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Umlaut häppy November 1, 2005

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.

You’ve got to get your fun where you can, boyz and galz, and when you’re a translating type, this sometimes doesn’t leave you with a lot of options. Language is the be-all-and-end-all. It’s the money in your pocket. It’s your green fingers, your золотые руки, your trade. But it’s not very sexy. The German who found himself writing the text I am currently translating was so bored that he thought he’d stick in a few more umlauts for the sake of decoration. I think Ümsetzung looks quite twee, but a word it ain’t, and there’s no way I could get that decoration into my English rendition. Alas. Äläß. Alàç.

Over dinner recently, a German friend – not a translator, but still looking for umlaut kicks – bemoaned the paucity of diacritics in German when he saw something written in Czech. (I’m just trying to remember what it was. An Iva Bittová CD cover, I hope, and not the eurotastic, multilingual instructions for a screwdriver (or was that a Kreuzschlitzschraubendreher?).) I said he should count himself lucky with his ös and his äs and his üs and his ßes, but he felt bereft, clearly. I was heartless, obviously, in my total lack of sympathy, but having discovered the visual joy that Czech is, I have to admit he’s got a point. I have been linked to by a Czech site [now defunct], and, as I know to my peril, I dare not not link back in return. And I’m happy to, and want to, as it’s all about Belarus, but my comprehension of Czech is weak, it must be said. But look at this headline: “Minsk krásnější než Paříž, běloruské Křemíkové údolí.” If that ain’t a diacritic fest, I dunno what is. (And for you language nerds out there, apparently, that Czech ř is just about the sound that develops latest in the natives in all the world’s languages. The person who can tell me that Czech tonguetwister full of them first covers themselves in glory…)



1. lukeski - November 2, 2005

I shall get the Czech beauty at work on to the case tomorrow morning.

2. Broke in Berlin - November 2, 2005

Oh, thank heavens for Slavic beauties. Where would be without them? In my more favourable moments, I even like to think I have one at home myself.

3. lukeski - November 2, 2005

They are a very dangerous breed, though.

4. lukeski - November 2, 2005

Prisel za mnou jeden Rek, a ten mi rek, abych mu rek, kolik je v Recku
reckých rek. A já mu rek, ze nejsem rek, abych mu rek, kolik je v Recku
reckých rek.

Kmotre Petre, neprepeprete mi toho vepre, jak mi, kmotre Petre, toho vepre
prepepríte, tak si toho prepepreného vepre sám sníte.

Rozprostovlasatila-li se dcera krále Nabuchodonozora, ci
nerozprostovlasatila-li se dcera krále Nabuchodonozora.

Tri sta tricet tri stríbrných krepelek preletelo pres stri sta tricet tri
stríbrných strech.

Strc prst skrz krk.

V hlavní roli lorda Rolfa hrál Vladimír Leraus a na klavír hrála Klára

Tvrdís, ze sis priskrípl prsty mezi dvírka skríne.

Prut plul rychle po proudu a v láhvi se lyricky perlil ricinový olej.

Petr Fletr pletl svetr. Pletl Petr Fletr svetr? Svetr pletl Petr Fletr.

Rapík rebrícku rízl Rinu do prstu.

5. Broke in Berlin - November 2, 2005

Thank you galore Lukeski and Slavic Beauty. (A dangerous breed indeed, as you well know). They have brought back many a happy memory of my French exchange – French? – when a nice girl in my group, of Czech parentage (an Anglo-Slavic beauty herself, actually) regaled me with either the Kmotre Petre one or the Petr Fletr one. I know it’s babyish of me to snigger at foreign sounds, but, if my experience of Czechs is representative, they rather enjoy some of the vagaries of their own language themselves. And Klára
Králová has reminded me of another time Czech made me smile (or perhaps even laugh). When I emigrated on a fateful day four years ago from St. Petersburg to Berlin, we flew via Prague (and just after September 11th, so I was of course more scared than I would already have girl’s-blouse-ishly been anyway). Not much to do waiting between flights but mope around and read the magazines lying discardedly on discarded-looking chairs. First headline: říž říž říž Claudia Schifferová říž říž říž. Funny, we thought. What can the chances be of there being a famous Czechess called Claudia Schifferová? But I cleverly knew, or so I thought, that lots of Czechs have German-sounding surnames, so I fingered ever onwards. Next headline: říž říž říž Penelope Cruzová říž říž říž. Hang on a second, we thought (mid-chuckle). So it would appear the Czechs have to stick an -ová onto any woman’s surname. Havel’s wife would, presumably, be Havlová (I’m assuming, of course, the mobile e would disappear). But one -ová which I thought was an -ová too far was when I saw the Czech tennis player formerly known as Kveta Hrdlicková now being referred to as Kveta Peschkeová, whereas to the layman she’s just plain old Peschke now. Will this suffixing never end?

6. lukeski - November 3, 2005

Děkuji Janačka, by the way…

7. Broke in Berlin - November 3, 2005

I insist you say more immediately (or as brzo as you can)

8. lukeski - November 3, 2005

In fact, this afternoon turned into a veritable Slavic tongue-twister competition. I started the Russians with the infamous “Na dvare trava…” I learnt in Kazan, which was quickly followed by a mass of others from dear Lenochka, then the absolute raft of Czech entries from Janouchka, then, remembering the Polish predeliction for sch, ch, schch, and other consonant combinations, Pan Roberto regaled us with “A bumblebee buzzing outside a certain Polish city (I assume Szczecin).” Too fast for me, but I’m sure you must remember…

9. Broke in Berlin - November 3, 2005

My god, your bookselling establishment sounds like a haven for all Mittel(and Ost?)europa’s escapees. (E-mail bekommen und beantwortet. Don’t trust my server. Hope you got it.)

10. lukeski - November 3, 2005

Try here.

11. Broke in Berlin - November 4, 2005

How do they expect folk to survive on that in London? Honestly… When do I start?

12. lukeski - November 4, 2005

That is a lot more than I started on, I can tell you. And that was a whole lot more than I used to earn at Ladbrokes.

13. BiB - October 15, 2006


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