A patent on reason


Ahoj, and welcome to this edition of SoundCzech which this week features both rhyme and reason. The rhyme is provided by the hard rock group Kabát in their song Brouk Pytlík, and reason in the patent na rozum, “a patent on reason”. Have a listen:

Každý má dneska patent na rozum, “Everyone has a patent on reason these days”, or everybody’s a know-it-all. Rozum is usually translated as “reason”, one’s intellectual faculty or rozumové schopnosti. But the Czech concept of rozum does not have a cut and dry translation into English. At face value you could sum it up as “understanding”. Indeed, the derived verb rozumět means “to understand” as in Rozumíš mu? Já tomu nerozumím,“Do you understand him?”, “I don’t understand that” and so on. There are of course always situations when someone thinks they have a better understanding than everyone else, and thus a patent on reason.

We all hope to have zdravý, selský rozum, or “common sense”. Zdravý rozum means literally healthy reasoning, which is for Czechs the same as having the down-to-earth sensibilities of a farmer, sedlák, hence selský rozum.

“To pull the wits out of someone”, however, tahat z někoho rozumy, is not at all a painful or malicious act, but merely means you want to “pick their brain” for good ideas. And everybody needs some peace and quiet sometimes just to “take their wits into their hand”, or vzít rozum do hrsti, that is, to “gather their wits”.

You can also deprive someone of their reason, připravit někoho o rozum, or drive them out of their wits. If that happens because of endless irritation for example caused by nagging children or neighbours playing Kabát all night, then you are s rozumem v koncích, just like in English: “at your wits’ end”. Kabát’s lyrics after all have a lot more rhyme than reason, but in the case of this SoundCzech it’s a sňatek z rozumu, or “marriage of convenience”. Listen out for patent on reason one more time, have a lovely weekend and na shledanou.