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22-11-2019, 04:55 UTC
Living Czech

Ich bin ein berliner...

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Hello and welcome to Living Czech. I'm Nick Carey, and I am joined in the studio today by Jana Kotalikova. The theme for this week is German words in the Czech language.

You may wonder why we should have a programme devoted to German words in Czech since we broadcast in English and this is Living Czech, and not Living German. Well, the plain fact of the matter is that German words and expressions are common in Czech, such as preclík from pretzel, ¹nuptychl, handkerchief, and even Vánoce, from Weinacht, which is Christmas. This is, of course, due to the long shared history of the Czechs and the Austrians.

For those of you who may not know, what is now the Czech Republic belonged to the Hapsburg Monarchy, which became the Hapsburg Empire and eventually the Austro-Hungarian, for about four hundred years. By the end of the eighteenth century the Czech language had almost died out, and was only spoken in villages. Then, a group of intellectuals began the National Revival, whereby the Czechs began to rediscover their culture, history and language.

Even after the founding of the Czechoslovak state in 1918, the German influence on the Czech language was still strong, as a large portion of the population was German, the Sudeten Germans. Daily contact led to the inclusion of many German words, even swearwords, such as hergot, which means dear God, or is perhaps the equivalent of damn it, or the stronger variation, himelhergot, which means God in heaven. These two expletives are dying out, and are generally only used by the older generations.

The interesting thing about German words in Czech is how many of them are lidové výrazy, literally people's expressions, which are slang or even derogatory terms. For instance, gesicht in German means a face, but in Czech ksicht means a mug, trap, gob or any other uncomplimentary slang term for a face you can think of. This word is used in the colourful expression zmaluju ti ksicht, literally I am going to put some colour in your mug, or I am going to punch you in the face. There is geschaft, which means work in German, but in Czech k¹eft means a job on the side, a clandestine piece of work for money under the table. Last but not least of these words is ¹vajnrajch, literally a kingdom of pigs or swine, and is a really big mess.

Not all Czech words of German origin are derogatory. One of my favourite expressions in Czech uses the word lunt, or the wick of a candle, and this on je hubený jak lunt, or he is a thin as a wick. We also have an expression using nemlich, which means namely, and this is je to nemlich to samé, or it makes no difference, or it is exactly the same.

There are, of course, a few German words that are used with great fondness. If you are a ¹tamgast, for instance, in means you are a regular in a pub, which in the Czech Republic means that you can hang your own beer mug behind the bar. And there is fajn¹mekr, which comes from the word ¹mak, or taste, so a fajn¹mekr is someone with fine taste.

Well, that's all we have time for this week. Next week, we will have a look at a topical topic, and that is the autumn. Until then, mìjte se fajn, or take care.

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