Right from the beginning of my time spent living and working in the Czech Republic, one of the things that has constantly amused me, is seeing an English word on a shop, an advertising hoarding, or in a menu, with the letter ‘y’ added to the end of the word. For example – a sports shop advertising that it sells ‘Snowboardy’ and ‘Skateboardy’.
There is a simple explanation as to why this occurs – adding the letter ‘y’ to the end of a noun, is the most common way in Czech, to make a word plural. It is the virtual equivalent of adding the letter ‘s’ in English, so that ‘snowboard’, becomes ‘snowboards’.
However, very few of even the most fluent English-speaking Czechs, understand why ‘snowboardy’ and ‘skateboardy’ seem so funny to a native English-speaker. But the reason is because, adding the letter ‘y’, is the way the diminutive is made in colloquial English. For example, ‘John’ becomes ‘little Johnny’. In fact it is more common, for the diminutive to be made by adding ‘ie’, with ‘James’ becoming ‘little Jamie’ But the way both ‘y’ and ‘ie’ are pronounced, when added to a noun, is exactly the same.
Some of the earliest examples I observed are above supermarket shelves which offer ‘Snacky’ and ‘Chipsy’. This second example I find particularly amusing. Czechs have adopted the American English ‘chips’, for what in British English, would be called ‘crisps’. Yet despite already being plural, because of the letter ‘s’, they still go ahead and add the letter ‘y’ 🙂
Similar examples can be found in bookshops. There will be section headed ‘Thrillery’ and nearby, another section headed ‘Detektivky’. This second example does include a slight change from the English spelling, but the origin of the word is still obvious.
Other examples I’ve come across include, for feminine hygiene purposes, you require ‘tampóny’. And in the male toilets of some bars, you will find a machine from which you can purchase ‘kondomy’ 🙂
Until recently, my favourite example has been the one featured in the photograph at the beginning of this post – ‘hot dogy’. I saw it first, over four years ago, when stopping at a service area on the Prague-Dresden motorway. Sadly, when I last called in there, some months ago, the sign had gone, during the redevelopment of the venue. But in similar fashion, I have also seen signs for ‘fast foody’, but not yet captured them on camera.
The example in this photograph is the hot drinks menu in one of our local bar restaurants. It is amusing because of featuring ‘drinky’ 🙂 But as any Czech language purist would tell you, there is actually no need for it. There is a perfectly good existing Czech word for ‘drinks’ – ‘nápoje’. But in this venue, popular with students from the nearby Technical University, the English word is preferred – but made plural the Czech way!
I am always on the lookout for fresh examples to bring a smile to my face. In recent months, I’ve seen more than one conference offering, as part of their programme – ‘workshopy’. And I gather it it possible to go shopping in a number of edge of town ‘hypermarkety’.
However, my current favourite, I spotted (appropriate description 🙂 ), in an advert on a tram, a few weeks ago. Last Sunday morning, it was the tram on which I travelled from the Chaplaincy Flat to Church, and so I got a photo. A wi-fi provider is offering the possibility of several ‘hotspoty’ 😀