Czech from head to "foot-finger"

The ABC of Czech - the Czech language series which followed the alphabet - reached the letter Z in December but in the New Year we are back to take you on a new journey around the Czech language - from head to toe.

Hello and welcome to our new Czech language programme in which we'll look at the Czech language from head to toe. Now let me explain that. We are not going to list the vocabulary connected with body parts - that would be too simple. Instead, we will look at how the Czech language uses parts of the human body to create phrases and idioms. I am sure every language is full of them - just look at a few in English: "pay through the nose", "go hand in hand", "be head over heels in love", "get cold feet" or "give someone the cold shoulder". Czech is n-o exception in this respect and with some body parts, such as legs, for example, I could count more than two dozen idioms or fixed expressions. These will be in our focus during this new Czech language course. We will start next week with "head" and proceed all the way to the "toe" during the following weeks. Speaking of this very idiom - "from head to toe" - why don't we take a closer look at it right now. It is not as simple to translate as it seems. Matthew is a businessman from New York. He has been living in the Czech Republic for several years and still finds the language puzzling. For example the fact that there is no special word for "toe"...

"The fact that you still call toes "foot-fingers" is really amazing, I think. You have thirty-seven cases for every noun and adjective and you have foot-fingers? Somebody is walking around limping and they say I hurt my finger? Which, when I carry it forward, means your ankle is your "foot-wrist", your knee is your "foot-elbow" and your hip is your "foot-shoulder" and I don't know where it meets. But it's a great language."

So there you go, there is no special word for toe and that's why the idiom in Czech goes "from head to heel" or od hlavy k pate. And don't worry, it's not thirty-seven cases as Matthew said, but only seven.

That's all for now but as I said we'll be back next week with the first handful of idioms using the word head or hlava. Until then you can try and find how many of them you can count in your mother tongue. Thanks for listening and tune in again, please.

See also Living Czech.