The dog died here


Welcome to SoundCzech, our weekly exploration of Czech idioms as used in Czech songs. Have you ever heard any Czech renditions of popular Western songs? Their lyrics usually bear no resemblance at all to the original, except that the Czech is sometimes made to rhyme with the English, for some reason. That’s the case in this version of Tina Turner’s “Simply the Best” by Těžkej Pokondr, in which “simply the best” becomes chípnul tu pes, “the dog died here!”

Chcípnul tu pes, včera, loni, zítra, dnes.

Každej večer prázdnej je sál

no tak dneska už to sbal.

“The dog died here,” they sing, “yesterday, last year, tomorrow and today. Every evening the concert hall’s empty - pack it up for tonight”. The concert in question is apparently so incredibly boring, that it poses a lethal threat to canines (and if this song is an example then I for one am not the least surprised!). That’s the sense of the phrase at least, tady chcípnul pes– the dog died here, or better translated, he snuffed it, it was too boring for him. I first came across the phrase tady chcípnul pes, naturally, when sitting around with a friend in his small village, bored to death. “Why don’t we go to the pub,” I offered. “Because there is no pub here,” he replied. And in response to my disbelief, that there was a village in the Czech Republic without a pub, he said, dejected, “the dog died here.”

Sure, you can say verbatim that you’re dying of boredom in Czech as well by saying: “umírám nudou” or even “unudím se,” but that’s rather boring in itself, isn’t it? There’s a much better way in Czech to stay busy while dying of boredom: ukoušu se nudou, “I’m going to bite myself to death out of boredom.” What you might notice in all these phrases is the clever prefix u-, which means to do something to the very end, and in many cases, the ultimate end. Nudit se, means “to be bored,” unudit se, “to die from being bored.” Kousat, means “to bite”, kousat se, “to bite oneself”, and ukousat se, to bite and bite and bite yourself until, alas, you die.

Why is being bored a two-word phrase, nudit se? Because, interestingly, you can only bore yourself in Czech. That’s that reflective “se” you may know from other European languages. Literally speaking, by stating you’re bored, you’re also assuming responsibility for it. Better to blame it on the outside force that killed the dog for instance, or with the rather cute phrase tady dávají lišky dobrou noc, literally, “the foxes give goodnights here,” which means there’s nothing going on here, you’ve found yourself in such an armpit of the world, that there is no one to talk to you, and only foxes left to tell you goodnight.

Well on Radio Prague there is always someone to talk to you, and I hope I haven’t bored you or your four-legged friend to death with this SoundCzech. From me, Christian Falvey, na shledanou!