Like a Bag of Fleas


Hello and welcome to another edition of SoundCzech – Radio Prague’s Czech language series in which you can learn idioms through song lyrics. Today, we’ll be listening to a song called Zkamenělý dítě (The Petrified or Stony Child) by the great Czech ‘90s rock band, Lucie. The words to look out for are “pytel blech” - a bag of fleas.

To be like a bag of fleas – být jako pytel blech– is similar to having “ants in your pants”, in other words, to be restless. You might hear a teacher scold children saying “What’s the matter with you? You’re like a bag of fleas”! Imagine a kindergarten class jumping around, shouting all at once, refusing to sit still. I can’t attest to the historical accuracy, but a similar Wild West saying is said to have been “as restless as a hen on a hot griddle”. I’ve also seen written somewhere that one can be “as restless as a rattlesnake on a hot rock”. I kind of like that. But in Czech it’s “být jako pytel blech”. You’re like a bag of fleas.

There are also other equivalent in Czech which are quite popular, among them, “být jako z divokých vajec”– to act like one were from wild eggs, or “být jako z hadích ocásků” - to behave as if you were from a snake’s tail: restless, squirming, whipping around. Not surprisingly, these expressions are used most often in connection with small kids. “Co je s tebou?!”. What’s the matter with you is something you might hear in nursery school, “jseš jako z divokých vajec!”. Ants in your pants, indeed!

By now you may be feeling a little restless yourself, and I can’t say I blame you. It’s time to move on! But, when you have a second or you simply don’t know what to do with yourself next, you might try this: looking up previous editions of SoundCzech at They’re the fleas… I mean… the bees’ knees. Thanks for listening!