Brushing up on Czech

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In our language series, in which we explore Czech from head to toe, we are still staying on the head and our today's topic is hair. Czech distinguishes between bodily hair, facial hair and the hair on your head. The word for that is vlasy. It has a singular form, too - one hair is vlas. Whether they have blond, black, straight or curly hair, lots of it or none - Czechs use the word frequently in conversation because it is a part of many phrases and idioms.

In our language series, in which we explore Czech from head to toe, we are still staying on the head and our today's topic is hair. Czech distinguishes between bodily hair, facial hair and the hair on your head. The word for that is vlasy. It has a singular form, too - one hair is vlas. Whether they have blond, black, straight or curly hair, lots of it or none - Czechs use the word frequently in conversation because it is a part of many phrases and idioms.

Being so thin, hairs often symbolise something narrow or weak. This quality is emphasised by the use of the diminutive vlásek. If Czechs say: "Jeho ¾ivot visí na vlásku", it means "his life is hanging by a thread". And if they say "unikl o vlásek", it means that someone had a narrow escape. If someone tears or pulls their hair out - rve si vlasy, in Czech it suggests they are desperate, rather than angry or anxious as in the English idiom. The sight of something really frightening may make your hair curl or stand on end. In these situations Czechs say their hair "stands up in horror" - vlasy vstávají hrùzou. If two people have a heated argument, Czechs say - vjeli si do vlasù which, translated word for word, means "they get in each other's hair" but the Czech expression is much stronger than the English idiom. The expression pøita¾ené za vlasy or "pulled by the hair" usually refers to a story, an excuse or explanation. It means that it is far-fetched and not really believable. Another quality of hairs is that they look so much alike. If two things look or are exactly the same, Czechs say they are navlas stejné. In the days when all women had long hair and all men had short haircuts, a rather sexist phrase was coined: dlouhé vlasy, krátký rozum or "long on hair, short on sense". But thanks to not only the wide variety of haircuts these days the saying can no longer be applied in its original sense. That's all we had to say about hair. Next time we will get our teeth into a brand new episode.