Enough With the Izvoljite

“Izvoljite?” is a phrase you hear about as often as people exhale in The Balkans. It’s a lot like the Italian “prego” and is a catchall phrase for things like, “How may I help you?”, “Here you go.”, “What would you like?”, or essentially, “Buy my stuff now!” That last one isn’t really what the phrase meant historically, but what it has become.
Originally, this was a nice phrase that I believe comes from the roots of ‘iz’ meaning ‘from’ and ‘voljiti’ (ekavski — ‘voliti’) meaning ‘to love’ so it was something you did when you meant to invite someone or engage them to try something. There was some real feeling behind it and I assume that back in the day, it was nice.
Now, it’s just what you hear from waiters when you peruse a menu for more than five seconds or look at a shop window for the same amount of time. It’s quite annoying and the entire meaning has been perverted in to this ultra-pushy mentality that is generally something that turns off many visitors to the Balkans. I’m pretty immune to it now, but when a guy started yelling, “Izvolite!” in a synagogue that we visited to let us know we couldn’t be there, it was obvious that people have just forgotten what the word meant.
You see, there’s also another level to this because in the way that they say it, it’s been conjugated to the second person formal version of the verb. But, they’re using it in something that is a mix between the vocative case and the imperative version of the verb, which is all wrong. Sorry for the geeky language break, but when people start messing with words like this, I find it bothersome, like when rednecks in the US say “crick” when they say “creek”. Ergh.
Enough With the Izvoljite

3 Replies to “Enough With the Izvoljite”

  1. Ok so, ‘izvolite’ means something like ‘if you please’. And it can be used like: if you would please, see our menu, or: if you please, look at our store or: if you please, move your ass from my store.
    You can use it in a positive or in a negative context. That doesn’t mean that the verb is crooked. That means you don’t know Croatian very well.

    1. Yes, obviously I’m not a native speaker, but my point is that the word has been changed from it’s original, basic root meaning. It’s just like how in English we say that something is, “the shit” when really shit is something bad. It happens all the time, I just found it to be amusing in this instance. A lot like how a word in British English will mean completely the opposite of what it does in American English, like “fanny”.

    2. Well, every language has some words that were never intended to be used in certain way, as they do now, you are right. But this beautiful diversity is making learning other languages and living in general that much more interesting :)).

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