SLOVAK WORD OF THE WEEK

Listopad

THE DAILY Mail’s recent caption “Top Czech judge Ernest Galko is found shot dead in his own home by wife and daughter”, headlining a story describing the killing of top Slovak attorney Ernest Valko, shows that for many people knowing the difference between the Czech and Slovak Republics is still no easy task. Yet the autumn months are also a time when some of the differences become more visible, at least for those foreigners living in one of the two countries.

November is listopad, the month of falling leaves, in the Czech language.November is listopad, the month of falling leaves, in the Czech language. (Source: Sme - Ján Krošlák)

THE DAILY Mail’s recent caption “Top Czech judge Ernest Galko is found shot dead in his own home by wife and daughter”, headlining a story describing the killing of top Slovak attorney Ernest Valko, shows that for many people knowing the difference between the Czech and Slovak Republics is still no easy task. Yet the autumn months are also a time when some of the differences become more visible, at least for those foreigners living in one of the two countries.

First, on September 1 comes Slovakia’s celebration of Constitution Day, commemorating the 1992 adoption of a constitution for the soon-to-be-independent Slovakia. Then comes October 28, the date of the founding of the inter-war Czechoslovakia which is celebrated as a national holiday only in the Czech Republic. Both countries share last week’s celebration of the Velvet Revolution. But the fact that in the Czech Republic the revolution happened in “listopad” (the month of the falling leaves) and in Slovakia in “november”, and Christmas will come in “prosinec” (the month of asking) there and not in “december” as here illustrates that the countries, their cultures, and their languages are not as similar as outsiders often think.

Slovakia has had less time to invent its own vocabulary, so while people here talk about “futbal” and “basketbal”, all of them measured in “sekundy”, the Czechs have their “kopaná” (the kicked game) and “košíková” (the basket game) measured in “vteřiny”. The Czechs have never since the fall of communism had to deal with authoritarian rulers or nationalists in government, they have no minorities whose political relevance could match that of Slovakia’s Hungarians, but even 21 years after the revolution they have a strong Communist Party. Slovakia’s communist cadres have long ago been absorbed by Smer, a self-declared social-democratic party.

The differences are many. But judging by the British press, it may still take a while before the world notices that “the country split peacefully into Slovakia and the Czech Republic” and Bratislava is “the capital of what is now Slovakia”.


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