Czech by Numbers - Twelve


Welcome to Czech by Numbers, Radio Prague's own Czech language programme in which we explore Czech numbers in everyday speech. Today we will look at lesson number twelve - lekce číslo dvanáct.

The number twelve - dvanáct - has been an important number in the history of humankind. Some ancient civilisations counted in the duodecimal system - dvanáctková soustava, where 12 is used as a base rather than ten.

A few remnants of the duodecimal system are still present in our lives today - for example the year has twelve months - rok má dvanáct měsíců, the day is divided into 24 hours - den má dvacet čtyři hodin and some languages have special words for a group of twelve objects or people, including Czech and English.

Dozen is tucet in Czech. The word půltucet means six and veletucet means twelve dozen, that is 144. The saying dvanáct do tuctu literally means "twelve to a dozen", suggesting that something is so common that you can find twelve in every dozen. From that expression an adjective was derived - tuctový - meaning common, cheap, ordinary.

Going back to counting time: twelve midnight is půlnoc and midday is poledne.

Last week we mentioned a saying which exists both in English and Czech but the two use a different number. English-speakers say that something happened at the eleventh hour. In Czech we say za pět minut dvanáct or za minutu dvanáct - at five or even one minute to twelve.

The figure of twelve is dvanáctka. It is most often used to signify a type of Czech beer but it also means a twelve-hour shift.

The word dvanácterák means a stag with twelve-pointed antlers, a rare occurrence but one that appears in many fairy tales as well as dvanáctihlavá saň - a dragon with twelve heads.

And finally, also related to the number twelve is a part of the digestive system. Dvanáctník or dvanácterník is duodenum - and the name comes originally from a Greek word describing the organ as twelve inches long.

And that's it for today. We'll be back next time with more. Till then na shledanou, good-bye.