Spilberk roast virgin

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In recent editions we burdened you with a huge amount of new vocabulary, so today we can take a break and look at something more entertaining than new words. It's the bad translations into English which are still plentiful in the Czech Republic, especially in the tourist and restaurant business.

Hello and welcome to a special edition of the ABC of Czech. I'm Pavla Horakova and today I'm joined by Kamila Rosolova. In recent editions we burdened you with a huge amount of new vocabulary, so today we can take a break and look at something more entertaining than new words. It's the bad translations into English which are still plentiful in the Czech Republic, especially in the tourist and restaurant business. One of the common mistakes is that some people don't realise languages don't work in the same way. They think it's enough to open a dictionary, find the equivalent words and order them in the same way as in their mother tongue. So like that, an ice cream sundae becomes an ice-cream cup, literally modelled on zmrzlinový pohár. Don Sparling is a lecturer at the Department of English and American Studies at Masaryk University in Brno. He's been telling me about entertaining mistranslations.

"Some of the funniest ones are around menus. Particularly before 1989, very few menus were in English, translated into English, and the English was very bad and one would have thought that 10, 12 years after the changes that the English would have improved but not very much. Most menus in English still have comic elements in them. I think my favourite is one on a menu I once saw here in Brno where they were talking about a particular dish and it was named after Spilberk which is the castle in Brno and it was referred to in English as 'Roast Spilberk Virgin' and unfortunately, the Czech word for pork tenderloin is the same or similar to the word for virgin. They had obviously looked in a dictionary and came up with this 'Roast Spilberk Virgin' which I thought was quite exceptional and would certainly attract tourists."

The word is question was panna, which really means a virgin. The word for pork tenderloin is panenka - that is the diminutive of panna. But the word panenka has another two meanings, apart from a young virgin and pork tenderloin. One is a doll, a children's toy, and the other is pupil as in the eye. That is also called zornice or zøítelnice in Czech. So the translation "roast Spilberk virgin" could have easily turned out as "roast Spilberk doll or roast Spilberk pupil". It's clear from this example that both Czech and English have words which have more than one meaning. And that is a topic we'll tackle in one of our future programmes.

We're out of time today, but tune in next week if you can. Until then na shledanou, goodbye.


See also Living Czech.