30 October 2006

Czech English Words No 3 and 4 - Esej & Reality

I was a little amused when the better half sent me a document to print out with title esej. J is the Slavic equivalent of the letter Y hence Borat’s famous greeting jagshemash (pronounced yag-sh-masch), so I assumed a cute spelling mistake. Always the pedant, I pointed out the proper way to spell essay - only to be told esej is the Czech (and Slovak) way to spell essay. Naturally, I didn’t bring this up with the girlfriend again, but I asked a colleague of my age when she started using the word essay/esej. She said that she first heard the word essay/esej at high school and then also at university and that she considered it an import. Before that (pre 1989) they would invariably use the term slohova prace. You can see why the word essay was stolen and naturalised.

Another good example of Western words mutating into Czech is the word reality. If someone was trying to sell you reality in Prague what do you think would be on offer? Don’t google Czech reality because that’s dangerous. Instead check this Czech reality website. As an American friend from Birmingham, Alabama reminded me, realty means property in the US. I am fascinated how this word was assimilated into the Czech language with a pointless addition of a letter and how that idiosyncrasy stuck. Call me a saddo, but I’m going to see if I can get any answers over at the Czech expats portal.


Eso said...

Word reality was already used in Czech language in first half of twenty century, probably from German Realit├Ąt.

Praguetory said...

Thanks, I got this answer from someone at www.expats.cz too. Learn something new every day.