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Pridané: 13.09.2010
Autor: Andy BILLINGHAM
Kategória: 19/2010

Tricky Words in this week's OVI

It's quite tricky translating the Slovak word "majster" into English. I suspect that this is the Slovak form of the German title "Meister", so it reflects the old medieval system of acquiring a profession in the traditional trades or crafts (remeslá). Without going into all the details of time and property, a boy started out as an apprentice (učeň), then became a journeyman (tovariš), and finally a master-craftsman, for example a master-mason, master-carpenter or master-glassblower.
This system was embedded in the guilds (cechy), which developed to protect the status of individual crafts. But the industrial revolution caused the guilds to decline, and they were finally superceded by the trade unions, representing the interests of all workers. In English, though, the word "master" is used in combinations like master-carpenter, and on its own it means "pán", so for "majster" in a factory I would use "supervisor" to indicate a higher position than "predák", which should be "foreman". For the typical "majster" in a village who comes to do some specialist work around the house, I would use the specific job name in English (e.g. bricklayer, painter, electrician), which tells us about the person's activity rather than their status.

Andy's Wordshop

The question this week is how anyone should be expected to remember the difference between "borrow" and "lend", because the Slovak verb "požičať" seems to cover both of them. I could go into the idea of direction expressed in these verbs, similarly as in "come" and "go", or "bring" and "take", but just saying that "borrow" expresses "sem" and "lend" expresses "tam" is much too simplistic, because you also have to bear in mind the subject (človek/podmet) who performs the action. I say the key lies in the Slovak "SI", I mean "požičať SI" must always be "borrow", and that's all. Everything else (mi, Ti, nám, im, ...) is "lend". "Môžem SI požičať ..?" is "Can I borrow ...?" "Požičiaš mi ..?" is "Will you lend me ..?" "Mám Vám požičať ..?" is "Shall I lend you ..?"
Please send questions about English language habits to ocelvychodu@sk.uss.com, and I will choose one to answer each week.

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