Cross-eyed with hunger

Photo: Ewen Roberts, CC BY 2.0

Hello and welcome to another edition of SoundCzech in which you can learn Czech words and sayings through song lyrics. In today’s episode the word to look out for is šilhat, meaning to have squint-eye, slang for the medical condition known as strabismus, where one eye wanders. The word is found in the song Balada O Rozhodujícím úderu šilhavého řezníka Josky about a pig slaughter and a squint-eyed butcher Joska.

Photo: Ewen Roberts,  CC BY 2.0
The song, a humerous ballad is all about a pig slaughter and dividing up of delicacies for feasting, but when push comes to shove, the butcher misses the intended target because of his bad eye. Curiously, in Czech the word šilhat is used in an idiom about hunger – šilhat hlady– to be so hungry one goes squint-eyed, or cockeyed, or even cross-eyed. It’s the kind of thing you say when coming in from a long walk, say an excursion in the forest or the hills – už šilhám hlady– it’s the equivalent of saying I’m starving, let’s get some food already! You might also say something like that before a medical exam where you simply can’t eat until after – umirám hlady!– I am dying from hunger, I can’t take any more of this!

If you are with a group of people, it’s not very nice but you might say to someone beside you, nekoukej mi do talíře– don’t stare at my plate. Don’t look. Maybe you got your food earlier and they are without and hungry; or they gobbled their meal up already and are staring at your plate because they want another bite and are getting ready to spear your last piece of steak. Ješte bych si dal– I could easily have some more, please sir, can I have some more? Ani nahodou– no way.

There is also an old-fashioned expression that was popular back in the day: je hladový jako herec, which is one my granny used to say when she invited me to lunch. Herec means actor and as everyone knows, actors often are penniless and hungry, at least before they get famous.