Prepared by: Andy BILLINGHAM
Tricky Words in this week's OVI
There is a special feature in English headlines which distinguishes them clearly from Slovak ones, and that is the typical use of the simple present tense in the main
verbs - in this week's extracts: "Auditors find…" and "Trebuľa visits…". This tense is used despite the fact that these events happened in the past, so you would expect the simple past tense as in
But if the simple past was used in English headlines, then readers would expect to see the date specified in the headline as well, and that would make the headlines
too long. Using the present perfect (e.g. "Auditors have found…") would make sense without the specified date, but again the headlines would be longer. So newspaper readers accept the convention
that the present tense is used to refer to past events, and stylistically it is effective because it makes the events seem more "present", more current and dynamic, as if the news is published even
as it happens.
This week's question is: If Slovaks say "na zdravie" in connection with drinking and sneezing, why do English speakers say "Cheers" for drinking and "Bless you" for
sneezing? The word "cheer" can mean "good mood" or "good humor", which people usually want to get into by drinking alcoholic drinks, so they wish each other "cheers" for that purpose. "Bless you"
is short for "May God bless you" ("Nech Ťa Boh požehná"), because in the past sneezing could easily be an initial symptom of a potentially fatal disease, e.g. bubonic plague, so people started
invoking God's blessing to protect others from serious illness. Please send your questions about English language habits (questions in English or in Slovak) to firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will
choose one to answer each week.