“UM” means “wit”. But having more um doesn’t necessarily lead to being wittier. When the EU dictated that liquors can only be called whiskey, brandy, or egg liquor – if they are actually made of cereals, wine, or eggs – Slovak spirits’ producers, whose main ingredients are traditionally potatoes and a palette of artificial flavourings, had a problem. But they soon discovered a solution, and so gin became G-38, or G-40, depending on the percentage of alcohol. And traditional Slovak rum, which has never seen a bit of sugar cane, dropped the “r” and became simply “um”, giving the word a brand new dimension.
This September pub-goers had to get accustomed to yet another novelty – a ban on smoking in places where food is being served. That, too, has so far gone rather smoothly. But a third attack on traditional drinking habits led by the finance ministry may be just a little too much. The ministry is proposing that all liquors in Slovaks pubs, bars, and restaurants be served only from special bottles, which make it possible to pour liquid out, but not let any in. The measure is intended to protect consumers who may now be cheated by bar-owners who mix more expensive brands with cheaper ones, and to prevent tax-evasion in cases when bartenders serve home-distilled alcohol.
But in fact, it’s utter nonsense. If the proposal passes, the offer of drinks in Slovakia will be drastically reduced – no large foreign producers will start using new bottles just to satisfy local authorities on the tiny Slovak market. Some estimates say the offer of brands can fall by as much as 40 percent. Local producers, who will have no choice but to oblige, will need to invest in new bottle designs and technology.
And it is far from certain that the new rule will have the desired effect because Slovaks tend to be inventive enough to cheat their way around any new legislation. Besides having a bottle on the counter, you can always have a flask in your pocket. And if there is a way out of something, there is always a way in.
This is by far not the only absurd measure coming from the current administration lately – the education ministry first asked universities to test whether their teachers speak proper Slovak. Then it banned the use of traditional Latin names for different grade levels at schools. The culture ministry invented the new language law which spoiled relations with the Hungarian minority and also with Hungary. PM Robert Fico wants to pass a new media law, under which newspapers could be fined for not publishing a politician’s reply to an article even without a court decision.
The people coming up with this nonsense should either do more thinking or simply stop working and go for a drink instead. More um for the bureaucrats please!