Every language has its peculiar charms. English, with more than three million terms, is beautiful in its precision, even if it remains largely a dull knife in the hands of many of its users. Slovak, in the right hands, achieves great heights in those expressions which are not to be found in any other language, at least not in the way Slovaks mean them. Here are 10 of the best.
1. Sedlák. This word, meaning roughly 'peasant' or 'hayseed', draws on Slovakia's agricultural past, but is greatly enriched by the nation's experience of having peasants moved en masse to communist cities in the 1950s to 1980s. Imagine a village dweller who has moved to a Slovak city, and is doing his best to ape what he thinks 'city living' requires. Sedláci wear suits with white socks, and slip-on shoes (known in Slovak as mokasíny). Sedláci, particularly if they have privatised a firm in the 1990s, will never wait in traffic if they can drive down the sidewalk in their SUV. Sedláci enjoy Euro-pop, don't read books, and pick their noses (vrtať si v nose - lit. "to bore in their noses", related to the English 'drilling for oil') in public. In short, they are ignorant jerks. Every country has sedláci, but only Slovakia has come up with the perfect word to describe them.
There is a great difference, however, between the boorish sedlák and the honourable sedliak, a person who works the land and has no urban pretensions (sedliak may come from sedlo, a saddle for the horses which peasants used). Ty si sedlák is an insult, while calling someone a sedliak is a statement of fact. The mass of sedláci are known as sedlač.