Tuesday, 24 May 2016

A Wedding at Hluboka

Hluboka Castle is one of the Czech Republic's most popular tourist attractions. It is a 19th Century white wedding cake of a castle, the sort of castle Walt Disney would dream up. Inside the then chatelaine, Eleanor Schwarzenberg, spared no expense in decorating the interiors, as she too lived out her dream.

You have to join one of the frequent tours of the castle if you want to look inside and even then the sheer number of visitors may mean that you will not be able to see it as well as you would like. Or you could live out your childhood fantasy and get married in a castle. I came across this oriental couple having their photos taken in the garden, when I visited the other day.

My contact at Castle Stekl, which is part of the complex of castle buildings, tells me that weddings are very popular with their Japanese visitors and other nationalities. It seems strange to me that you would want a Czech civic wedding when you are from the other side of the world and a totally different culture. But the idea of a wedding in a castle is not so strange. My husband and I got married in the chapel of our local castle in England and I can vouch for the experience.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016


You may have noticed on the news that the Czech Republic (urged on by President Zeman) is trying to rebrand itself as Czechia. This is meant to be the new official short English version of the country's name. The longer version still remains the "Czech Republic". On the other hand you may well not have noticed, which shows just what a task the Czechs have set themselves.

There isn't even universal support for the name change in the Czech Republic. I was listening to a Czech radio station the day the change was announced and the general hilarity of the commentators required no translation. One Czech friend said to me, "They are changing it because Czechia is easier to print on ice-hockey shirts." Another said it was to keep the president from meddling in more important matters.

You will find the arguments for the new name here:  http://www.go-czechia.com/ And ironically you will also find there some of the counter arguments, as the 16 myths the site tries to debunk on its main page are actually arguments against the new name.

As someone who promotes the country, I can't say I will be rushing to use the new name. I am perfectly happy with the "Czech Republic". I seldom feel the need to shorten it and only then in casual conversation. Frankly if I don't see the need for the new name, I very much doubt many other English speakers will do so.

Czechia may take hold in some official English language usage, although I suspect for the most part the BBC and other such organisations will avoid "Czechia" and continue to use "Czech Republic". I feel sorry for the poor staff of the Czech Tourism, who are already having to deal with a large proportion of the British population who still haven't stopped calling the country Czechoslovakia, and who now have an added complication.

The main argument against the name change is that it doesn't take account of how the English language and its speakers work. English is not a language of rules, it is a language of evolving usage. Registering the name doesn't mean we will use it. We will only use it if it has a function and I don't know what that function is right now


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