Like a Soaked Hen


Welcome to a SoundCzech – in which listeners can learn about the Czech language through song lyrics. In today’s edition, the simile “jako zmoklá slepice” which translated literally means “like a soaked hen”. The phrase was used in a famous song called Strejček Hlad (Uncle Hunger). The original lyrics were written by the great Jan Werich and performed by Werich and Jiří Voskovec.

The version here was recorded by Helena Vondráčková in the 1980s.

Strejček Hlad is basically about a vagrant severely down on his luck – his life is like that of a soaked hen. The words evoke the image of a miserable bird as a symbol of a pitiful existence. Today, vypadáš jako zmoklá slepice– you look like a soaked hen – is a phrase that you might hear as a teenager from your parents, or from teasing friends or workmates. What happened to you? Koukáš jako zmoklá slepice! You’ve got the expression of a soaked hen. In English, it would be similar to saying you look glum, you look unhappy, and even you look like drowned rat. And, of course, the closest equivalent, you look a bedraggled hen.

Poor little guy.

When would you look so downcast?

Maybe after failing an exam, or after coming under heavy criticism for something you messed up at work, whenever something happens and you can only sit there watery-eyed, your head bowed.

Another way of saying it would be vypadáš schlíple– you look run-down, or chodíš jako bludná duše– you’re walking like a wandering ghost. Or my personal favourite: vypadáš jako hromádka neštěstí. You look like a little pile of bad luck or a little pile of misery.

All these phrases, including koukáš jako zmoklá slepice– you’ve got the expression of a soaked hen – I suppose are meant to get you to pick yourself back up, to drop the long face. To get it together again, despite the circumstances.

Stop looking like a soaked bird, poor little hen!