by Roger White
It pains me deep-like when those near and dear to me are hurting. And lately, the folks in my oldest sister’s family are having a bit of an identity crisis. You see, sis Kathy married a guy named Bobby Smajstrla right out of high school. Could have been one of those made-for-TV movies. High school cheerleader (Kathy, not Bobby) marries football star running back (Bobby, not Kathy), and somehow they stay married all the way into their geezer years. So, yeah, my sis went from the simple starched whitebread name of Kathy White to Kathy Smajstrla. If you’re reading this aloud, your tongue just had a stroke.
“Smajstrla,” as you may or may not know, is a Czechoslovakian name. There were lots of Czech types in my old hometown, just as there are lots of Czech types in this here state. The phone book in the town of West, Texas, for example, (which is nowhere near West Texas) has more consonants in it than any other publication west of the Mississippi. One of my best buds from my high school years, James Rejcek (a Smajstrla kin), taught me in the ways of things such as Czech customs, Czech cuisine, and Czech curse words. Example: If someone of Czech descent says this to you, “Jdi do hajzlu!” well, let’s just say they’re not being friendly at all. However, if someone of Czech descent asks if you would like a kielbasa or kolache, they are being very friendly and are offering you yummy sustenance. Mmm, kielbasa.
But I digress. As you may know if you stay apprised of world affairs, the sovereign state of Czechoslovakia angrily divorced itself around 1993, splitting into Slovakia and the Czech Republic. I use the term “divorce” intentionally because the breakup was termed by many as the “Velvet Divorce.” Some say the dissolution was brought about by economic reasons; some say it was due to tribal mentalities and long-simmering historical feuds; some say it was because the Slovaks insisted on putting mayonnaise on their jitrnice, which the Czechs viewed as sacrilege. Whatever.
Well now, the good folks of the Czech Republic have lately been stewing in their guláš over the very name of their fair land. Some think the name is just too darn long. The citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina beg to differ, but there it is. Apparently, Czech Republickers are unhappy with a name that can’t fit on a t-shirt. So they’re revolting. (Revolting as a verb, not an adjective—although some of Bobby’s cousins are a bit mangy, but never mind.) So far, the leading vote-getter for the rename is Czechia. Hmm. I don’t know. Sounds kinda like a skin disease, if you ask me.
This is serious business over there beyond the big pond. Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek said recently that he’s been practically assaulted by angry citizens on both sides of the issue. Frankly, I think if you can pronounce Lubomír Zaorálek, then you can pronounce Czech Republic with ease, but my opinion apparently carries little weight here. But as long as you’ve asked, how about Kielbasaland? Or maybe Kolachestan or Bobavkia. Think of the marketing, the tourism opportunity here. People with a hankering for Czech food would be drawn to the place simply by the name. “Come to Kielbasaland, where every hamlet carries the aroma of roast pork with dumplings.”
Recently, I asked sis Kathy what her family thought of all this dissonance and discord. She replied thusly: “Czechoslovakia split up?” OK, forget the whole thing. Sometimes I just get too worked up. Ooooh, who’s up for some karbanátek with egg?
Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a mildly obese dachshund, and a middle-aged cat with Esptein Barr Syndrome. For more of “This Old Spouse,” visit www.oldspouse.wordpress.com.