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SLOVAK MATTERS

The Common Cold

WE'VE ALL EXPERIENCED going to sleep one night feeling fine and waking in the morning to the symptoms of that torturous thing known as the common cold (nádcha). Like zombies (mŕtvoly; mŕtvola) we move through the day, not sick enough to stay home and not well enough to feel good.

WE'VE ALL EXPERIENCED going to sleep one night feeling fine and waking in the morning to the symptoms of that torturous thing known as the common cold (nádcha). Like zombies (mŕtvoly; mŕtvola) we move through the day, not sick enough to stay home and not well enough to feel good.

As with every new situation in Slovakia, I have taken this season's common cold as an opportunity to learn new vocabulary and have been pleasantly surprised by the amount of colorfully specific words one can use to describe these symptoms. So, I dedicate this column to the common cold and the uncommon words used to describe it.

"What's wrong?" (Čo sa deje?) many people ask. I say, "I have a cold" (Mám nádchu). Because it is my wont, I investigate the words to describe, in disgusting detail, exactly what my particular problems are. They are as follows: I have a runny nose (tečie mi z nosa); my head hurts (bolí ma hlava); my sinuses are full (mám upchaté dutiny); I'm coughing (kašlem, mám kašeľ); I want to go home (chcem ísť domov). Now, this may seem like too much complaining, but because I'm not Slovak, it is usually greeted with a smile and a compliment on my vocabulary. This is one of the strange instances when it is fun to be a foreigner.

Then I found that there are more specific words, perhaps even untranslatable, glorious words describing very nicely exactly what might be coming forth from my head. My enlightenment began when I confided to a colleague, "Mám veľa šušňov". I meant to convey the idea that I was suffering from a cold, but I had instead announced something to the effect that I had a nose full of dried old boogers. Somewhat startled and stifling a laugh, she told me that what I had was sopeľ (máš sople), which translates loosely as a runny nose. Had my nose been stuffed, I should have said, "Mám plný nos" (My nose is full). I wrote this down. Brilliant.

So, for the rest of the day, I wandered in a fog of never-ending nose blowing (fúkam si nos) and piles and piles of sopeľ-filled tissues (vreckovky; vreckovka). And everywhere I went, I found new phrases, many of which were not even part of my common cold, but a part of anyone's cold. I have a sore throat (bolí ma hrdlo, škrabe ma v hrdle - a fun word to push out); I have a fever (mám teplotu); I'm dizzy (chytá ma závrat); I'm tired (som unavený (m.), unavená (f.)); I'm fed up with this (mám toho plné zuby). By the end of the day I was feeling better just by imagining all those ailments I didn't have.

On top of offering these expressions, people will also suggest numerous ideas how to feel better. You will find that folk wisdom is different in every culture, and I wish I could mention some of it, but I think I'll save it for another column. Until then I will leave you with the wish: "Get well soon!" (Skoro sa uzdrav!) if you happen to be inflicted with a head full of sopľov (mám hlavu plnú sopľov).


Vocabulary review:


nádcha - common cold;
mám nádchu - I have a cold
Čo sa deje? - what's wrong?
tečie mi z nosa - my nose is runny
bolí ma hlava - my head hurts
mám upchaté dutiny - my sinuses are full
kašlem, mám kašeľ - I have a cough
šušeň - booger
sopeľ - snot
vreckovka - tissue
mám plný nos- my nose is stuffed
bolí ma hrdlo, škrabe ma v hrdle - my throat is sore
mám teplotu - I have a fever
chytá ma závrat - I'm dizzy
som unavený (m.), unavená (f.) - I'm tired
Skoro sa uzdrav!- Get well soon!

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