(Part of an ongoing series. Previous installments begin here).
Last night, my wife and I passed a billboard ad for a local aquarium-type thing here called Mořsky Svět (Sea World). I joked that given the land-locked nature of the Czech Republic, they could probably just display a giant tank filled with salt water and people would rush in to gape at it and take photos nevertheless. As a wise man once told me, never shell out big bucks to go see an aquarium exhibit in a country that doesn’t have its own word for ‘ocean’ but instead borrows its word from French/English.
Given the non-seafaring nature of Czechs, it’s a goofy peculiarity that the informal Czech way of saying hello is ‘ahoy!’ (spelled ahoj), as though we were all hanging out on the deck of the SS Pinafore together. This seemed totally unfathomable (no sea pun intended) until someone explained to me that it started as a greeting among hobos a century or so ago as a shorthand acronym for the Latin phrase “Ad Honorem Jesu”. Mystery solved! I like the idea of an array of slang phrases all formed out of acronymized Latin.
2 thoughts on “Mysteries of Czech language: Pirate talk”
You will be happy to know that today I utilized “Ahoy!” to greet a group of visiting Czech customers.
My coworkers were rather baffled at my exclamation until they saw looks of sheer delight on the faces of our guests.
Awesome all around, thank you.
i’m sure their delight at being addressed in czech handily outweighed the mild disconcertion of being addressed in the informal tense (another thorny issue, discussed here in case you missed it: http://mockduck.wordpress.com/2009/06/24/adventures-in-czech-language/ )