Have a peacock!


Welcome to a fresh edition of Radio Prague’s SoundCzech, one of our most popular series, in which you can learn interesting Czech phrases while listening to music. Today’s song is “Když se kouří konopí”, or Smoking Cannabis, with lyrics by the head of Czech Pen Club, poet Jiří Dědeček. The tune, performed by Vladimír Mišík and his band Etc., appeared on their 2004 album, Umlkly stroje, or Machines Fell Silent. The phrase to listen for is “dát si páva”, or have a drag.

The expression “dát si páva” literally means “have a peacock”, but that’s just a coincidence. The expression in fact comes from the German “Paff”, which has the same meaning as the English “puff”. In this song, the actual phrase says, “všichni jsem se těšili, až si dáme páva”, meaning we all couldn’t wait to have a drag. The song is about smoking cannabis at a party, apparently during the dark communist times, when marihuana was much rarer than today, when the Czechs are Europe’s leading pot smokers. Back then, cannabis had to be imported with great difficulty, as the song points out. Have another listen.

Another way of describing the same things is to say, “dát si šluka”. When used as verb, “šlukovat” means to inhale. If former US president Bill Clinton spoke Czech, he could have said, “nešlukoval jsem”– I didn’t inhale. The word of course also applies to cigarettes and all kinds of medications.

In the Czech Republic with its rather liberal approach to light drugs, there are of course many words and expressions related to smoking marihuana. One of them is “hulit”– to smoke up. The stuff that you smoke is sometimes referred to as “hulení”. When you’re high, you are “zhulenej”. And when somebody has been smoking too much grass, you say he or she is a “vyhulenec”– a pothead.

But the song we are listening to is certainly not meant to promote drug use – it rather looks ironically at those who want to be cool. It tells a story about a group of friends who would receive cannabis from abroad, and enjoy it at parties. But then, one girl said she was afraid that a war will come, and so they stopped inviting her whenever they got a fresh supply, so that no one spoils their time.