What's so bad about being Kobylak?

Discussion in 'General Language' started by wesley, Sep 28, 2006.

  1. wesley

    wesley Member

    My last name is Kobylak, which I understand roughly translates as keeper of the mare. This was apparently so bad that my aunt, from Prague, made my uncle change it to Koby. When, as a grown man, I asked him about it, it was on the tip of his tounge to tell me, but he -- who never hesitated to tell a dirty joke -- couldn't bring himself to say. I assume there was some connotation of beastiality. Am I correct? At his memorial dinner, my Aunt even told me to introduce myself as Koby, not Kobylak. I was quite insulted by that. He also dropped him first name, Adoph, which I understand. And made up a middle name. He was a slick business man.

    +I imagine in older times the person who looked after the female horses held a fairly important position on an estate; on thoroughbred farms today it's extremely important. (And yes the stallion is assisted in hitting his target, but to me that's proof of how important the position is and was. I've taught my son to be proud of the name by turning the idiotic beatiality connotation on its head: a Kobylak is a stud stallion!

    Anyway, am I right about my assumption for the bad connotation? Any other ideas? Thanks.
  2. Jana

    Jana Well-Known Member

    IMHO, there is no bad or ambiguous connotation in the surname of Kobylák (I can give a lot of much worse examples of Czech surnames :) ). I just think that in your aunt´s ears it might not sound high-pitched enough for Prague, as it is related to country life and shows a "redneck" origin of the bearer.
  3. mbm

    mbm Well-Known Member

    I can't think of any connotations to your surname either. Perhaps your ancestors were reacting to some prejudice that existed a long time ago, if at all - but in Czech today, this wouldn't raise any eyebrows.
  4. Hanka7

    Hanka7 Member

    Could it be that only the suffix -ak created the negative impression? This suffix tends to be used to derive slangish or depreciative words - "autak" instead of "auto"; "Prazak" instead of "Prazan", "lajdak", "sprostak" etc. This is the only reason I can think of.
  5. mbm

    mbm Well-Known Member

    I don't get any negative vibes from the suffix. Besides, not all words with the suffix are negative (silák, kabrňák, ...).
  6. Hanka7

    Hanka7 Member

    You are right, there are many neutral words formed by -ak as well. I was just going to say that it is one of the numerous Czech suffixes used to derive slangish / derogative words, especially names of people, from substantives. (Like many others, such as -our, -izna...) It can take on negative colouring but not necessarily is always negative. BTW, „kabrnak“ is another nice example of its slangish usage. :wink:

    Anyway, Kobylak does not sound negative at all. It was just a guess...
  7. wesley

    wesley Member

    Wow, thanks folks! I think any of the 3 would be enough to put off my aunt. Her father was a dentist and collected beautiful antiques. I always called her "Prague Aristocratic". She was a real female fox (if I remember the translation of that word correctly) all her life. She wouldn't like the idea of being linked with the country, or "country ways" as Shakespeare put it. Nor the -ak even if it doesn't always connote something slangish. And she no doubt wanted to Anglo-ize her name and spruce my uncle up for a good business name, A. J. Koby, which I must admit sounds catchy. But I think the final answer is that, pre-WWII, it meant something worse, at least to upperclass Prague divas. I dunno.

    Thanks again folks, and obviously I might as well sign my name. And if anybody wants to steal my identity, you're welcome to it and all the money I've got including all my debts!

    Regards to you all,Wes Kobylak.
  8. eso

    eso Well-Known Member

    Very long shot - maybe, "kobylák" should have similar meaning in past as "kobylinec", which means "horse droppings".

    Kobylak is name of plant in Polish, too, but I don't know any detail about it.

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