Polishian, Czechian, Slovakian Or Polish, Czech, And Slovak -> Why The Word “Slovakian” Is Unquestionably Incorrect

Photo: allposters.com

Photo: allposters.com

Slovak v. Slovakian

August 2, 2016

Allan Stevo

A few weeks ago I was on the excellent freelancer search website Elance. On the website I was looking to get the attention of someone with Slovak, Polish, or Czech language ability.

I noticed that Elance recognizes the languages as Polish, Czech, and Slovakian, rather than Polish, Czech, and Slovak. The later – Slovak – is a significantly more correct term than the former – Slovakian and for at least four reasons.

 

1. Consistency

Why say Czech and then say Slovakian? Why say Polish and then Slovakian? No one other than those poorly educated in the English language would ever say Czechian or Polishian.

 

2. Economy

Why say Slovakian when Slovak gets the point across just as well? Adding extra letters to English to make Englishian is not a useful or accepted option. It would merely be an unnecessarily uneconomical use of letters.

 

3. Internationalism

The word Slovak means something in the Slovak language. Slovakian means nothing. The word Czech similarly means something in the Czech language, whereas the word Czechian means nothing.

 

4. Sleek

The word Slovakian is much more cumbersome than the sleeker word Slovak. Plus ending with a K is cool. It’s more unique as well by being an irregular word.

 

Do you prefer to use Slovak or Slovakian in English? Why? What good arguments do you have either way? Which do you tend to hear?

 

Photo: amo.ostrava.cz

Photo: amo.ostrava.cz

Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

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Comments

  • Robert Beres

    Aug 5th, 2016

    There are Slovak mountains, Slovak cities, Slovak athletes etc. I have been Slovak all my life and so are all my relatives. I have never been Slovakian because there is no such word.

  • I have been fighting this battle for years. I correct people whenever I hear them use Slovakian. It makes me cringe! It is just SO not correct! Thank you, Alan, for posting this!

  • Thanks for finally addressing this. I was always irritated by the “Slovakian” adjective. Who invented it?

  • Slovaks aren’t the only ones.

    The poor Serbs get called “Serbians”. I noticed this during the Rio Olympics. Frankly, a part of the problem is that small Slavic nations just don’t show up on the radar screen for most Americans. And many of us don’t do very well at knowing American States, let alone small, obscure nations half a world away.

    How about people from Kosovo? How many Americans know they are called Kosovars? Not Kosomen. Or Kosovanians.

    Then, the English language, with its many foreign borrowings, doesn’t make things easy either. We have so many words in the English language that many folks just can’t keep up. So, to many people, its a non-issue.

    A few of us care, either because of a family connection to Slovakia, or out of principle.- the principle of practicing good English. Many others don’t have so many scruples.

    At least we can now calmly and gracefully refer ourselves as ” Slovak” and revel in our erudition and scholarship, because we have special knowledge that others don’t! :-)

  • I, too, have been fighting this battle for years. Considering I’m an English teacher, it’s a rather important issue. And as much as I agree with you and your conclusions, I’m afraid that the Oxford Dictionary (British and World English) lists ‘Slovakian’ as a real word. https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/slovakian It’s also used repeatedly by the BBC.
    That being said, I think the difference might be in ethnicity (which is similar to how Serb/Serbian works). If I become a Slovak citizen, I will never be Slovakian, since that is not my ethnic background. Most of my students, however, are Slovakian. I have Slovak (passport holders) students in my classes who are Hungarian (ethnically). Thus there can be a Serbian on the Slovak nation football team, and a Slovakian playing for the Chicago Blackhawks.
    Needless to say, I will not use this myself. ‘Slovak’ is the common-sense term.

  • Dear teacher, “Slovak” is a noun and also an adjective. Word Slovakia (short form of Slovak Republic) is made of a word “Slovak” and the suffix “ia”. You just cant add “n” (as suffix) to another suffix. It doesn’t make sense!!! You cant use two suffixes for one word!!!

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