Cat got your tongue?

kocka1.jpg

Welcome again to our Czech-teaching programme. Last week we talked about dogs, so today it can be nothing else but the cat - koèka. The word stands for the whole species and also for a female cat. A male cat, a tomcat, is kocour. Each of these words also has a secondary meaning: while koèka is an attractive young woman, kocour, or even better starý kocour, an old tomcat, means a lecherous old man. An interesting example of language sexism there, favouring for a change the feminine gender.

Welcome again to our Czech-teaching programme. Last week we talked about dogs, so today it can be nothing else but the cat - koèka. The word stands for the whole species and also for a female cat. A male cat, a tomcat, is kocour. Each of these words also has a secondary meaning: while koèka is an attractive young woman, kocour, or even better starý kocour, an old tomcat, means a lecherous old man. An interesting example of language sexism there, favouring for a change the feminine gender.

There are markedly fewer cat idioms than dog idioms in Czech but still we found a few for you, most of them similar to English cat idioms.

However, we start with one for which there is no direct translation in English. If something doesn't work properly, if it has poor quality or turns out badly, Czechs say it is "for a cat". Pro koèku. It probably used to mean that something is only good for a cat. Pro koèku.

Just like in the English-speaking world, Czech cats have nine lives. Koèka má devìt ¾ivotù. The saying most likely comes from Ancient Egypt where the cat was revered, among other qualities for its resilience and a remarkable ability to survive. Nine is a magical number and at the same time high enough to symbolise that cats can endure a lot. So, once again: Koèka má devìt ¾ivotù.

Therefore cats can escape unscathed when they get into a fight with dogs. Cat and dog fights have become proverbial in Czech too: Jsou na sebe jako pes a koèka. They behave towards each other like a dog and a cat. They can't stand each other, they always snap at each other. Jsou na sebe jako pes a koèka.

Another animal that appears in phrases together with cats is, of course, the mouse. To play cat and mouse means to behave to somebody in a cruel or teasing way and leave them in uncertainty. Hrát si s nìkým jako koèka s my¹í. Literally, to play with someone like a cat with a mouse. Hrát si s nìkým jako koèka s my¹í.

But when the cat's away, the mice will play. Kdy¾ kocour není doma, my¹i mají pré. Literally, when the tomcat is not at home, the mice are free. Without supervision people will misbehave. Kdy¾ kocour není doma, my¹i mají pré.

And that's your share of Czech idioms for this week. Don't forget that you can look up this and all previous lessons on our website, http://www.radio.cz. Until next time. Na shledanou.

See also Living Czech.