Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Some other cabbages

Oi. That's not a rose, that's a růže.

One of the things that tends to happen when I go off to live abroad is that my name changes. Not through any choice of mine, even that time I was on the run from a really big library fine. Honest, guv. But I've got one of those ordinary names that has versions in most European cultures. Because the name's been around for a while, it always seems to have a local variation which is usually spelled differently as well.

Versions 5.1, 5.2, 5.3 & 5.4 (western and southern slavic languages) of my name also come equipped with an enormous number of different nicknames, depending on language of origin. They decline like all the other Proper Nouns in the neighbourhood. But that's not all. My surname, owing to its anglophone-ness, doesn't benefit from this kind of linguistic upgrade but does get a bolt-on owing to my female gender. And so Peril becomes Perilova.

Somewhat disconcertingly, the correct form of address in this case, "Pani Perilova" is usually translated to "Mrs. Peril", even though I'm not married. This is because I'm too old to address as "Miss" and remain polite (yeah…). Of course, this ends up making me feel entirely too mature for my liking, or just looking around for my mother.

But it turns out that the -ova suffix is a matter of some hot 'n' fiery debate. Mrs. Jana finds it to be an absolute linguistic necessity. For her, it's up there with the proper declension of the masculine animate in the accusative. The world will stop turning before she leaves it off. Quoth she, "We are Czech, and we must speak the Czech language PROPERLY. This is correct. It is the way it is supposed to be."

But others find it, "…really stupid. Everybody knows that these words are foreign, and it's stupid to see them like this with Czech endings. They are foreign names, not Czech names. This isn't the proper way to write these names." I'll leave them to fight it out with knedliks at dawn.

All this is why when scanning the book racks, it's not unusual to see the works of Jude Deverauxova and Jude Deveraux side-by-side, depending on the translator/publisher's preference. It's also why I cherish a secret hope that the Paltrow/Martin offspring, Apple, will marry a chap called "Tern" and then write a book which is published in Czech translation by "Apple Ternova".

Given my childish amusement in such things, is it any wonder that when wandering around the cemetary at Vyšehrad this weekend (key phrase: "it's really nice here, when it's not raining") I was filled with delight to come across the memorial for Jakub Benda and his wife, Zdenka…


Suisan said...

Apple Ternova: Hee.

fiveandfour said...

Sadly, I can't say that I wouldn't have stood there in the graveyard laughing like a crazy person when I came across the Benda familia. And I also can't say that when I finally calmed down to the occasional fitful snort that I wouldn't have asked myself the question about who had Bendaova'd the most - Jakub or Zdenka - and set the whole laughing/gasping/side clutching routine in motion all over again.

RPC said...


Also, am always gleeful at an appearance from Mrs Jana.

EvilAuntiePeril said...

Suisan, if there is justice in the world... hee.

fiveandfour, it get's better - when the -ova ending gets stuck on, any preceding vowels (like the "a" in Benda) get dropped.

rpc, thought you'd appreciate it.