Spectator on facebook

Spectator on facebook

SLOVAK MATTERS

Frog screams over the river Nitra

IF YOU often upset Slovaks as I often manage without even trying, there is a good chance that you'll be told to "Choď do pekla!" (Go to hell!), but that's not the only destination that could be recommended. I'm too polite to give a full description of where you're being told to go if someone says "Choď do riti!" but suffice it to say that a) you don't want to go there and b) you're probably sitting on it right now.
A more pleasant place to be sent is Prčice, a small village in the Czech Republic, although people are being far from polite when they tell you to "Choď do Prčíc!" In fact they are using it as a euphemism, connected to female body parts - however, you can hear almost anyone say it. One former colleague of mine would often mumble "Do Prčíc!" to herself, and then give a shocked apology if she realised anyone was actually within hearing.

IF YOU often upset Slovaks as I often manage without even trying, there is a good chance that you'll be told to "Choď do pekla!" (Go to hell!), but that's not the only destination that could be recommended. I'm too polite to give a full description of where you're being told to go if someone says "Choď do riti!" but suffice it to say that a) you don't want to go there and b) you're probably sitting on it right now.

A more pleasant place to be sent is Prčice, a small village in the Czech Republic, although people are being far from polite when they tell you to "Choď do Prčíc!" In fact they are using it as a euphemism, connected to female body parts - however, you can hear almost anyone say it. One former colleague of mine would often mumble "Do Prčíc!" to herself, and then give a shocked apology if she realised anyone was actually within hearing.

Then there is the Welsh village of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwll Llantysiliogogogochwhich, which translates to St Mary's church in the hollow of the white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the Church of St Tysilio of the red cave. With a name like that the village should not be too hard to find. The odd thing about it is that the name was artificially created (but I think you probably could have guessed that) in the 1880s to try and encourage tourism. It worked.

The town of Komárno [1] should really consider the same idea. Maybe it would get more tourists if it changed its name to Multikultúrnemestokdesaváhstretávasdunajomscelkompeknýmeurópskymnámestím (Multicultural city where the Váh meets the Danube with a rather nice European Square). Instead it is simply called Komárno - City of Mosquitoes. Not the most suitable name for attracting tourists. It is not the only one either - There are also Komárany [2], Komárov [3], and two Komárovces [4,5]. Perhaps someone should explain marketing to them.

Some Slovak villages have the right idea for attracting tourists such as Biela Voda (White Water) [6], which at least sounds like a good place for water sports. Or how about Bohatá (Rich) [7] - now that sounds like the sort of place I would like to live, certainly more than in Druhá strana (the Other Side) [8]. Perhaps the people from Bohatá visit Banka (Bank) [9] a lot.

Some places sound like they do not really want to have tourists at all, Počkaj (Wait) [10], Vinná (Guilty) [11] and Nevoľné (Engaged) [12] spring instantly to mind. Calling a small village Praha (Prague) [13] on the other hand seems to be taking things too far in the opposite direction.

Many Slovak towns have quite descriptive names. Banská or baňa in the name of a town refers to mining, such as Banská Bystrica (Mine Rapids) [14] or Nová Baňa (New Mine) [15]. Salt mining has also left its mark with names such as Soľ (Salt) [16], Soľník [17], and even Soľnička (Salt Shaker) [18]. The wilder side of the country is also represented by Vlky (Wolves) [19], Vlkov [20], Vlková [21], and Vlkovce [22].

Some market towns include the day of the week in the name, indicating that a market used to take place then. Examples are Dunajská Streda (Danube Wednesday) [23], Plavecký Štvrtok (Swimming Thursday) [24], and Rimavská Sobota (Rimava Saturday) [25].

There are some even more bizarre examples of town names in Slovakia including Pukanec (Popcorn) [26]. My own personal favourite is Žabokreky nad Nitrou (Frog screams over the river Nitra) [27].

There are also many places named after Slovak national heroes although these are inexplicably (being generous) mainly found in Hungarian-speaking areas: Štúrovo (after Ľudovít Štúr, 19th century Slovak nationalist) [27], Hurbanovo (after Jozef Hurban, an associate of Štúr) [28], Bernolákovo (after Anton Bernolák, first codifier of the Slovak language) [29], and Sládkovičovo (after Andrej Sládkovič, a 19th century poet) [30].

It seems fitting to complete the map of Slovakia with Bratislava (known as Istropolis in Latin), itself barely escaped being named after US president Woodrow Wilson at the end of the First World War. Wilsonovo Mesto (Wilson's Town) was suggested but rejected in 1919 when the ownership of Bratislava (or Pressburg to the Germans) was finally settled by its occupation by Czechoslovak troops.

Hungary had hoped to keep Bratislava (called Pozsony by the Hungarians) as an important port on the Danube. The name Bratislava itself is believed to be derived from the name of Braslav, a medieval Slavic prince, although the name is coincidentally close to Bratislav or Brotherly Love. Quite fitting for a town that was trilingual (Slovak, Hungarian, German) for much of its history.

Top stories

Product quality laid on the EU table

Concerns over the different quality of same brand products are confirmed, but will anything change soon?

Will shopping in supermarkets soon become a thing of the past?

Education minister fails to explain distribution of EU money

The opposition parties plan to initiate a no-confidence vote, the second against this minister.

Education Minister Peter Plavčan

Who will stand up for journalists in Turkish prisons?

Journalists living in countries where politicians (for now) do not send people to prison for their opinions, who only sigh in relief that they are lucky this story does not concern them, are deeply mistaken.

Protesters in front of the court building.

EU court’s advocate general proposes to dismiss quota lawsuits

Yves Bot rejects arguments from Slovakia and Hungary on the legality of the relocation plan.

Refugees at the border between Hungary and Serbia.