Andrej Babiš, photo: Filip Jandourek

In Magazine: cabinet ministers struggle to master the intricacies of Czech, a passer-by shames a road maintenance company by getting down to work on an unfinished pavement and Czech researchers say men’s facial traits reflect their intelligence, or lack of it, as the case may be.

Andrej Babiš,  photo: Filip Jandourek
They say Czech is a difficult language to master and some of the country’s cabinet ministers provide ample proof of this. The internet daily this week poked fun of the language level of some government press conferences noting that “one minister mumbles, another makes grammar mistakes and a third sometimes has trouble putting a sentence together”. Where some might have lashed back, the ministers in question expressed surprising humility regarding their linguistic failings, admitting that they were taking lessons from a language coach. Finance Minister Andrej Babiš –who sometimes peppers his speech with Slovak expressions, sparking jokes that he speaks neither Czech nor Slovak, says his Slovak origin is not the main reason for the number of mistakes he makes. “I am excessively nervous, particularly when speaking to the media and it really shows in how I express myself,” Babiš admitted. The finance minister has a language coach but says he has little time to spare for lessons at present. Agriculture minister Martin Jurečka is also keen to take lessons. He is the one who mumbles – saying that when he concentrates on what he wants to say he forgets about elocution. His coach makes him practice pronouncing vowels and repeat children’s’ rhymes but he too is rushed for time since the birth of his fourth child. The third sinner –singled out by the daily for attention – is in the worst situation of all since he holds the post of education minister. “If one is education minister it does not do to irritate Czech language teachers” Marcek Chládek noted self-critically, saying that he was now taking lessons every ten days. “When I asked the coach to see me she thought she was coming for a dressing down,” the education minister recalled.

Illustrative photo: Kristýna Maková
Police in the town of Ivančice were called to a bizarre case last week when a construction firm called to say someone had tampered with their work material. It turned out that a man walking across the town’s cobbled square was irritated by an unfinished job – a big gaping hole in the cobbled pavement. Seeing a pile of cobblestones nearby with the necessary work equipment someone had laid aside the man promptly went to work laying down cobblestone after cobble stone with surprising skill. It turned out that he was a road maintenance worker by profession and simply went about what he was used to doing. The police gave him a Breathalyzer test and found that his work zest was also fuelled by a substantial amount of spirits.

'Bad Place Pub',  photo: Google Street View
The internet daily idnes is running a competition in which readers have been invited to send in a snapshot of pubs, shops, coffeehouses and restaurants with funny names. There are close to sixty entries from around the country and abroad. Among the pubs you may come across in the Czech Republic are the Bad Place Pub, At the old Swine, At the Dead Bird, Crisis Pub, Kafka Dead Drunk or Happiness Handouts. There is a knife sharpening store run by Mr. Blunt, and further afield the YakDonald eatery in Nepal and the Sorry Mom Tattoo salon in the United States.

Kateřina Zemanová,  photo: OISV,  CC BY-SA 3.0
The president’s daughter Kateřina Zemanová is planning to get a university degree in Sweden, according to the internet daily Kateřina Zemanová, who unlike her camera-shy mother enjoys being in the limelight, is graduating from secondary school in the coming weeks and has set her sights on the Swedish city of Lund. Her parents insist that she finance part of her studies by working through the summer like any other teenager while Katerina herself is hoping for a student grant.

Photo: CTK
Three people –two men and one woman - received the Gentleman on the Road Award for 2013. They helped save the life of a man who was trapped in a burning vehicle following a serious road accident, pulling him out at the eleventh hour at their own risk. The title Gentleman on the Road goes to any driver who risks their own life to help others in a crisis. It was set up in 2004 by the Czech Police Force and the country’s leading insurance company Česká Pojištovna in an effort to encourage greater consideration for others among Czech drivers.

Illustrative photo: Gabriella Fabbri / Stock.XCHNG
Czech researchers from Charles University have embarked on a fascinating study – they are trying to ascertain whether facial traits reflect a person’s intelligence. The initial phase of study indicated that this appears to be the case in men but not in women. According to the head of the research team biologist Karel Kleisner tests with 160 volunteers showed that people judging a man’s intelligence by their facial traits and possibly expression were right in more cases than could have been accounted for by chance. Eighty people were photographed - free of makeup and accessories – and their photos were given to another group of volunteers who were asked to mark the degree of intelligence they would ascribe to each person – grading fluid intelligence and figural intelligence separately. In men the results more frequently coincided with the results of genuine IQ tests, while in women the answers were way off. The team of scientists are now studying what facial traits in men led the team of respondents to the right conclusions. One theory they have is that the degree of intelligence in a facial expression is acquired during hormonal changes in puberty. The other theory, which they think may account for why female faces are a mystery to respondents, is that in women the perception of female attraction crowds out the traits that spell intelligence. Well, maybe it’s a good thing they haven’t got all the answers and some degree of uncertainty remains when you are looking at your better half.