MOVED by a piece in this newspaper several weeks ago extolling the virtues of korzovanie, or strolling around the city at dusk, my wife and I have thrown a tablecloth over the TV and started visiting downtown Bratislava in the early evening (podvečer).
While this may seem an innocuous pastime, it can actually be extremely dangerous if your partner catches you goggling at all the human beauty (ľudská krása) on display in the city streets.
Since I'm not bucking for a black eye or a divorce, I won't speculate on why Slovak women seem so alluring (vábivý) or provocative (vyzývavý), but rather offer readers a vocabulary with which to express their own appreciation.
The basic terms you'll need are pekná (pretty, or pekný, handsome) and krásna (beautiful, or krásny for men). Pekná, as common adjectives tend to do, has many other applications, such as pekný kus roboty, a good deal of work. Kus, or piece, can in turn be applied to beauty, such as kus chlapa, a hunk of a man.
More slangy (hovorové) terms include fešák for men and fešanda, kost ('bone') or kočka ('cat') for women, which is equivalent to the English gorgeous (try also krásavica, kráska or nádhera/krásavec). Friends often call each other feši, good-looking, as in Čau feši, čo povieš ('Hey man, what do you say'). Used in a derogatory way fešák can be quite funny, if insulting (ty si taký fešák, že si na to prišiel, 'you're such a clever fellow for figuring it out'). In this sense it is interchangeable with frajer, big-shot.
Curiously, Slovak words for ugliness far outnumber those for beauty. There's škaredá (ugly), špata (hideous or repulsive, from špatný, ugly, bad or homely), škrata (an ogress, Gorgon, beldam, hag, runt or witch), obluda (monster, ogre), príšera (monster, spectre, spook), ohava (monster, miscreant, brute)... the list goes on.
You'll notice that many Slovak ugly words have supernatural overtones, as if people might make the sign of the cross at you if you left the house without brushing your hair. This carries through into expressions such as pomsta prírody (nature's revenge, i.e. a supremely ugly person) or jokes such as Ten človek mal byť koňom, ale pánboh si to v poslednej chvíli rozmyslel (This guy was meant to be a horse, but God changed his mind at the last minute), or Keď rozdávali krásu, ti si stál v poslednom rade (When they were giving out beauty you were at the back of the line). Strange how kids around the world come up with the same insults.
There's also škaredá ako Fantozziho dcéra, ugly as Fantozzi's daughter, from an Italian comedy famous in Slovakia in which accountant Fantozzi is always giving little gasps and starts when he catches a glimpse of his ugly daughter. As if she is so ugly he keeps forgetting she is human. Try too škaredá ako noc, ugly as night. Clothing can be trashed with the observation ja by som si to neobliekol ani v noci na záchod (I wouldn't wear that even at night while going to the toilet).
But as rich as it is, Slovak has yet to come up with a gem such as that of US writer Cormac McCarthy, who once described an ageing prostitute as so ugly that "it looks like her face caught fire and they beat it out with a rake."
Fantozzi might have taken comfort.
15. Jul 2002 at 0:00 | Tom Nicholson