Mailbox

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In this week’s Mailbox: the release of Tomáš Halík’s new book in English, more on the translations of Czech place names, Radio Prague’s signature tune. Listeners quoted: Jaroslav B. Tusek, Charlie Cockey, Peter Freemantle, Peter DeHart.

Thanks for tuning in to Mailbox, Radio Prague’s weekly letters programme.

Jaroslav B. Tusek from the United States responds to last week’s interview with Catholic priest and theologian Tomáš Halík on the worldwide release of his new book “Patience with God”:

“It is a very welcome contribution on Czech experience of searching for God and establishing a spiritual dimension of life. It is especially relevant at the time when the historic foundation of both European and American Christian cultures are cracking, as a notable culture shift has been taking place all around us. As this new post-Christian society is emerging, Father Halík clearly recognizes that although the Christian God is not dead, He is less a factor not only in American politics and culture but seems to observe our culture from a distance as Zaccheus, mentioned by Father Halík. It would seem that all liberal thinkers in America need to read this book to be reassured that their fear of the advent of evangelical theocracy and the reemergence of religious fundamentalist right is seriously exaggerated.”

Charlie Cockey from Brno responded to a topic raised by Peter Freemantle in last week’s Mailbox – that is the translations of Czech place names on Radio Prague.

“I now live in Brno and speak Czech, but years ago, before ever coming to the Czech Republic, I like many people was completely in the dark about the country itself, not to mention the language. [...] Then I learned of the Charles Bridge – in English, as the Charles Bridge. My name is Charles, and I immediately began to think of it as ‘my bridge’. [...] Had I learned of ‘Karlův most’ or even ‘Karlův Bridge’(a most peculiar bilingualism) it would have meant NOTHING to me. [...]The Czech names *in* Czech are quite beautiful, but as you say, to non-Czech speakers around the world they mean nothing. Mr Freemantle has fallen prey, I fear, to a syndrome one encounters far too frequently, one which can be called the ‘if I know it why doesn't everyone know it’ syndrome.”

And one more comment from Peter Freemantle on the subject:

“In your reply you said that, if you didn't translate place names, your listeners wouldn't know what they meant. However, this is precisely the point: place names don't have a meaning. In your example the only word which needs to be ‘understood’ is ‘most’ (and conceivably ‘ostrov’). Unless they are popping into the divadlo to watch a play it makes no difference what this is: it's just a landmark. Landmarks like the names of people don't have ‘meaning’ as such, they are simply labels. If you try to change the label you cause endless confusion. If you don't believe me I suggest you try to talk to the hoards of foreign tourists who need to ask me for directions because they can't find non-existent translated name-places such as ‘French Street’ on their maps.”

Many thanks to Charlie Cockey and Peter Freemantle for their comments. If you, too, feel strongly about something you’ve heard on Radio Prague, then english@radio.cz is the address for your views, comments and questions.

Peter DeHart listens to Radio Prague in Pennsylvania:

“I am a devotee of all phases of the shortwave radio pursuit and enjoy the Czech Republic English broadcasts. I would appreciate very much, your settling a matter of curiosity. Would you kindly inform me, the meaning of your current interval signal and if it is based on any anthem with words? This would be greatly appreciated!”

Our station's signature tune is the horn fanfare from Antonín Dvořák's 9th Symphony, better known as the New World Symphony. It was this station's signature tune since it started broadcasting before World War II and was reintroduced after the Velvet Revolution.

If you are interested in Czech history, recent or more distant, you have a unique chance to win a trip to Prague for two. All you need to do is answer the following question:

What is the most interesting period or event from Czech history for you?

Yes, it’s Radio Prague’s annual listeners’ contest time again. The author of the best submission will win a week-long stay for two in Prague and the runners-up will be rewarded with material prizes and commemorative items. We will be announcing the best entries in our broadcast and on our website www.radio.cz on the last weekend of June. Please send your submissions in by June 12 to the following address: Czech Radio 7 – Radio Prague, Vinohradská 12, 120 99 Praha 2, Czech Republic or to our email address cr@radio.cz. The winner’s prize, accommodation in the heart of Prague, will be provided by Hotel Ungelt.


Of course, our monthly competition is still running and this month we continue in the series of Moravian-born luminaries.

Our April mystery man was born in 1856 in the town of Příbor and died in 1939 in London and his work revolutionised the field of psychology.

You have until Thursday to send us your answers and next Sunday we will announce the four winners who will receive small gifts from Radio Prague. Until then, good-bye.