Prague Graffiti

Sunday, 23 March 2008
john lennon wall prague

There are a lot of graffiti in Prague. The main reason, as I understand it, is that graffiti were mostly not tolerated before the Velvet Revolution, so once communism fell apart, no one wished to stifle this new way of free expression. Now it’s just out of hand.

I was on the tram yesterday when I saw graffiti on the side of a church on Karlovo náměstí that said in English, “Fight State”. And I thought, as I so often do – If you are going to deface private property whilst using the English language, at least get the bloody grammar right. And I thought of other examples that I have seen around Prague, like “Fuck System” and “We don’t want clean city!”

The graffiti is ugly, but as a linguist, a writer, an editor, and most of all as an absolute pedant, it’s the grammatical errors and the misspellings that really irk me.

I was on another tram later in the day when I overheard two other foreigners discussing the graffiti. One explained to the other that they were symbolic, that no one would do anything about the graffiti because under communism, graffiti had been the only means of protest.

Now I knew that was a load of crap because there is so much evidence to the contrary. For example, Plastic People of the Universe, samizdat publishing, Charter 77, the imprisoned dissidents who are today’s politicians… But like in a lot of the bullshit you hear around town, there was some truth in what the young lady had said. Specifically, the John Lennon wall.

The John Lennon wall in Malá strana became the holy wall of freedom graffiti after John Lennon was killed in December 1980. The authorities tried to keep the wall clean and graffiti-less, but not even surveillance cameras and a human guard could keep the sprayers and painters and poets away. But that wall was an exception and Prague was otherwise without graffiti.

Must have been nice.


Lives and Treasure

Thursday, 20 March 2008
pirate game

“No one would argue that this war has not come at a high cost in lives and treasure…”

PЯesident George W Bush, speaking yesterday about Iraq

Sorry – “treasure”?

I don’t know about everyone else, but I find that use of the word ‘treasure’ offensive. The war in Iraq is not a children’s game of pirates, and the taxpayers’ hard-earned money is not ‘treasure’.

But W is an asshole and John McCain is going to be even worse.


Tuesday, 25 September 2007

john lydon gobsmacked


Last month I was supposed to go to Amsterdam, but a bug bit me, my leg blew up and I couldn’t walk. I called the airline and they told me that I could have my money back if I sent in a note from my doctor. My doctor sent a note to them by email on the same day.

Four days later I wrote an email asking them if they would need anything else from me in order to process my refund. I received no answer.

So three weeks after that I wrote an email to the communications director of the airline. All of my communication, whether by phone or email, has been in English. Aside from the phone call, all of their communication has been non-existent.

Until today. Today, 11 days after I had sent my last email, I received an email in Slovak to which I immediately replied.

Dear Ms Hovnová,

Can you please write to me in English? I wrote to *** Airlines in English with a complaint about your airline’s communication and you have just answered me in a language I do not speak. I am gobsmacked.

Yours sincerely,

But really I was happy because it’s not often you get to use the word ‘gobsmacked’ in a letter of complaint.

And oddly enough, this time I got an answer within a half hour.

Max’s Rules

Friday, 23 February 2007

anal lube

I realise that I am a pedant when it comes to the English language. For that I blame my mother, and then probably Jono as he has reinforced my pedantry for the past 5 years. One year at the Marine ball in Prague, I noticed a printing error on the souvenir beer glasses. I showed it to Jono and he then informed the rest of our table. One of our friends asked which one of us had spotted it. Jono answered, “What difference does it make? Pedant One or Pedant Two…”

Today I was flipping around the internet and found a blog entry entitled “Deja Vu All Over Again”. I cringed. It’s not the missing diacritical marks and it’s not even that the ‘v’ in ‘vu’ and the ‘o’ in ‘over’ should both be small. It’s the whole cliché thing that really gets to me, and the fact that people repeat the same stupidity over and over again without thinking and without realising how retarded they sound.

Another popular utterance that I abhor is “anyhoo”. I think the first person I ever heard use that bastardised word was Big Sister’s first husband, and he was an idiot. But I do hear intelligent people use it, and I really don’t understand why. It’s not cute and it’s not clever, it just sounds ignorant.

I believe that educated people should not say “ain’t”. I believe in good grammar and enunciation. I don’t approve of people who speak too quickly and I don’t agree with sms shorthand.

My rules, I make them up.