Word of the Day

Friday, October 29, 2010


A candidata Marina Silva no Programa do Jô chamou pagela à chamada do professor. Talvez seja uma palavra comum no Acre, Estado de onde ela é natural. O mais próximo a este significado que encontrei em qualquer dicionário foi o de pequena página aqui. Chamou-me muito a atenção porque até então só conhecia a palavra em italiano (pagella), mas com o significado de boletim escolar.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Kafé s sebou

I've seen the word for coffee spelled in so many ways in the Czech Republic, including the one that opens this post meaning coffee to go, that I decided to make a small list of the correct spellings in case anybody who writes shop signs and menus shows up here.

Portuguese/Spanish/French: café
Italian: caffè
English: coffee
German: Kaffee
Czech: káva or kafe (no accent mark)

And please! Italian latte (milk) is not spelled latté. It is not French, after all.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dosáhnout and dosiahnuť

I found out yesterday that Slovak, the most closely related language to Czech, makes use of a different case after the verb dosiahnuť, to achieve, to reach. Czech dosáhnout requires the genitive (Víme, jak dosáhnout předních míst ve vyhledávačích), whereas Slovak dosiahnuť requires the accusative (Vieme, ako dosiahnuť predné miesta vo vyhľadávačoch). Maybe that is why I remember seeing dosáhnout with the accusative in a Czech text. It is probably a Slovakism.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Absence of accent marks

Today I saw MEDECINS SANS FRONTIERES (Doctors without borders) and below it its Czech version LÉKAŘI BEZ HRANIC both in block letters. What drew my attention is that the French decided to do away with their diacritics (médecins sans frontières) while the Czech flaunt theirs. Is that maybe because of that purported French rule that you shouldn't accent majuscules or is there a statement behind that?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A hungry chef

Sentence in a Czech magazine that really tickled me: Václav Nesnídal řídí kuchyni ve Strakově akademii už čtrnáct let. = Václav Nesnídal (the chef's name, but if you translate it literally, it means Wenceslas Did Not Have Breakfast) has been running a kitchen at the Straka Academy (seat of the Czech government) for fourteen years. The shoemaker's son always goes barefoot. Talk about the opposite of an aptronym.

Other funny Czech surnames are Skočdopole (Jump into the field), Pospíšil (He hurried, hastened), Nejezchleba (Do not eat bread), Koukal (He took a look), Hrabal (He raked), Osolsobě (Salt your food), Přecechtěl (Despite it he wanted it), Zabloudil (He strayed away, He lost his way).

Edit on December 8: Today I came across a diving instructor slash travel agent named Zabloudil, mentioned above. I'm not sure I'd go on a trip or under water with him. :)

Saturday, October 23, 2010


I saw the word espresso spelled esspreso at a Czech café a couple of days ago. The writer probably knew there were two s's somewhere but didn't remember where exactly. That spelling somehow reminded me of the Hungarian standard spelling eszpresszó.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Gender of maz and kolomaz

The Czech language never ceases to amaze me. I found out yesterday that, even though kolomaz "axle grease" is derived from maz "grease, lubricant", the latter is masculine and the former is feminine! The genitive of maz is mazu (declined like hrad) and that of kolomaz is kolomazi (declined like kost).

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Jseš and jsi

In colloquial Czech the non-standard form jseš is often heard instead of jsi, but the interesting thing is that it only crops up when the verb být (to be) is used as a full verb, not as an auxiliary. We would thus have Jseš unavenej? (Are you tired?), but Šel jsi na poštu? (Did you go to the post office?) Jseš doesn't seem possible as an auxiliary. There is a similar situation in Serbo-Croatian, which uses the full or the abbreviated forms depending on a few factors of the verb to be as a linking verb , but only the abbreviated forms as the auxiliary for the past: jesam and sam, jesi and si, jeste and je, jesmo and smo, jeste and ste, jesu and su.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Brasileiros e brasileiras

Não aguento mais ouvir brasileiros e brasileiras de José Serra e de Dilma Rousseff. Será que eles não se tocam que desde sempre o masculino plural abarcou tanto os homens quanto as mulheres? Será que não sabem também que é o feminino que é o gênero marcado em português (e de outras línguas)? Essa insistência no feminino não é da natureza do nosso português. O engraçado é que dizem que algo é para todos os brasileiros e brasileiras. Se querem bater nessa mesma tecla, por que não dizem que algo é para todos os brasileiros e todas as brasileiras. Confundem gênero com sexo, e infelizmente não são os únicos.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Dele no Jornal Nacional

Já há tempos venho notando o uso, para mim estranho e exagerado, dos pronomes dele ou dela Jornal Nacional. Na edição de ontem ouviu-se "... o juiz do trabalho Marcelo Alexandrino recebeu a notícia de que o filho dele, de 11 anos, e a enteada..." Noto que a própria jornalista dispensou o pronome possessivo antes de enteada e poderia tê-lo feito também antes de filho. Será que existe algum livro de (mau) estilo que desaconselha o uso de seu, que admito ser ambíguo às vezes, ou de nada, que os jornalistas da Globo têm de seguir para dizer tais coisas, tudo em nome da clareza? Para mim teria ficado tudo muito claro e elegante sem possessivo nenhum.