Shoulda Mentioned

I’ve got a piece this week over at Piker Press. When I started writing it, I had a much different idea about where it was going to end up; but this ending presented itself, and, like a parking place in Prague, you just don’t pass that up. The first part of the story appeared here, I believe, as a Chapter One a while back. It’s the cover story – I’m not sure they gave fuego the photo credit, but that’s his work photographing the pizza.

Conjugating nouns

I’m writing this partly to get things straight in my own head. I may well be wrong on some of the subtleties.

In Czech, nouns have different forms depending on how they are used in a sentence. The rules are different depending on the gender of the noun, and (if the noun is masculine) whether the thing named by the noun is animate or inanimate. These rules apply to people’s names as well — they’re nouns, after all.

For instance, If I were to say “My friend Brian Votaw is over there,” I would use the nominative form of the noun: “Můj kamarád Brian Votaw je tam.” No biggie. (Of course for females it’s not so simple. The last name would have -ova appended to it: Barbara Seegerova. Naturally sometimes you don’t just stick letters on the end; that would be too simple. Čapek becomes Čapkova, for instance, and if the root family name ends in ?~C½ you just switch it to an á. But I digress.)

Since Brian is (usually) animate and (biologically) male, to say “I know Brian,” I would use the accusative singular: Znám Briana. It doesn’t matter whether Anna is animate or not, she’s female and that’s enough to turn “I’m waiting for my friend Anna” into Čekám na mou kamarádku Annu. Note that the czech word for the pronoun “my” (which was múj for Brian above because he was male and that was the nominative form) switched from the feminine (or moje, take your pick) to mou, and kamarádka (The feminine form of kamarád) became kamarádku.

I’m reasonably sure “I’m looking forward to seeing Amy” becomes Těší­m se Amy because Amy ends in y. However, I usually type it Amz, because the y and z are switched on the keyboard when I’m in Czech mode.

This episode only deals with two of the seven forms for each noun. Five more to go! Wahoo!

I hope reading this helps you as much as writing it helped me. Things are a lot clearer now, don’t you think?