To have a bug in your bonnet

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Hello and welcome to another edition of SoundCzech, Radio Prague’s Czech language programme in which you can learn popular Czech expressions through song lyrics. Today’s song, called Snad jsem to zavinil já (It was probably my fault), is by the rock band Olympic and the phrase to look out for is brouka v hlavě máš (or brouk v hlavě).

Translated, mít brouka v hlavě means to have a bug or a beetle in your head; the closest English equivalent is to have a bee in your bonnet. Simply, the expression means to have something on your mind, a niggling thought. Something is bugging you and you can’t get it out of your head.

In the song Olympic sing brouka v hlavě máš– you have a bug in your head - but in conversation you would normally say někdo ti nasadil brouka do hlavy. Somebody put a bug in your head. In other words, somebody raised a point or asked a question that got you thinking. One can imagine any number of situations: your spouse suggests that you should have probably asked for a higher salary before accepting that new job. Or a friend says they can’t believe you didn’t recognise that first edition of Harry Potter at the flea market last week. Or a colleague wonders, maliciously, how you can still be driving such a beat-up lemon? Někdo ti nasadil brouka do hlavy: now there’s a bug in your head buzzing around. You should buy a new car, the bug says, and the bug won’t go away.

If something is on your mind, another way of describing it is by saying vrtá mi to hlavou. Vrtat means to drill, and the literal translation is there’s something drilling through my head. Something nagging, going round and round, like our bug or bee. Your boss might turn to you and say there’s something I don’t understand, you said you were sick last week but so-and-so told me you went to the movies. Vrtá mi to hlavou.

Another expression is dělat si z nečeho hlavu: to be worried about something, because by now you should be! Nenechá tě to spát– it’s giving you sleepless nights. Still, I suppose even that is preferable to having a bug in your head.

Of course, one could also crawl over your face or even worse, you could be wake up like one in the morning.