The ová behind Czech names is a lovely feature of the Czech language and definitely one of the prime reasons why I went through the trouble learning it in the first place. There is one thing, however, that gives me the creeps: When people mechanically apply the ová rule to all foreign last names of women.
In the recent years, habits have improved and particularly bearers of foreign names enjoy more freedom to choose from the options. This includes also other ways to express the gender: A foreign woman who is married to a Czech man called Mladý can use two alternative names: Mladá among her Czech friends and Mladý at home so that people there will understand that she is married to a Mr. Mladý, not Mr. Mladá. Indeed, pan Mladá sounds a bit funny in Czech, not like “the real guy”.
I understand that female names ending in a consonant cause seizures to the lobus grammaticus of Czech brains when trying to apply the vocative or genitive, and I do feel deep sympathy if language cannot tell whether A is the daughter of B, or vice versa (and even more so if adding their portraits doesn’t contribute to the answer).
Here are some extreme examples of ováization:
- Angela Merkelová – who is it? Ah, right: It’s Frau Merkel.
- Michelle Obamová – you already guessed it. Still sounds fine to me.
- Marilyn Monroeová – at this point it’s getting a bit weird. See also Poeová and Voeová.
- Marge Simpsonová – sounds really funny to someone who is not from the Czech environment.
- Lady Gagová – no comment
- Christine Ohuruoguová – pronounce it and win a prize.
- Brigitte Bardotová – gone is the soft French …ot that made up 50% of her appeal … seems she toughened up.
- Miou-Miouová – the thing is: It used to be two identical parts.
- Na Liová – Asian names are always challenging.
- Winnie Mandelová – or Winnie Mandlová – almond?
It becomes a bit insane when Russian names go Czech: While they often have a native ov for men and ova for women, the ova is not fully valid in Czech language because the trailing a is short. Therefore, the ová still needs to be appended, making it ovová. Check out for example Raisa Gorbačovová.
What happens if they, after some years in the the Czech Republic, return home? Will the ovas and ovás add up, ad infinitum?
And now here’s to you, Mrs. Robinsonová: I’ve prepared a little test.
A) Assume that “Ban Ki Moon” is in Czech “Pan Ki-Mun” and “Mr.” is “pan“
- Q: How do you say in Czech Mr. Ban Ki Moon?
A: Pan Pan Ki-Mun. “You can call me Pan Pan.”
- Q: And how do you call in Czech his wife, Mrs. Ban Ki Moon?
A: Paní Pan Ki-Munová. Or possibly Paní Panová Kiová-Munová. Actually I don’t know. See the discussion at the end of this article.
B) If you pass this one you are ready for the Czech citizenship
Q: What is the female form of Aun Schan Su Ťij?
A: OK, it was a trick question. It is not Aun Schan Su Ťijová or even Aunová Schanová Suová Ťijová. The name is already female (and, like many Asian languages, the Burmese language doesn’t use first and last names). In English it is transliterated to Aung San Suu Kyi. So the Czechs don’t appended ová but change some letters and replace the Kyi by Ťij.
Got it? It’s really straightforward.
C) The cherry on the koláč
Q: How do you “femalize” in Czech the names Woo and Kim Cheong? Maybe Wuová and Kim Cheongová?
I hope that this lesson was able to help you get a grip on foreign names in Czech language.