A primer on Slovakian names

Just FYI: Though there will be a fair amount of overlap between this post and my previous post about Czech names, there will be still be differences. Contrary to popular perception, Czechs and Slovaks aren’t one and the same, just as Russians and Ukrainians aren’t one and the same in spite of their geographical proximity and similar languages.

As I’ve stated many times before, I’m very proudly one-quarter Slovakian, or Hunky, as we’re also called. I’m so privileged as to live in a time and place where that former slur has been reappropriated as a positive term of endearment instead of used as a cruel, hateful, menacing, abusive word. No one’s ever called me a dumb Hunky. The Czech and Slovak languages are at least 90% mutually intelligible, but again, we’re still different peoples.

Božidar Brinarsky, the progressive, left-handed tutor in my second and third Russian historicals, is half-Slovenian, half-Slovakian. Mr. Brinarsky was a schoolteacher in Slovenia for 15 years, taught in various Manhattan schools after immigrating in 1913, and ends up as the home tutor to three of my left-handed characters. Fedya and Dmitriy are lefties from birth, but Violetta is rendered a lefty after her polio ordeal. Her right arm isn’t paralyzed, but it’s too weakened to use anymore. Mr. Brinarsky also teaches Ivan proper left-handed writing methods, better late than never.

Slovakian alphabet:

Slovakian uses the Roman alphabet, with a few extra additions: Č (like the Russian CH and Polish CZ), Š (Russian SH and Polish SZ), Ž (Russian ZH), Ď d’ (DY), DZ, DŽ, Ĺ, L’ (LY as in “million”), Ň (like the Spanish Ñ or Italian GN), Ŕ (a trilled R), and Ť ť (TY). CH is pronounced like the guttural sound in loch or Chanukah, C is pronounced like the Russian TS, and J is of course pronounced like a Y.

Slovakian surnames:

Like many other Slavic surnames, Slovakian surnames too differ by sex. The feminine form is typically formed by adding the suffix -ová, just as with Czech names. If the masculine form ends in Y or Ý, it’s replaced by an Á. Given the region’s history, there are a fair amount of surnames of Hungarian, German, and other ethnic origins, and those names don’t adhere to the native naming conventions.

Surnames can be derived from profession (Rybár [fisher], Mäsiar [butcher], Kľúčiar [key-maker], Sklenár [glass-maker], Mlynár [miller]), adjectives (Malý [small], Čierny [black], Surový [raw]), food (Malina [raspberry], Polievka [soup], Slanina [bacon]), and Nature (Medvedík [little bear], Komár [mosquito], Dolina [valley]). Some names also end in ský/-sky (ská/-ska).

Common Slovakian names and their nickname forms:


Alexandra (Saša)
Alžbeta (Eliška) (Elizabeth)
Božena (Divine)
Branislava (Braňka)
Danica (Morning star)
Daniela (Dana)
Darina (Gift)
Dušana (Soul)
Helena, Elena (Alena, Lenka)
Jana (Janka)
Jolana (Yolanda)
Katarína (Katka)
L’uba (L’ubica) (Love) (Amy)
Magdaléna (Alena, Lenka)
Margita, Markéta
Mária (Maja, Marika)
Nadežda (Hope)
Petra, Petronela
Sofia, Žofia (Soňa)
Zdenka (Build; Create)
Zlata (Zlatica) (Golden)
Zora (Zorka, Zorica) (Dawn)
Zuzana (Zuza, Zuzanka, Zuzka)


Alexander (Aleš)
Alexej (Aleš)
Alojz (Aloysius)
Bohumil (Favored by God)
Bohumír (God is famous/great; God’s peace; God’s world)
Bohuslav (Glory of God)
Branislav (Branko) (Protection and glory)
Ctirad (Willing/happy honor)
Dalibor (To fight distance)
Dalimil (Gracious distance)
Drahoslav (Precious glory)
Dušan (Soul)
Ján (Janko)
Jaroslav (Fierce and glorious)
Juraj (George)
L’ubomír (L’uboš) (Love and peace)
Matej, Matúš (Matthew)
Mikuláš (Nicholas)
Miloš (Gracious; dear)
Miloslav (Miloš)
Miroslav (Mirek)
Pavol (Paul)
Slavomir (Slavo)
Slavomír (Glory and peace)
Stanislav (Become glory)
Štefan (Pišta)
Václav (More glory)
Vavrinec (Lawrence)
Viliam (William)
Vladimír (Vlado) (Great/famous rule)
Vladislav (Vlado) (To rule with glory)
Vojtech (Vojto)
Vratislav (To return glory)
Zdenko (Zdeno) (Build; Create)

WIPpet Wednesday—Disrespectful doctor

Some of my recent pictures from my walks around the pond:






WIPpet Wednesday is a weekly bloghop hosted by K.L. Schwengel. The caveat is that excerpts must be related to the date in some way. I’m sharing 29 lines, for the 29th of the month.

Savva, the 35-month-old firstborn child of Grand Duchess Olga and Prince Konstantin Konstantinovich the younger, is on his deathbed with a cerebral hemorrhage and has just had Extreme Unction performed. Shortly after the ceremony, the palace pediatrician becomes extremely chutzpahdik (impudent; disrespectful) and starts seriously overstepping his bounds and behaving extremely inappropriately.

“Marital hygiene” is an old-fashioned euphemism for birth control.


Prince Konstantin and his seven surviving siblings, circa 1907. I’m at least 90% sure Konstantin is third from the left in the front.

“Please forgive me for broaching such a sensitive subject, Your Highness,” the doctor told Konstantin, “but I really hope your third child is a girl.  You don’t want to have three sick boys in a row.  And whatever this coming child is, you shouldn’t risk further children after already having two sons stricken with this curse.  You know your wife is a carrier, and that this dreaded characteristic wasn’t just a fluke with one child.  I’m sure any of your priests will grant you permission to employ marital hygiene with these extenuating circumstances.  It’s not like you’re anywhere near to the order of succession and need an heir and some spares.”

“My children are Divine blessings,” Konstantin said softly. “I have seven surviving siblings, and wanted my own family so badly for so many years.  My wife and I aren’t having children as some kind of dynastic security blanket.  I’d want a lot of children even if I hadn’t been born a prince.”

The doctor turned to Aleksey. “And you, Your Majesty.  I really don’t mean to be morbid or disrespectful, but I hope this has moved you to change your mind about heading off to Paris for four years.  With your condition, you never know when it’s going to be your time.  Even if you don’t reign for very long, at least secure the dynasty by marrying and producing an heir.  No one wants to see the succession shift to you-know-whom.”

“This isn’t the time or place to discuss such things,” Mikhail said. “I’m very disappointed in you for even broaching such subjects at a child’s deathbed.  If you value your esteemed position, you won’t speak any further on such matters.”

“Yes, Your Imperial Highness.  But we must discuss these things as soon as possible.”

“That’s entirely up to my family’s discretion.  The dynasty is secure in my hands, and my nephew will take the appropriate measures to keep it secure once it’s his turn on the throne.  The particulars aren’t your concern.”

“It should’ve been his turn on the throne since two years ago.  Do you really intend to hand over the reins at some point, or do you plan to steal your nephew’s birthright?  You may have grown too fond of your position as Regent, and His Majesty is too innocent to understand your scheme.  I hope to God you’re not amending the House Laws again, so your morganatic son can inherit the throne and your commoner wife can become Empress.  It was bad enough you already revised them once, even if part of those revisions were for an understandable, realistic reason.”

RSW Seventh Update


Ready. Set. Write! is a summer-long initiative hosted by Alison MillerKaty UppermanElodie NowodazkijJaime Morrow, and Erin Funk. Each week, participants post brief updates under five headings.

  • How I did on last week’s goal(s)

To get my word count flowing thicker and faster to meet my Camp NaNo goal of 50K, I had to go back to writing out of order. I started the week below par, since I lose pretty much all of Saturday for writing this time of year, when the days are so long and Shabbos doesn’t end till really late.

I wrote 16,000 words, including the backbone of my future note on the House Laws, as part of the document Aleksey writes to liberally revise the House Laws.

  • My goal(s) for this week

Finish the 50K goal I set for Camp NaNo! As of now, the sections of this book which need the most filling-out are Part II (about halfway done) and Part IV (only a few chapters partly-written). I also need to fill in a few spots in the short Epilogue, which is based on Deuteronomy 34, the final chapter of the Torah. Every year at Simchat Torah, that finale gives me goosebumps. Longtime regular readers might remember I based the ending of Cinnimin on Deuteronomy 34.

  • A favorite line from my story OR a word or phrase that sums up what I wrote/revised

“I wouldn’t make you walk that distance if I didn’t think you could do it.  We never really understand what we’re capable of till we’re right there in the moment.  The bounds of a human being are something we can never really comprehend, no matter how much we’re astounded by them.”

(This is based off a line from the late great Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn, “The bounds of a human being! No matter how you are astounded by them, you can never comprehend….”)

  • The biggest challenge I faced this week

Surprisingly, I had another moment of doubt in having created Arkadiya, the morganatic princess who becomes Tsaritsa and the much-improved replacement for the ridiculous, unrealistic, completely undeveloped commoner Varya. It really does seem as though Princess Ileana of Romania would’ve been the ideal empress-consort for Aleksey, since not only was she already Orthodox, but she was a woman of great strength and compassion. (Princess Ingrid of Sweden, later Queen of Denmark, would’ve been another excellent match.)

I have to remind myself of why I avoided this match. They were second-cousins twice over (sharing both Tsar Aleksandr II and Queen Victoria as great-grandparents), and this what-if match is so popular, it’s kind of cliché and too expected. I think some of it stems from how he told her he’d come back and marry her someday, as though a 9-year-old’s childish promise should’ve been taken seriously.


Aleksey, Ileana, and Prince Nicolae of Romania (from right to left) on the Shtandart yacht in 1914, one of the few pictures where Aleksey is smiling enough to show the gap between his front teeth. He was clearly enjoying the female attention!

I also had a challenge on my secondary blog, and finally decided I had to blacklist the IP and URL of someone who persistently only commented to make negative, rude remarks. Everything was either “That’s not what this name really means” (she doesn’t trust the venerable Behind the Name, and thinks Mike C. doesn’t cite his sources) or “You do realize [opinion] is ridiculous, don’t you?” I just couldn’t take it anymore after the latest rude remark which brushed off the entire post I’d taken the time and effort to intelligently, respectfully create, about my distaste with “translating” proper names. There’s constructive criticism and politely disagreeing, and then there’s just being blunt, rude, and never positive.

  • Something I love about my WIP

I love a good dark horse hero, and the chance to make a hero out of an underdog with so much going against him. I love how the eventual leading lady also is an atypical hero. An unlikely Tsar needs an unlikely Tsaritsa.

WeWriWa—Room upgraded

If you’re observing Tisha B’Av, may you have an easy and meaningful fast!

My Cherished post is here.

Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. This week’s scene immediately follows last week’s, as Arkadiya Gagarina has received a ride back to her hotel at the end of an extremely memorable, unbelievable day. She believes the incredulity of this day has finally come to an end, but there are several more surprises in store.


“Your Majesty!” the receptionist gasped. “To what does my humble hotel owe the honor of your imperial presence?”

“I’m just escorting a petitioner home so she won’t get attacked in the dark.  Did you know this woman is a morganatic princess?  As long as she’s here, I want her room upgraded to something properly befitting a princess.  In fact, don’t even bill her for her stay.  I’ll be paying for everything.”

“This isn’t necessary!” Arkadiya protested. “I consider myself a commoner, not a princess.”

Cherished Blogfest


This weekend, DamyantiDan AntionPaul RuddockPeter Nena, and Sharukh Bamboat are hosting the Cherished Blogfest. Participants are asked to write about a particularly cherished object, and why it’s so special. Click on the button for the sign-up list.


Davy is the worn-out old red tabby on the far left, Paul is the caramel-colored tabby, John is the grey cat, Keith is the dog, and Simon is the gigantic frog.


Davy and his twin sister Davina were made for me in 1987 or 1988 by my paternal grandma, who’s been in the other world since April 2014. Believe it or not, these cats are the exact same age. It’s pretty obvious I love Davy the most. Once upon a time, he looked like Davina, plump, bright, unfaded, no worn patches or stuffing peeking out. My excuse for having given them matching names is that I was a child and didn’t know any better. I thought multiples were supposed to have rhyming names, or boy-girl versions of the same name.

I’ve slept with stuffed animals my entire life, and even had one with me when I was away at university. I didn’t bring Davy, though, since he was so old and worn, and I didn’t want anyone to steal him. After my car accident in August 2003, I asked a nurse to ask my parents to bring Davy to the ER. My nurses could totally understand why I’d asked for that stuffed animal when they saw how worn-out he was. It was obvious we’d been through a lot together.

I also had Davy with me during my 8-day stay in hospital after my first surgery, and probably during my 3-day stay after the second surgery (in a different, much less personal hospital). He became Real a long time ago, just like the Velveteen Rabbit.


“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

Davy is kept in a bureau drawer now, since he’s just too worn and old anymore to be kept even tucked under the covers. The only stuffed animal in my bed now is Simon, who takes up half the bed and is almost as big as I am. I’ve thought of sending Davy to a stuffed animal hospital, but I paused at the thought of my grandma’s stitches being taken out and replaced. Davy also might not seem like Davy anymore if he were repaired, even if that made him sturdier.

In case of a fire, Davy would be the first thing I’d grab, absolutely no questions. And if you’re wondering,

Stuffed animal meme

Davy brought me a lot of comfort after his namesake passed away. I still can’t believe he’s gone.