My favorite small residual thing about my birthday- once the day itself has passed, the festivities have ended, and the giant paper-mache birthing reenactment tube/slide has been disassembled- is easily being able to figure out what day of the month it is for the remainder of August. Because my birthday falls on the 7th, I get three-plus weeks of easy date calculation.
I wish that these powers also extended to allowing me to remember the names of months in Czech. This is one of my real downfalls when it comes to learning the language of my adoptive country. I even get a tingling ‘oh no’ sensation when the conversation swings towards some topic involving dates.
Maddeningly, Czech month names don’t stem from the familiar Gregorian etymological roots. I would be okay with this if it were a sort of pan-Slavic trait and other neighboring countries also didn’t have Gregorian-derived month names. But no: it’s specific to Czech. Even little buddy Slovakia, which shares about 95% of its language with Czech, has months that sound like January, February, etc.
Another thing that makes Czech calendar names hard to remember is that there doesn’t seem to be any handy mnemonic for keeping track of them. The names actually do mean things, like ‘falling leaves’ and so forth, but with the exception of Kveten (from ‘flower’, for May) the meanings are obscure enough that they’re no easier to remember than just learning the month name outright. Others have no meaning at all that I’m aware of and sound to me like lesser-known Soviet leaders: Duben, Brezen. Finally, they don’t have the feature of being grouped by name length – longer names at the beginning and end of the year, shorter in the middle – that I remember helping me to learn our calendar as a kid. Weirdly, the only naming convention that the Czech calendar shares with ours is similarly-named six and seventh months – Cerven and Cervenec .
Days of the week, blessedly, are much more intuitive and have personable, easy-to-remember names. My favorite is Nedele – Sunday – which means ‘do nothing’. Do nothing day. If you insist, Czech language.