuted for fraud.
Sorry, that last bit was supposed to be funny. I think I’ll stick to the bad puns.
*Apologies to any Hooters girls or management consultants reading this.