Tricky Words in this week‘s OVI
Prekážka. There are all sorts of translations of this word in English, starting with physical things like obstacles (soldiers train on an obstacle course), hurdles (athletes compete in a 110-metre hurdles race) or obstructions (traffic-jams cause obstructions on the highways). Then there are problems which are not literally physical, like hindrances (stuttering is a hindrance to understanding), impediments (to get married, you need a certificate of no impediment) or setbacks (losing the contract was a serious setback for the company). There are also less formal words like snag, hitch or stumbling-block (their plans hit a snag when they ran out of money). Prekážka v práci however is not something physical (it's not a lock-out of the workforce), but a restriction, limitation or constraint (zábrana, in various senses) on the possibility of working, and I prefer the term constraint.
The corona pandemic and associated official restrictions and counter-measures have thrown up some interesting English word-use. This may be the use of ordinary words with special meanings, such as ventilation or isolation, specially-coined expressions like social distancing or elbow-bump, or rather archaic words which have been specially revived, such as furlough /Fő-lou/. This is derived from the old German word Verlaub, meaning permission or leave to be freed from duty or work. English “leave” comes from the same origin, originally meaning povolenie or dovolenie, so we get “sick-leave” and “maternity leave”, or soldier going home “on leave”. Furlough is the name of the system where employees can stay at home, not working, but still receive some pay (60% or 80%), and employers are compensated by the government.
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