Read, Write, Run, Roam

What’s in a name? Sometimes, a language lesson.


Nicknames are very common in Serbia. Usually it’s a derivation of someone’s name, but occasionally a nickname is born from an event or a characteristic. I like to give our guests Serbian nicknames because (1) it’s fun, and (2) it allows me to talk about them on the blog. So when my latest guest came, I immediately tried to give her a nickname based on our adventures. I thought of naming her led (ice), after the hail storm we drove through on our way to Sarajevo. It didn’t work–she’s not exactly Val Kilmer from Top Gun. Sadly.

I then thought of naming her Magnum, after the amazing ice cream bar she introduced me to in Sarajevo. But that’s an English word, and I needed a Serbian one. She almost was called mrtva baterija (dead battery), since that’s what we discovered this morning. Long story, but headlights (from aforementioned hailstorm), tired driver and hotel owner desperately trying to get back to his desk are a bad combo. Luckily, hotel parking by a police station and barely passable Serbian/Bosnian are a good combo. Anyway, mrtva baterija doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. It wouldn’t do.

After getting the car started we drove to Visoko to see the famed pyramids. I figured I would just name her Piramida and get it over with. But the nickname gods smiled upon us when we were driving out of town. “Is that a MONKEY?” she shrieked, and I immediately pulled over the car.

It was, indeed, a monkey. And the best nickname possible. Readers, say hello to my friend Majmun.

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