Go to the devil!


Welcome to another edition of SoundCzech – Radio Prague’s Czech language course in which you can learn new expressions with the help of song lyrics. Today’s song is by a group called 100 Zvířat – 100 Animals, it’s called Fairytale and the phrase to listen out for is “a potom čert ho vzal” – “and then the devil took him”.

Devils have a significant place in Czech folklore – Czech fairy tales are full of devils – and the Czech language reflects their popularity in this part of the world as well. Some phrases may sound familiar such as “čert tě vem!”– the devil take you ! Or “jdi k čertu”– go to the devil. The Czech language has two ways of saying God knows- one is the direct translation “Bůh ví” but you can also say “čert ví”– the devil knows.

Another popular phrase is “čert nikdy nespí”– the devil never sleeps – meaning that trouble tends to come out of the blue, when you least expect it– or whenever the devil decides to strike. Devils are also helpful when it comes to talking about the weather – when there’s a really bad storm out Czechs will say “venku se čerti žení” - the devils are having a wedding out there. And somewhat paradoxically you will also hear Czechs say “je tam pekelná zima” - it is cold as hell out there.

Devils are of course considered extremely wily. In Czech fairy tales they appear in various guises and often promise people wealth and riches in return for their souls. This may account for the expressions “po čertech chytrej kluk”– the boy’s as smart as the devil or “po čertech hezká holka” the girl is devilish good-looking. Czechs also say “z pekla štestí”– meaning someone has hellish good luck.

And finally when you are determined to achieve something against all the odds you can say “to by v tom byl čert, abychom to nedokázali” - there’d have to be a devil working against us, for us to fail in this. I hope the devil never thwarts your plans and you have hellish good luck in everything you do. This is Daniela Lazarová saying thanks for learning Czech with me and na shledanou!