Czeching out apples and pears


Welcome again to our Czech teaching programme introducing Czech idioms featuring various farm crops. As promised, today we will look at the most common types of fruit in this part of the world - apples and pears or jablka a hrusky.

Photo: Archive of ČRo 7
Thanks to the fruit's shape, the word apple has a number of figurative meanings in Czech. The word jablko stands for one of the crown jewels, the orb. In popular language it stands for the kneecap. What is called "Adam's apple" in English, is in Czech popularly known as ohryzek - or the core of an apple. In both languages, the term refers to the projecting cartilage in men's throats, believed to be a piece of the forbidden fruit that stuck in Adam's throat.

The next idiom, borrowed from ancient mythology, is jablko sváru - the apple of discord, meaning a subject of conflict and envy. The mythological golden apple, inscribed "For the fairest," was thrown into an assembly of the gods by the goddess of discord and it was contended for by Juno, Minerva, and Venus, and finally won by the latter.

If you have to "to bite a sour apple" - kousnout do kyselého jablka - you are supposed to pull yourself together and face an unpleasant situation. A worm-eaten apple červivé jablko means the same thing as the English "bad apple" which spoils the barrel. The expression těšínské jablíčko sounds like we are talking about a small apple from the North Moravian town of Tesin, but it is a play on words. It refers to the verb těšit - to comfort. So if you give someone těšínské jablíčko you give them empty promises, mere crumbs of comfort.

Illustrative photo: Keith Weller,  Public Domain
Rosy cheeks are in Czech often likened to apples from the German town of Meissen, famous for its porcelain. Tváře jako míšenské jablíčko are very rosy cheeks indeed. To comment on the similar qualities of parents and their offspring, Czechs use the idiom jablko nepadá daleko od stromu - "the apple does not fall far from the tree". Or as the tree, so the fruit, like father like son.

We must not forget pears. "To fall like a ripe pear" - spadnout jako zralá hruška means to fall down, land on the ground with a bump, just like a pear from a tree. "To catch someone gathering pears" - nachytat někoho na hruškách means the same as nachytat někoho na švestkách - to catch someone gathering plums - or in the act of committing something wrong, just like children stealing fruit in the neighbours' garden.

And finally, sčítat jablka a hrušky - "to add apples to pears" means something similar to the mainly American expression to "compare apples with oranges". That is to put together things that are very different. And our next lesson will not be very different from today's topic as we'll look at fruit trees. Until then na shledanou.