Here’s my discovery of the day: It is not Czech!
It really wasn’t making any sense to me. Whenever I’ve watched a Borat episode on HBO, I’ve wondered why Sacha Baron Cohen’s Kazakh character greets the viewers with the very Czech sounding Jagshemash. What does Kazakhstan have to do with the Czech Republic? Did Mr. Cohen decide to throw all those “Eastern Europeans” into one basket and make them all speak one language?
Today I discovered that the phrase is not meant to be Czech, but instead is supposed to be the Polish Jak się masz, which of course sounds very similar to Jak se máš. Ok then. So it isn’t Czech. Good. But why Polish??
There’s a Borat dictionary at Boyakasha.co.uk.
That is why this movie is not for you as you are not smart enough to understand such simple things. This Polish saying (meaning smth. like ‘How are you doing’) is used in order to show that Americans don’t speak foreign languages and are not able to distinguish the simple phrases said in totally different types of languages as Polish and Kazakhstanian are. Got that? Hopefully you’re able at least to say ‘How are you doing’ or ‘Thank you’ in more than one foreign language but Czech?
Marko from Kaunas
Marko – Dana who I think is able to speak foreign languages asked a question that is far from stupid. OK – we know that Borat pokes fun at the West more than East, but the question of the “Kazakh” language choice remains unanswered. I am a Pole, and it makes me wonder why my native language [and not Ukrainian, Slovenian, etc.] was incorporated into Kazakh. I suppose Sacha Cohen has some links with our country. There were many Jews in Poland before 1939, and one of his ancestors might have spoken Polish.
Have a nice the rest of the day.
Dear Marko from Kaunas,
Wawaweewa! Well, thank you for putting me in my place!
First of all, I think I understand the Borat and Ali G characters pretty well. If I didn’t, I probably wouldn’t be watching the episodes for years. I know what Sacha Baron Cohen is trying to do, how he’s trying to shake things up, point out people’s ignorance, prejudices and hypocrisy, and I admire him for that and his unbelievable acting skills. I think he deserves every penny he makes from his shows and I hope the Borat movie is a success. I’m looking forward to seeing it at the end of this month when it comes to Prague.
Secondly, yes, I can say ‘How are you doing?’ and ‘Thank you’ in more than one foreign language. Besides Czech, which is not a foreign language for me as you believe, but my native language, I speak or at least understand a few other languages at various levels of proficiency. I studied linguistics in college and some of my worst pet peeves have to do with language (thank you, George Carlin, for getting publicly angry about the things I only bitch about at home!).
As a Czech speaker who’s taken many trips to Poland, I don’t have a problem understanding written and spoken Polish. I am well aware of the fact that Czech/Polish and Kazakh belong to different language families and are therefore completely different languages, which is why I didn’t understand why Czech or Polish should be coming out of Borat’s mouth. Now, thanks to your explanation, I finally understand. Seriously, thanks for explaining the mystery to me, I think you’re right. Now it’s making sense. 🙂
Ačiū už pagalbą!
Dana from Prague
Krzysztof, you bring up an interesting thought. I wonder if Sacha Baron Cohen does have Polish ancestors. I couldn’t find any info about that online. The truth is, he uses Polish more than once – besides Jak się masz, there’s also dziękuję if I’m not mistaken.
Boy I hope Marko doesn’t read this post. I’m sure he’ll think I’m a complete idiot.
That being said at the risk of sounding like a dumb American. What is Sacha Baron Cohen speaking in Borat the movie and on the Ali G shows? Is some of it Polish? Some of it made up giberish?
I spoke at length about this to my sister whose linguistic skills are above mine(she speaks 4 langauges) and she felt like the Sacha Baron Cohen was speaking mostly giberish.
Any enlightenment you can give would be helpful.
Lexington, Kentucky USA
I haven’t seen the Borat movie yet. I’ve only seen Borat and Ali G episodes on TV (none of them very recently). I’m not sure what exactly you’re referring to. As far as I know, Borat and Ali G both speak English, albeit not textbook English :), and Borat supposedly throws in some Polish. Some of the terms that both characters use are also included in the dictionary I linked to in my post (Ali G, Borat). Can you give any examples of the situations in which Sacha Baron Cohen uses “gibberish”?
Thanks for the speedy reply. In the movie Borat, there are several scenes in which Sacha Baron Cohen is speaking to his friend and traveling companion, Azimat in what I termed in my previous post as “gibberish”.
I am curious to see what language they are speaking.
I hope this clarifies my question.
Thanks in advance for your time.
Oh, I see. I plan on seeing the movie in about a week. If I figure it out or have any ideas, I’ll post here.
The fact that the “Kazakhstans” in the movie are actually Carpathians and the fact that “Jagshemash” is a greeting whose epicenter is also in the Carpathians means that “Kazakh” has nothing to do with Asians but it is meant to connote Kozaks.
As such, this is the same old leftist bashing of slavs as “anti-semites” – something that the main stream media, Cambridge, and the Kremlin have been fond of doing ever since Duranty.
“Chag Sameach” means “happy holiday” in Hebrew.
Remember, Sacha is jewish.
Wow, people got really testy over a simple question. “What language is he speaking in the movie?” Outside of the two trademark Borat greetings that actually are eastern european, he is speaking Hebrew, with a thick south russian accent. Sacha Baron Cohen, an observant jew, is the son of a Persian Israeli, and spent a year at a Kibbutz in Israel. Borat did an interview with an Israeli reporter recently, and the reporter,knowing Sacha’s background, spoke in Hebrew to Borat. He responded by congratulating the jew on having learned a bit of Kazahk, and the two had an awkward exchange in would-be Kazahk. Very funny.
Worth checking out.
Ale ja jsem fakt chtel ziztit nekde, ze Cohen byl nejakou dobu ve stredni evrope, nebo mel pritelkine z krakowa, a kvuli tomu poziva polski obcas. Ale nic. Jeho holka je z Australi.
I know that Cohen has extensively traveled, not only in the middle east, but also in and around Russia. So, maybe he picked up some terms that stuck.
BTW, effisk, just because Sascha is Jewish, and “chag sameach” is the closest sounding term you’ve ever heard to “jagsemas,” it doesn’t give your theory any gas. You’re way off base. He is in fact speaking Hebrew when he talks to his friends and family in the movie, but uses the aforementioned polish greeting, and well as the polish word for “thank you” as openers and closers on both the show and the film. It’s a Borat staple.
As a Canadian of Ukrainian descent, many words that Borat uses sound like old Ukrainian (pre-Soviet). Any Slav should know that many words are common from Poland to Serbia. I hope I’m not offending any Czechs, but I’ve always thought of Czech as a Slav language with ample germanic loaning. From my perspective, the movie is brilliant in it’s satire of average America and not of Slavs or Central Asians.
My two cents,
Jozin z Bazin says
Hi guys, without dipping too much into the discussion here I tell just one thing – Borat is a name of a Prague Club where this guy – Sasha Cohen was coming for a while in late nineties….the Phrase Jak se mas comes from there as this is how the bartenders greeted him…from them I heard he is quite a drunkard….:)
Very interesting! I looked into it and rumor has it that Klub Borat is a former name of Klub Újezd in Malá Strana. The name of Cohen’s character supposedly comes from the name of the club. I had no idea!