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To the Czechs, she's "Clintonova"

The traditional female name ending comes under fire in the Czech Republic.

Then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton (R) chats with then-Czech First Lady Dagmar Havlova in Prague Oct. 12. The distinctive female name ending in some Slavic languages — "ova" — has become the topic of debate. (Sean Gallup/Reuters)

PRAGUE — To Czechs, it's not Hillary Clinton who is U.S. Secretaty of State — it's Hillary Clintonova, or "wife of Clinton."

But that distinctive female name ending in some Slavic languages — "ova" — has come under increased scrutiny since the fall of communism here. The issue bubbled over last month during a world championship skiing competition.

Zuzana Kocumova was providing color commentary for viewers of the country's leading TV station, Czech Television. A 29-year-old city council member and school teacher, Kocumova was a competitive cross-country skier and has been a TV commentator for about seven years. But this time, she did not add "ova" to the names of foreign competitors.

“One day I came to work but my boss said it was finished — our cooperation,” Kocumova said. She was told that some viewers were upset that she referred to the female skiers by their official names. They were their names, she said, and "it's not normal to use our form with them.”

Otto Cerny, the Czech Television official who fired Kocumova, refused to comment about the incident, not responding to calls and a text message.

Independent experts and observers agree there a clash of rules and values are at play here. Jiri Kraus, a professor of language at Charles University, attributes the dispute to globalization and the country's ever-growing integration with the outside world.

“Now there is a strong feminist movement and a stronger influence of foreign languages and foreign traditions,” he said. “So it is sometimes very difficult to solve this problem.”

But the rules of Czech language are clear, he said: A woman's name should end in "ova."