To catch the nightjars

Nightjar, photo: Dûrzan cîrano, CC BY-SA 3.0

Hello and welcome to a fresh edition of SoundCzech, in which you can learn Czech phrases with the help of song lyrics. Today’s song is by the famous singer-songwriter Karel Plíhal. The song is called Lelek and the phrase to listen out for is chytat lelky:

Nightjar,  photo: Dûrzan cîrano,  CC BY-SA 3.0
The phrase chytat lelky literally means to catch the nightjars and it is used to describe someone who is spending his time doing nothing. The origin of the phrase is not entirely clear. The Czech dictionary of idioms says the connection between idling and the nightjar is in yawning, or having an open mouth. Idle people are often yawning, just like a nightjar always has its beak open, waiting to catch some flies at night. Listen to the phrase once again.

The song by Karel Plíhal is actually based on a word play. The singer says “vždycky po pracovní době jdu chytat lelky”, which means “every day after work I go idling”. The following line, however, completely changes the meaning, when he adds that “stará je dělá k obědu”, which means “my wife prepares them for lunch”. So in this case, the phrase is actually meant word for word.

Another way of saying chytat lelky is lelkovat and there are of course other synonyms, such as lenošit, flákat se, poflakovat se or zahálet. Nowadays it has become fashionable to use the word prokrastinovat or procrastinate, but despite its somewhat bookish sound, it basically means the same thing.

And I am afraid that’s all we have time for in this edition of SoundCzech. I hope you were not catching the nightjars during our lesson and until next time, na shledanou.