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SLOVAK MATTERS

Talking tough: Get it from the kitchen

EVER wonder how Slovak tough guys (tvrďasi) talk? What Miki Černák says when he wants da boys to do a numbah on Ivan Miško's gang?
We got a glimpse of tough talk in a telephone conversation reprinted in the Sme daily paper on April 2. The transcript featured two key players in the collapse of the Horizont unlicensed investment fund this spring. One of the men in the conversation - Horizont co-owner Vladimír Fruni - was recording the call, apparently from his hideout (skrýša) in Croatia. The other - and long-fingered financier Jozef Majský has said it's not him - was not identified by the paper, and was apparently unaware he was being taped.

EVER wonder how Slovak tough guys (tvrďasi) talk? What Miki Černák says when he wants da boys to do a numbah on Ivan Miško's gang?

We got a glimpse of tough talk in a telephone conversation reprinted in the Sme daily paper on April 2. The transcript featured two key players in the collapse of the Horizont unlicensed investment fund this spring. One of the men in the conversation - Horizont co-owner Vladimír Fruni - was recording the call, apparently from his hideout (skrýša) in Croatia. The other - and long-fingered financier Jozef Majský has said it's not him - was not identified by the paper, and was apparently unaware he was being taped.

O čom sa jednalo (what was it all about)? Well, Fruni was begging the other man to send him the originals of a contract for the sale of Horizont, saying he would be hung out to dry if he was busted by the police with no proof that the firm had been sold. The other man tried to reassure him, saying all the heat he was feeling from the police was political, and had to do with Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda's need to look active in the run-up to September elections.

"Teba potrebujú ako hruštičku, ako oriešok" (they need you as a pear, as a nut, ie as an extra bonus on top of their hard work), the unidentified man says in the interview, advising Fruni to keep hidden.

Fruni does a good deal of moaning about being nailed, speculating keby ma dnes čapli, what if they caught me now, from čapnúť, to hobble. The other man has another word for getting caught - drapnúť, to scratch (ie mrakodrap, a skyscraper) from dráp, a bird's talon (padnúť do nepriateľských drápov, to fall into the clutches of the enemy).

The men are right to be somewhat paranoid, as the hundreds of thousands of people who lost billions of crowns in investment fund crashes this year have had politicians scurrying around trying to foist the blame on someone else. The unidentified caller tells Fruni to stay cool until "tie krvavé oči odídu" (the people with blood in their eyes leave). The English expression to have blood in your eye conveys the same sense of ire that Dzurinda's minions must feel.

Fruni is also particularly concerned not to napáliť, or anger, another unspecified group of people, "však nám zabijú rodiny" (they'll murder our families). Murder has many equivalents in Slovak, from the normal zavraždiť to odstrániť (take out), zbaviť sa (get rid of), odkrágľovať (no dictionary entry, but very close to the English scrag, to kill by strangling or hanging), zahlušiť (to silence), zniesť zo sveta (take from the world) and zlikvidovať (to liquidate, as in the 'wet work' term used for murder in spy novels).

Although there is no date given for the interview, it must have been done before an international arrest warrant (zatykač) was issued for Fruni and his cronies, who were duly picked up by Croatian police (poliši or zelení, greens) in March. Fruni's term in custody has been extended so Croatia can decide whether to extradite him to Slovakia.

If ever put before a court, it is quite likely that Fruni would be put away (zavrieť, to close, or ísť sedieť, to go sit) for fraud (podvod, or underwater). Once zabásnutý (jailed, from basa, jail; see also loch, lock-up, or árešt) he would likely be asked za čo sedíš, what are you in for, although given the number of people he napálil, he should choose his words carefully.

What happened between the recorded conversation and Fruni's jailing is not known to the wider public. Perhaps someone squealed (bonzovať), snitched (prásknuť, to burst) or set him up (streliť, to shoot). Maybe the phone was bugged (napichnutý) in spite of the men's elaborate precautions to ensure a clean line (dobrý telefón, in other words a mobile whose SIM card was bought in a foreign country by a different person, and which is used only for calls to one number).

But as the man-who-isn't-Jozef-Majský says, he has reliable information (mám to úplne z kuchyne, I have it from the kitchen) that the police are on fire to look active before elections, egged on by politicians: "that [Economy Minister Ľubomír] Harach and probably [Deputy Prime Minister for Economy Ivan] Mikloš are going down."

It may be a little late for all this action, given the political and economic damage years of indulgence of the activities of unlicensed funds has done. It is late in the day, too, for promises to fill the jails with mafia Capos and underworld bosses - after almost a decade of independence, Slovak has many slang expressions for murder, but only a few for the jail and police, giving one the impression that the former has made a far greater impact on the public consciousness than the latter.

Slovak Matters is a bi-weekly column devoted to helping expats and foreigners understand the beautiful but difficult Slovak language.
The next Slovak Matters will appear on stands April 29, Vol. 8, No. 16.

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