To disappear like steam over a boiling pot
Welcome to another edition of SoundCzech – our feature in which you can learn Czech phrases with the help of song lyrics. Today’s song is by the Czech band Psí vojaci (Dog Soldiers) called Nechoď sama do tmy (Don‘t walk in the dark by yourself). The phrase is “zmizet jako pára nad hrncem” - “to disappear like steam over a boiling pot”.
Most obviously, one would disappear like steam over a boiling pot when trying to avoid awkward or unpleasant circumstances, or perhaps to avoid punishment. “Zmizet” means to disappear and “zmizet jako pára nad hrncem” - “to disappear like steam over a boiling pot” suggests vanishing quickly and quietly before any one is the wiser. The English equivalent would be “to vanish into thin air” or “to vanish without a trace”.
Another way of describing such a quick exit are these variations: “zmizel jako dým”– “he disappeared like smoke”, “zmizel jako by se vypařil”– “he disappeared as if he had evaporated”, or “zmizel po anglicku”– “he made an English exit”, a saying in Czech which means to leave without a word.
If you’re fed up with being someplace or need to make a quick exit, you could also leave quickly “vzít roha” or “take your legs on your shoulders” “vzít nohy na ramena”– in other words, “take to your heels”.
Incidentally, one well-known dictionary of Czech phrases and idioms offers a different take on steam over a boiling pot that is rarely, maybe even never, used anymore: if you say someone is “like steam over a boiling pot” – “být jako pára nad hrncem” it means “being weak like steam” - so weak they would be unable to knock the froth or head, off their beer. Another way of expressing such weakness is to say you’re “slabá jako moucha”– “weak as a fly”.
But enough phrases for one week – it’s time to disappear.