Dear Dr. Boli: If an American says “Vltava” in the middle of the forest, and there’s no one there to hear him, has he still pronounced it wrong? —Sincerely, etc.

Dear Sir or Madam: Curiously enough, Americans, like other non-Bohemians, have no trouble pronouncing “Vltava” in the middle of the forest with no one there to hear them. It is only the addition of an audience that provokes the egregious mispronunciations you mention. When a foreigner pronounces “Vltava” in public, for reasons yet unknown to psychology, it invariably comes out sounding something like “Moldau,” causing raucous laughter among the Bohemians, which in turn makes other people want to throw them out of windows.