Thursday, August 6, 2009

Macedonian Dialects

The diversity of dialects in Macedonia is really amazing. This is a country of 2 million people, yet there's a good chance that someone from Skopje won't really understand someone from Strumica, who won't really understand someone from Bitola because of accent, slang, and other differences. The formal, standardized Macedonian language is based on the dialect from the middle of the country - somewhere between Veles and Prilep. The Skopski dialect differs by including a great deal of Serbian, and dropping certain consonants - 'shto' (which means what) becomes 'sho'. Entire verb endings are dropped in the Strumica dialect, which is closer to Bulgarian. And no one outside of Bitola can hear people from Bitola without laughing. . . perhaps imagine a Boston accent.

By far my favorite dialect, however, is the one spoken in Macedonia's premier wine country, around Kavadarci and Negotino. It has the usual drop of consonants and different accenting of words . . . with the hilarious added bonus of nonstop profanity. Here is what Chris Deliso writes in the Macedonian section of the new Lonely Planet Western Balkans:

"Kavadarci's gregarious locals have one humorous peculiarity probably lost on outsiders: their good-natured profanity. Basic greetings are heavily soaked in swearing, apparently for its own sake - so don't blush when sommeone greets you by saying 'dojdi da t'ebam' (literally, come here so I can screw you)!"

He gives a rather more tame translation than the actual meaning. . . but you get the idea. Imagine a teenage girl's way of speaking - every other word is "like. . . ". Elderly, sun tanned, life-long grape pickers speak the same way, but with the Macedonian equivalents of the f-word, and various rude bits about your mother. A friend of a friend works in the Agricultural ministry, and had to travel down for an official government meeting with the head so-and-so's, foreign investors, and other important types, and came away shocked that the overwhelming profanity carried into the professional presentations. "And as you can see from these f**** graphs, if we don't improve our performance, then f*** your mother, we're in trouble." It's a rough translation, but without exagerration.

I crack up just thinking about it.


I forgot the funniest part of the government presentation story. Macedonian, like Spanish, has a polite or formal form of the verb, and an informal version. During this government presentation, the representatives from Kavadarci started cursing using the formal version of the verbs. Instead of "Come here so that I can screw you!", it would be "Please come here so that I can screw you, Sir." Now that's politeness.

1 comment:

B said...

And when can I visit this place where I will fit in very comfortably?