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SLOVAK MATTERS

Under the dog: Speaking of sickness

HAPČÍ!!!!!
That's me, sneezing again (hapčí! is the Slovak equivalent of the English onomatopoeia atchoo!). Yep, feeling sick as a dog (cítim sa pod psa, I feel under the dog), trying not to infect the office with my wet sneezes (kýchania).
It seems to happen every year, this gang beating by the weather and my suddenly undependable breathing apparatus (including sinuses, or dutiny; throat, or hrdlo; and lungs, or pľúca). The sun disappears for what feels like 71 days starting in late October, the rain pours down, and your nose fills up.

HAPČÍ!!!!!

That's me, sneezing again (hapčí! is the Slovak equivalent of the English onomatopoeia atchoo!). Yep, feeling sick as a dog (cítim sa pod psa, I feel under the dog), trying not to infect the office with my wet sneezes (kýchania).

It seems to happen every year, this gang beating by the weather and my suddenly undependable breathing apparatus (including sinuses, or dutiny; throat, or hrdlo; and lungs, or pľúca). The sun disappears for what feels like 71 days starting in late October, the rain pours down, and your nose fills up.

Kýchanie is followed rapidly by kašľanie, coughing, which may worsen into a bark (kahŕňať) or a hack (a kŕčovitý kašeľ is a hacking cough). You may even find yourself coughing your lungs out, or chrchlať, derived from chriacheľ, the slang for spit or saliva.

So you're sick, or chorý. What exactly is your problem? You may just have a cold (nádcha, nachladnutie) or the flu, chrípka, from chripľavý, husky or hoarse. If the symptoms last more than several days, however, and your snot (sopeľ) turns green, you may have bronchitis (bronchitída or zápal priedušiek) or even pneumonia (zápal pľúc).

Let's stay with snot for a second. To have a runny nose is mať sopľavý nos, or just to be sopľavý. To act in a snotty manner, however, is to správať sa nafúkane (blown up), namyslene ('thought-up') or povýšenecky ('from above').

But if your problem is not immodesty and you find you have to visit the doctor, remember that Slovakia's general practitioners, or 'first-contact' doctors, are often reluctant - or even unable - to prescribe medicine for more serious ailments. You may find yourself visiting the hospital for an x-ray (röntgen) of your lungs and several hours wait in the waiting room (čakáreň).

The rule of thumb in waiting rooms is that the latest arrival asks the assembled patients: "Who is last in line" (Kto je, prosím vás, posledný?). People who don't respect this custom will get violent black looks from those waiting for being pushy (in Slovak, for having široké lakte, or wide elbows), and these days even a verbal challenge from some bold soul ("ty kam ideš?" or where are you going?, or "ten sa kam predbieha?" or where is he outpacing?). Ten years ago, however, few of the waiters would have said anything, contenting themselves with a muttered "odkiaľ berie toľkú drzosť?", or where does he/she get so much cheek?

When finally you do get in to see the doctor (lekár/lekárka), you may be asked "a čo vám je?" (and what's up with you?) or "ako vám možeme pomocť?" (how can we help you?).

Your answer should contain some reference to your general state (je mi zle od žalúdka, bolí ma hrdlo etc.; my stomach, throat etc. hurts). You should mention whether you have a temperature (teplota), if your joints (kĺby) are bothering you, whether you have aches and pains (Slovak uses bolesť for both English words). A headache is bolesť hlavy, a stomachache bolesť žalúdka, a toothache bolesť zuba.

The doctor may prescribe (predpísať, naordinovať) some drugs (lieky) for you, in the form of a prescription (recept), which you must take to a pharmacy (lekáreň) to have filled. Pharmacies usually have two windows, one for prescriptions and one for over-the-counter drugs (voľno-predajné lieky), so make sure you get in the right line if you don't want that muttering to start up again.

Both the doctor and the pharmacist will want to see your health insurance card (zdravotný preukaz poistenca) entitling you to receive either free or subsidised care and medicine.

And that's about it, save the recovery (vyzdravenie). Get well soon (prajem skoré uzdravenie) if you are chorý, good health (pevné zdravie) if you remain zdravý, and stop feeling sorry for yourself (prestaň sa ľutovať) if you are a hypochondriac (hypochonder).

Vocabulary

bolesť - pain
bronchitída - bronchitis
chorý - sick, ill
chrípka - flu
čakáren - waiting room
hrdlo - throat
je mi zle od žalúdka - I'm sick to my stomach
kašľať, kašľanie - to cough, coughing
kýchľať, kýchanie - to sneeze, sneezing
lekár/lekárka - doctor
nádcha - common cold
dutiny - sinuses
pľúca - lungs
predpísať - to prescribe
recept - prescription
röntgen - x-ray
sopľavý - stuffed up
teplota - temperature, fever
vyzdravenie - recovery
zápal pľúc - pneumonia
zdravotný preukaz - health card
zdravý - healthy

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 November 18, Vol. 8, No. 44.

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