If you’re a man and you visit Latvia, be prepared for ‘I’ to become ‘we’ very quickly. And no, I don’t mean that a mad Latvian woman will attach herself to you with superglue – although there’s also a very real risk of that happening.
As I’ve previously mentioned, most men’s names in Latvia end in an ‘s’. But they don’t stop with Latvian names, oh no. They’ll Latvianize your name too, which might make sense in Latvian, but in English just sounds like you’re multiplying.
So be prepared for Robert to become Roberts, Martin to become Martinš, Edgar to become Edgars and Peter to become Pēteris. If you’re unlucky enough to be called Jack, you’ll likely be called Jacks – which is Irish slang for a toilet. My ex-boss has been protesting that his name is Trevor, not Trreffors, for around 14 years now but his plaintive cries fall on deaf Latvian ears.
There’s an ad on Latvian television for ‘The Following’ that’s been on-air for a few months now, but every time I see it I still crack up laughing when the voice-over says ‘Kevins Bacons’. Maybe I’m just easily amused.
In written form, names become almost unrecognisable. Looking at Latvian cinema posters is like a veritable who’s who. Not of anything, just who the hell is who. On a poster for Will Smith’s latest movie, he has become ‘Vils Smits’ and his son, Jaden, is now ‘Džeidens’. Tobey Maguire transforms into ‘Tobijs Magvairs’. If you want to test your Latvian deciphering abilities, try these actors and actresses on for size:
- Džerards Batlers
- Bredlijs Kūpers
- Vudijs Harelsons
- Maikls Keins
- Ītens Houkss
- Reičela Makadama
- Kerija Maligana
Answers on a postcard to ExpatEye, Land of Misery.
However, my current favourite is Eric Clapton. Not only have the Latvians given him a name change, they’ve also given him a sex change.
If you’re wondering why he’s hiding behind a tree, you need to look at the small print. ‘Erika Kleptona’. Poor guy/bearded lady.