Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Fun With Croatian

I'm not one of those people who love learning languages.  If you do, more power to you.  For me, it's honestly been the toughest thing about moving to Croatia. 

There are, however, little nuggets of fun at times.  Like when you discover that you can say something in Croatian that English doesn't have a word for.  Or when you can do funny little word plays that most people wouldn't appreciate. Or when you find phrases you would never use in English when translated literally.  Here are three examples:

3. Moja Žena (My woman).  I just couldn't use this phrase to refer to my wife for the first two years I lived here.  ("Hi! Would you like to meet my woman?)  Instead I would say moja supruga - which is formal and awkward and means "my spouse who is female".  All the married men I know refer to their wife as moja žena and now I do too.  By the way, doesn't it seem a little strange that if a husband says "my woman" (in English) it means they're incredibly chauvinist, but if a wife says "that's my man" it means she's with a hunk with a great sense of humor and good with kids?  Just saying.

2. Bez veze (Without connection): I love this one.  When you stub your toe, do you say "WITHOUT CONNECTION!"?  Croatians who don't swear do.  Which leads me to swearing.  As a person who doesn't swear I was presented with the challenging question of "Do I learn the Croatian swears or not?" The argument went as follows:  If I know the curse words, when I hear a teenager yell or read the grafiti on a building then I'll know not to repeat it.  My wife (woman?) made a good point on that one: "Just don't repeat anything you hear a teenager say or read on a wall."  On the other hand, if I don't know the swears then when I'm scanning my brain for the correct word to use, a swear word won't accidently surface and slip out of my mouth.  Either way, Bez Veze! will have to be my outburst of choice. 

1. Ležeći policajac (A policeman who is lying down): You'd never guess it - this is the Croatian term for "speedbump".  Maybe this picture will help you go over speedbumps more slowly...or perhaps more quickly?

This has been fun with Croatian.  Until next time...


Anonymous said...

I will second your comment on language learning being the hardest thing about living here.

Anonymous said...

sleeping policeman (British English) - ležeći policajac ;)

cannibal-daisy said...

Croatians who stub their toes say "Bez veze"?! What morons do you live with?

"Bez veze" is not a swear word. If you say something is "bez veze" it means that it is "lame" or "not interesting"; you are/could be bored or even embarrassed with it.
An old-fashioned dress is bez veze.
Love novels by D. Steel are bez veze.

When I stub my toe, I usually scream, cry and, yes, I do swear.

Swearing is very colourful in Croatian. :) It brings real relief, almost like a prayer.