Experiences of an American woman who was married to a Serb.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Bog, Bog, Bog, Bog, Bog

"Bog" in Serbo-Croatian means "God." It feels a bit odd for an English speaker because why would god be named after soggy land; but, mainly at first I appreciated this nice, short, easy-to-pronounce word because so many Serbo-Croatian words really aren't.

However, pretty quickly the thing that gets annoying is how often Croatians fling "bog" about in casual speech. It's bog here, bog there, bog everywhere. Bog has become a verbal punctuation mark used constantly throughout the day, mainly to mark the end of a conversation and often leave-taking. Instead of saying, 'bub bye' or 'Ciao', people say 'bog.' I've also noticed it being used as a kind of "thanks/hvala", such as if someone exiting a building holds the door open for you as you enter, both of you might say, 'Bog' in passing.

You don't hear bog used like this in Serbia. My husband says darkly that Croatians are using it to prove how much more religious they are than Serbs (Croatians are mostly Roman Catholic and Serbs are mostly Orthodox.) Maybe his theory holds up for a few people, but mostly everyone else does it because everyone does it. You just pick it up after awhile, and don't even notice you're doing it. After one short week visiting Croatia this year, my step-son was bogging away with the rest of us. I'd never heard the word pass his lips before that.

Something about mixing the sacred and the profane bothers me. By saying "God" so much, it feels like the word is being dragged across a line it shouldn't be... even polluted a little bit. OK so I've been known to swear, taking the Lord's name in vain as much as the next person when I stub a toe or something. But this feels different. It would be cool if a giant megaphone came down from heavens over Croatia and a voice boomed out, "That's my name, don't wear it out!"


Anonymous said...

I was under the impression that "Bog" used as a gretting/in passing was a short form of "Zbogom" (Goodbye, Jod by with you, With God, etc)..

Not that it makes it seem any better ;)

- A.

Dušan Orlović said...

I must correct you. Croatians say "Bok" instead of "Ciao". That is not the same with "Bog" (god).
But, you are right, that word (bog) is used too much, either in good or in bad meaning.

Anonymous said...

It looks like, in a strange culture, everything seems strange even when that very "strange" thing is so prevalent in our own neck of the woods. My mom was visiting us from Serbia and the first thing she noticed watching the American tv was that every other sentence was: Oh, my god! Everybody is saying it, all the time, with various levels of excitement. And what about all those OMGs floating around? I wonder what our Lord and Savior has to say about his name being texted in vain...

Anonymous said...

"Serbo-Croatian" died with the death of Yugoslavia. The language spoken in Croatia is called "Croatian". And it doesn't matter how close it is to Serbian, it is still its own language.

Anonymous said...

there is no serbo-croatian.

BubamaraMama said...

I agree with Dusan, I was taught by my Croatian in-laws that I was to say "Bok".
I totally agree witrh the second anon. poster, who mentioned the GLUT of "OMG" in American society. You cannot watch any of the many transformation-type TV shows without OH MY GAWD!! being screamed out over and over or whispered through tears..No matter, it's disrespectful and dilutes the power of the name/title.