Fast forward several years. When in 1998, I arrived in Prague to live and work, I began to learn the language almost immediately. Now we are close to the year 2000. After having been consultant to the stable of Mona magazines for two years, when I came up with the concept for Serial and was appointed its editor-in-chief, one of the first things I began to do was to write the style for the magazine that would set down basic guidelines about what should be italicized, what must appear in bold, how we would credit the contributors, the tone of our articles and above all, that no foreign female names will be ovaized. We would never call them Leticia Calderónová or Natalia Oreirová. The management and my managing editor Alice (Mackeová ne Sedliská) were cool. They had no problem with that. But the first and the subsequent editors we hired, did. The first one argued with me to no end, citing the sacredness of the grammar, the tradition and such.  One of my young graphics, Štepan Urban even went as far as telling me, without ová how could you tell the difference between whether it was a male or a female we were talking about?

Whether or not I convinced anybody, I do not know. But after having given a serious thought to the subject, this is something I had set down as a rule, and once again I prevailed and was very comfortable with my decision. Especially, now also because I knew the basics of the language and was convinced more than ever that this was the right thing to do. The editors were somewhat pacified at the fact that our part time proof reader was a professor of languages at Charles University and once having discussed the matter with him, he too didn’t have any problem with it. What is more, a few months later when Mona came out with our sister publication Beau Monde, they too chose to drop ová. And a bit by bit, even the press releases from the network television began to arrive with the original foreign names. Now Alice heads four magazines and from their very beginning, they too have remained with the foreign names unaltered.

In the meantime, I began to learn Czech in earnest and as difficult as I found it to be, something about the language seemed quite familiar to me. The real problem was not the vocabulary or even the pronunciations with their ě-č-š-ř-ž-ý-á-í-é, the words devoid of vowels and the long compound words like in German. Did I say German? Bingo! Of course because the Czech being one of the Indo-Germanic languages, it stems from the ancient Sanskrit – also the root of the most modern Indian languages. In Czech, I ran across huge amount of similar sounding vocabulary with identical meanings. Then why was I having such a hard time with the Czech? Those damn seven cases and their declensions. That’s why. Sanskrit even has eight cases! And still. Because the modern Indian languages have done away with those complicated cases and long never-ending compound words as in Sanskrit have simplified the entire structure of the grammar. The Czechs have managed to and still cling to the ancient rules of Sanskrit. Perhaps subconsciously to keep the foreigners out? As would make sense in a xenophobic culture that often characterizes them? Or more likely, in the tradition of the converts who tend to adhere to the rigid covenants than do the ones born into it?

Ironically, I would run into Playboy’s Jaroslav Matejka at Mona. Now working for one of their magazines, Květy. When I casually mentioned our original tussle over ová, and how he now felt about not only Playboy, but other in-house titles such as my Serial, Beau Monde and Story also having dropped the suffix, he shrugged his shoulders and gave me his impish smile. Still not conceding.

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