The cage has dropped

Spadla klec...

Welcome to another edition of SoundCzech, Radio Prague’s language series in which you have a chance to learn interesting phrases through song lyrics. Today, we’ll hear a song called “Sklerotická” (Sclerotic) by the Eben brothers, from their 1984 album Malé písně do tmy, or Small songs for the Dark. The phrase to listen for is Spadla klec.

The word“klec” means cage in English while“spadla” is the feminine past tense formed from the verb“spadnout” which translates as fall or drop into English. As the Czech language has no present perfect tense, the phrase“spadla klec” therefore means “the cage has dropped”. In English, you could perhaps say that the game is up.

“Spadla klec” is usually used to suggest that something has been definitely, and abruptly resolved – think of a situation, for instance, of riding on the metro without a ticket when the inspectors show up, and find you out. That’s it for you,“spadla klec”, you are trapped.

Marek, the middle of the three Eben brothers and the group’s singer and author of lyrics, is complaining in this song that he is always forgetting things. His memory only works for a couple of days, and then“spadla klec”– the cage has dropped. Although I’m not sure the phrase is employed in its usual context, it does point out to the fact that he’s in trouble after his memory has become blank.

I’m sure the origins of the phrase“spadla klec” have something to with catching animals onto which the cage drops, trapping them inside. In a broader sense, you could also say“je po všem”– it’s all over.