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22-7-2019, 19:04 UTC
Living Czech

Small things come in neat packages...

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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. We have a slight change of plan this week, as instead of double entendres we're going to have a look at diminutives.

Now, what is diminutive, I here some of you ask. Well, contrary to what some people may think a diminutive is not a politically correct term for a dwarf. Nor is it a swear word meant to belittle someone. Diminutives are generally used when we want to talk about someone or something in an affectionate way and can be translated as wee or little. This is often used by adults when talking to children or pets, and children themselves are very fond of diminutives. Diminutives in English are often restricted to names, such as Johnnie for John, and Robbie for Rob, or to some objects like a choo choo train.

Now, in Czech almost anything an everything can have a diminutive forms, or even many forms. First off, there are names. If we take Hana, for instance, then this lady can be referred to as Hanka, basically meaning little Hana, Hanèa, slightly smaller Hana, or even Hanièka, which could perhaps be translated as tiny wee Hana. This is also the case for Vladimír, who can become Vladimírek, or even Vláïa. Basically, and even ironically, the longer the word, the more diminutive it is, so Petru¹ka, from Petra is more diminutive than Pé»a.

The diminutive form is often very often used when speaking directly to or about children, so holka, a girl, becomes holèièka, or tiny little girl, and for chlap, a boy, which becomes chlapec, little boy, or chlapeèek.

Diminutives for animals are very common especially when talking to children about pets. If we take pes, or dog, this can become pejsek, or even pejsánek, a tiny little dog. The same is true for a koèka, a cat, which can become a koèièka, a wee cat. I have even heard a diminutive form of slon, an elephant, if you can believe it, which is sloneèek, a wee elephant, which I guess is the equivalent of Winnie the Pooh's heffalump.

Inanimate objects do not escape diminutives either. Auto, or car, can become an autíèko, and a dùm, house becomes a domeèek. Now, although diminutives may seem ostensibly for children, you will very often come across Czech adults using diminutive forms when talking to each other. You can hear them say Pojedeme autíèkem? Are we going to go by little car, or To je hezký domeèek, that's a pretty little house. It is such an integral part of Czech life that diminutive forms are used everywhere, and the best thing about them is that you can make them up from any word you come across. You can even hear pivo, beer, referred to as pivèo, or even piveèko, tiny wee beer, when you are in the pub.

Adjectives do not escape diminutives either. If you take the adjective krátký, short, this changes into kra»ouèký or kratièký, which is I guess a tiny wee short thing. And the adjective malý, little, if you can believe it, has several diminutive forms, including malinký, tiny wee, and malinkatý, which could probably be translated as itsy bitsy teeny weeny.

Well, that's all we have time for this week. Next week we really will take a look at double entendres in Czech. Until then, mìjte se fajn, or take care.

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