Silent foreigners

Czechs describe people from outside their country in intriguing caricature. Originally all foreigners were called Nemec (from the adjective nemy meaning ‘mute’); now the suggestion that outsiders are deprived of speech applies specifically to Germans, whose country is known as Nemecko. Hungary in Czech used to be Uhersko, and a Hungarian Uher, literally, a pimple.

The Italians, meanwhile are called makaroni, for obvious reasons; while Australians are known as protinozcí, meaning ‘legs placed in an opposite direction’, as they would be on the other side of the globe. Other cheerfully frank generalizations include: opilý jako Dán, to be as drunk as a Dane; zmizet po anglicku, to disappear like an Englishman; and when the Czechs really don’t understand something, they say to pro mne spanelská vesnice, it’s all a Spanish village to me.

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