SO YOU think you know Slovak? I thought I did too, but the more I learn, the more words there seem to be. This month the diversity of dialects is blowing my mind. With the help of many a Slovak and some dedicated readers, I have put together a few words from different dialects (nárečia) to help you and me cover Slovakia's linguistic terrain.
The fruit of Slovak soil, the potato, forms the foundation of this guide. Called zemiaky (plural) in proper Slovak, the results show some initial inter-regional synonyms for potatoes, such as zemky and zemáky, and the borrowed German terms kartofle and erteple. But this is just the beginning. There are many words specific to different regions, and not just for the humble apple of the earth.
To begin in Ivanka pri Dunaji, just several minutes east of Bratislava, the word krumple is in use. North of the capital in the Záhorie district they use grumbír to make their halušky.
This may prepare you to visit Skalica, in Záhorie, and buy a big dusty sack of grumbír, but what else do you need to know? If you go looking for a krčma (bar) there, where the nearby Czechs influence many of the words, you will find it under the name hospoda. And if you decide to rozprávať (converse) with someone in that hospoda, you would have to ríkať. That is where this column comes in. I have selected only the most serious words to strengthen your dialectic vocabulary.
Other essentials in Záhorie include the use of zelé for cabbage in place of the normal kapusta. Jaternica, a kind of sausage, is called itrnička while knedľa, or dumpling, is šiška, which in other parts of Slovakia means donut. Now you can order a complete meal.
You cannot expect anything to stay the same as you move from dialect to dialect, so keep your ears open. Back in Ivanka pri Dunaji, knedľa is knofle, for example. And if you want pasta (cestoviny), you should ask for nokrle. If you want it quickly, you will have to say friško, not the standard rýchlo.
Also important, though it takes us away from food, a chlapec, or boy in Slovak, is called a fagan there, the devil (čert) goes by krampus, and a massive nose is called raťafák.
Say you are forced to leave Ivanka after using this last insult on one of the natives, you can make up for it in Považská Bystrica, further up the track toward Žilina. Here the word for chrobák, which means beetle, is žažula and can be used to call a woman a cutie-pie.
On the other hand, to deflect an argument here, you could respond to an opinion you do not like with "čejbyci!". In standard Slovak this exclamation means "ale čo" ("but what") and "ale nie" ("but no"), and in English it is something like "oh come on!".
Heading toward the central northern district of Orava there are two words for potato. In lower Orava and as far as the town of Považská Bystrica it is švábka. Meanwhile, in upper Orava it is repa. Some might object that the standard definition of repa is beet, but the upper Oravčani (Oravians) call this vegetable burgyňa or bumburdia to avoid any confusion.
Blueberries (čučoriedky) here are sometimes called čierne jahody (literally black strawberries), and more often hafiry. Similarly, in the Turiec dialect the berries are called jafury.
In this last district an amusing, if somewhat outdated, term for the WC is havaj, a Slovak pronunciation of the US state Hawaii.
Easterners (východniari) use several words for potato, including bandurky, grule, and kompere.
Around the eastern city of Košice, this led to the terms komperniky and gugle for potato pancakes (lokše and zemiakové placky, respectively) and popučené kompere for mashed potato (zemiaková kaša). Another basic foodstuff, pagáče, those Slovak biscuits made with pork lard, are called vakarky.
English speakers might find this dialect's word for pipe, pipka, more intuitive than the standard fajka. For Slovaks from the rest of the country it may be astonishing to be offered a pipka while visiting, as to them it means a chick - as in both the animal and a cute woman. When you ask if you can smoke, you should ask if you can kuric, not fajčiť as you would in normal Slovak.
To keep out of trouble in the east, when you try to follow these dialectic variations you would use varovac instead of the standard dávať pozor (to pay attention to) reserved for normal Slovak.
5. Apr 2004 at 0:00 | Eric Smillie