Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Fun with Diminutives

Grammar is not always fun is it?

The Croatian vocative case is a prime example.  My sister-in-law, who teaches Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian in the States has informed me that the vocative case is dying out. You can still apply the vocative to the name Sara and call out SARO!  But, when I call for my wife, I am not allowed to change the last vowel. Instead, I have to say PetrA!  The only explanation is that the vocative case is dying a slow death.

Moment of silence please.

Diminutives are a different story. In my experience, diminutives are one of the highlights of learning Croatian.

The suffix "ica" is added to many female Croatian nouns and BAM!, you have a smaller, more feminine, perhaps more fragile, cuter form of that object. defines diminutives as: "pertaining to or productive of a form denoting smallness, familiarity, affection or triviality". Drop to droplet is an example of a diminutive in the English language.

Let's look at some Croatian examples:

Ruke---->Rukice (hands---->small hands):  Here's a classic diminutive. Kid hands are generally rukice. Adult hands are ruke.

Pekarna ---->Pekarnica (bakery ---->smaller bakery): You'll see bakeries of all shapes and sizes with either one of these labels. The sign says nothing about the product you'll find inside. This is an abuse of the diminutive in my opinion.

Žena ----> Ženica (wife/woman ---->smaller, cuter or more fragile? wife/woman): The other day I was asked if I had a ženica at home. I paused for a few moments to think about the implications my answer would have on how my opinion of my wife would be perceived. I finally answered yes, because I think the point was just to find out if I was married. After asking a native speaker, they agreed and affirmed that his question wasn't meant to question the size or fragility of my wife. It was merely a gentler (and older) way of asking if I had a wife at home. So, it seems our definition of diminutives must develop a bit. Sometimes, using the diminutive says less about the object and more about the question or the statement.

Molba ---->Molbica (a favor ----> a smaller, cuter favor): In my experience, this can be used to ask a bigger favor in a smaller way. I've been asked to pick up a friend from the train station as a molba. I've been asked to drive to another part of Croatia as a molbica. Again, the diminutive says less about the noun in question than it does about how the person is trying to communicate.

Grozno---->Groznica (adj., awful---->noun, a small awful): You would never guess, though it makes a lot of sense.  A small awful is a cold sore. According to Wikipedia there are other Eastern European languages that allow for an adjective to take the diminutive. They did not mention Croatian though. And that's strange, because I can think of at least one more:

Trudna---->Trudnica (adj.,pregnant----> noun, a pregnant woman).  Other definitions include "an expectant mother" or "a child-bearing woman".

If that doesn't contradict the whole idea of a diminutive then I don't know what does.

One last function some diminutives have is to designate certain locations; a mesnica is where you buy mesa (meat), a stanica is where you wait for the bus. And, Orahovica is where I live.

Once you figure that one out, you may understand why I'm such a grammar nut. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Sretan dan žena!

Happy International Women's Day!

I'm not sure there are many Americans who know this day exists, but here in Croatia it's a pretty big deal. According to wikipedia, some parts of the world use March 8th to show respect, appreciation and love towards women while others focus on women's social, economic and political achievements. Here in Croatia it's definitely the former rather than the latter.

So I'll take this opportunity to offer one big reason why I'm thankful for each of ladies I'm closest to. 

Emily: Thank you for your smile. It makes any day better, no questions asked. 

Petra: Thank you for your untiring love for our family. You often stay up later and get up earlier than I do, showing that being a mother of three under four is one of the most difficult jobs in the world. Yet you do it so well. 

Mom: Thank you for caring enough for our family to dedicate your early mornings to prayer. Yours is the standard I look to.

V: Thank you for your selflessness. You are a model to all of us who want to be better at caring more for others than we do ourselves. 

Grandma: Thank you for your creative dedication to staying connected. Faithfully sending us homemade cards while taking the time and energy to use facebook and Skype show how much you care for us despite the distance. 

To those women who often feel under-appreciated, whether it's a card, flowers, or something said in gratitude, may you receive a sense of how you have contributed to someone's life today.  Happy!

Monday, March 5, 2012

On Renewal

"Americans just buy new computers whenever their old one has a problem, but here in the Balkans we take pride in renewing old things."

My friend's response came in perfect Croatian form; blunt honesty towards a general group of people, directed straight at me. I can understand. My question probably sounded disrespectful to the one who had put hours into diagnosing and partially fixing my 5 year old computer.

But I was merely trying to keep him from having to invest more time into my machine. Plus, if you can save some money, isn't it worth it to just buy a new computer rather than bother with the old one?

He's right though, many people in this part of the world value restoration. After all, they have been at it for much longer than we (Americans) have been.  Investing time and hard work into an old something - be it a car or house or computer - provides more satisfaction than simply buying a new one.

He put his money where his mouth was too, offering to buy the old machine from me so he could fix it up for himself.

That's the background for the next day.

I was driving up to the northern part of Hungary for a men's retreat. It was to be a time of renewal. There were a lot of reasons not to go. Yet, as I was driving north, I felt an incredible need to be renewed. With the conversation from the previous evening influencing my thoughts, I thought about how profoundly we were created. I realized how grateful I was that I can be renewed and that God is able to do the renewing.

While there, the Lord interacted with me in a way I hadn't experienced in a long time. A lot of it was because I was listening. That, and the fact that we had a period of complete silence.

I took along a book that has been highly recommended. Several people have told me that A Praying Life is the best book they have read on prayer.  Here are some thoughts from that book worth considering:
  •  "We are so often busy and overwhelmed that when we slow down to pray, we don't know where our hearts are. We don't know what troubles us. So oddly enough we might need to worry before we pray. Then our prayers will make sense. They will be about our real lives."
  • "You don't create intimacy; you make room for it. Efficiency, multi-tasking and busyness all kill intimacy. In short you can't get to know God on the fly."
  • "If you are not praying, then you are quietly confident that time, money and talent are all you need in life."
I am thankful that the Lord provides opportunities to loosen our grip on those things that so easily distract, and allows us to be renewed. He beckons all of us when he says:
"Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest."
I was renewed last weekend. Thank you Lord, that you are a God who renews.