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Talkback: Voice your opinion on today’s Czech news

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Welcome to Talkback, a forum to voice your opinion on today’s Czech news.

This week’s topic: Is it acceptable making foreign names sound Czech?

The Czech tradition of creating feminine versions of foreign surnames by adding the –ová suffix to the name has stirred up debate following the publication of a Mladá fronta Dnes article last week. The daily wrote that Czech Television wanted to fire one of its external sports commentators because of her reluctance to add the –ová ending to surnames of foreign female skiers. The argument was that using the suffix was recommended by the Czech language institute and that the TV station had adopted this practice as its regulation.

Adding the suffix –ová to female names is no longer required by Czech grammar rules. But it is widely used. Czech media report about the state visit of Hillary ‘Clintonová’ or a new book by J. K. ‘Rowlingová’. One of the arguments against abolishing the –ová ending is the structure of the Czech language that helps make the meaning of a sentence clear. For example, if we say in Czech ‘Williams beat Safin’ (Williams porazila Safin), it is not clear who beat whom without using the ending.

However, reading about Rowlingová and Williamsová in the press may seem a little awkward, especially now when it is increasingly common to find Czech women with foreign last names taken from their husbands. Maybe the tradition of feminising foreign names will eventually disappear.

  • Are you in favour of doing away with the –ová ending in foreign names?
  • Do you think that refusing to follow the tradition is a good reason to sack a TV commentator?

    Email us at: [email protected] or comment right below.

    Related articles

  • Commentator sacked over refusal to use –ová ending in foreign female surnames
  • Half-n-half: Naming: The culture of ‘ová’

    Your comments
    Monitor reader Pavel Straka believes the rationale that the use of –ová somehow protects the Czech language is wrong for at least two reasons. “First, it is totally inconsistent with other arguably more compelling abuses of the Czech language, such as the use of foreign words where perfectly acceptable synonyms already exist in the Czech language (eg. computer = počítač). Secondly, with respect to foreign names, they are just that, foreign names that are entitled to respect and should not be changed. Unlike some names like “Kodaň” (Copenhagen) or Benátky (Venice) where the subject is a city, which use I also don’t agree with (note that in order to be understood, I had to translate and provide the English equivalent of those words), I find that changing the names of people is even less acceptable. I don’t like many aspects of globalization, whether economic or linguistic, however, this isn’t about that. It’s about mutual respect and even about maintaining sensible and practical use of language in an increasingly multicultural and international world.”

    Talkback: Voice your opinion on today's Czech news image 31Kateřina Heilmann
    is a staff writer and translator at the Monitor. She
    likes writing about cycling and culture.
    You can reach her at [email protected]

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