Culture Shock: Slovak keyboards "a mzsterz"

Call me crayz. Or yanz. Upon arriving in Slovakia, all I wanted to do was write a letter home. But the computer did not want to co-operate. It was a mzsterz to me. Then, I discovered the root of the problem: the kezboard. Slovak kezboards are different from English ones. Not verz different, but just enough to make text look reallz sillz.
To begin with, the Z is where the Y was, and vice versa. That can be confusing, but not a big headache, unless the subjects of zour writing tend to be jayyz. For example, if zou are describing Yach the zak herder. Or if zou write about kazaking in Kayachstan.
Lest zou think me a complete dummz, I can report with pride that I have tamed the beast. It took me some years, but where my prose used to "yig" and "yag," it now zigs and zag with the best of the key-ticklers.


Keyboard frustration can make extreme measures seem reasonable.
illustration: Ján Svrček

Call me crayz. Or yanz. Upon arriving in Slovakia, all I wanted to do was write a letter home. But the computer did not want to co-operate. It was a mzsterz to me. Then, I discovered the root of the problem: the kezboard. Slovak kezboards are different from English ones. Not verz different, but just enough to make text look reallz sillz.

To begin with, the Z is where the Y was, and vice versa. That can be confusing, but not a big headache, unless the subjects of zour writing tend to be jayyz. For example, if zou are describing Yach the zak herder. Or if zou write about kazaking in Kayachstan.

Lest zou think me a complete dummz, I can report with pride that I have tamed the beast. It took me some years, but where my prose used to "yig" and "yag," it now zigs and zag with the best of the key-ticklers.

Not that the playful keyboard is always spiteful. In rare instances, it will show mercy and spare you from humiliation. For instance, entrepreneurial success in Tokyo requires a healthy dose of both zen and yen. Recommending either to a client should keep you safe from lawsuits.

All I'm saying is consider yourself forewarned if you think you are asking a friend to zip it and instead he yips it.

But it is not just the Z-for-Y swap that creates mayhem in this age of e-mail. Slovak keyboards also have symbols and diacritic marks where the numbers are on English keyboards. This, however, I have found a handy excuse for not giving out information I want to keep secret. You type me a message asking the year I was born? "No problem," I write back, "+íy+." My telephone number? "A cinch," I reply, "_é_Ź=íyŹ_."

But I got a taste of my own medicine. I asked a Slovak business partner for a price estimate and he sent me this response: "That will cost $@%,&$#." At first, I wanted to sack him for cursing at me. Then I realised, he had not adjusted his keyboard from English mode to his more familiar Slovak.

All things considered, the keyboard shuffle is probably a good thing. It keeps us alert and affords our digits an opportunity for extra callisthenics.

Hey, it could be worse. Always remember the over-eager worker in Paris, where the French keyboard has Z where W is on the English keyboard. Hoping to flatter the boss, he wrote: "I love your peerless zit."

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