A few bear facts

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For this week's lesson, we're staying in the forest where, if really lucky, we can hear this sound. If your guess was a motorcycle, you're completely wrong. The correct answer is the bear, the largest beast of prey in Europe.

If your guess was a motorcycle, you're completely wrong. The correct answer is the bear, the largest beast of prey in Europe. Once bears used to be plentiful in the dense forests of this region but from the 16th century on their numbers started dwindling, as they were popular prey for local hunters. The last bear in Bohemia was shot in 1856 in the Sumava mountains. Today, bears can occasionally be seen in North Moravia when they stroll over from neighbouring Slovakia.

But to the point, the Czech word for bear is medvěd. The word is related to the word honey - med - bears' favourite treat. Otherwise bears feed on forest fruit and roots, but also small or dead animals. It sometimes happens that they attack farm animals, too. In more recent times, bears also like to munch on leftovers of food abandoned by tourists.

Because the bear lives as a lonely individual, the Czech word medvěd connotes a loner, a grumpy person. To grumble like a bear is bručet jako medvěd, literally to growl like a bear. The word bručoun is derived from that phrase, and although originally meaning bear, it also means a grumpy person.

Not only reclusive and grumpy, bears are also renowned for their awkward movement. Although they can run at a speed of up to 22 kilometres per hour if they have to, they are considered to be slow and clumsy. Big and clumsy people are in Czech often described as medvěd. If they also have big hands, you can say má pracky jako medvěd - he has paws like a bear.

An interesting idiom is "the bear service" - medvědí služba. It comes from a fable by the French author Jean de la Fontaine, and the expression means a well-intentioned service which in the end harms the recipient, such as when the bear in the fable, who was supposed to drive away flies from a sleeping man, killed the one which was sitting on the man's head while crushing his very head as well at the same time. So medvědí služba is a disservice.

We hope our lessons are nothing like that. Our time is up but you can join us next time for another lesson about Czech wild animal idioms. Until then na shledanou.