To have something behind your ears


Hello and welcome to another edition of SoundCzech – Radio Prague’s Czech language series in which you can learn idioms through song lyrics. Today, we’ll be listening to a song called Brno je zlatá loď - Brno is a golden boat - performed by a group called Banjo Band Ivana Mládka. The phrase to listen out for is “mít za ušima”.

The phrase “mít za ušima” literally means “to have something behind your ears”, and it is used to describe someone who is savvy. In this song Ivan Mládek claims that girls in Brno are much better than those in Prague or Pilsen; they are pretty, clever and faithful. Boys who are savvy enough, or “mají za ušima”, should therefore get a girl from Brno. Listen to the phrase once again:

The singer is obviously head over heels in love with his girlfriend from Brno – in other words “he is in love up to his ears” - “je zamilovaný až po uši”. The idiom “po uši” is not used only in connection with love. It expresses intensity, so you can be up to your ears in love as well as up to your ears in debt - v dluzích až po uši, unlike in the English phrase which goes “up to your eyes in debt”.

Ears feature in numerous phrases, and for some reason, many of them are connected with school. When teachers tell children to keep something in mind, they will often say “zapište si to za uši”, literally “write it behind your ears”. Naughty pupils would occasionally get a cuff on the ear – “dostanou za uši”, perhaps because they have textbooks full of donkey’s ears (or dog’s ears in English). If they are lucky, they pass the final exams by a whisker – or as we say in Czech, with scraped ears – “s odřenýma ušima”.

I hope you were all ears, or, as we say in Czech, one big ear – “jedno velké ucho.” But in case you were not paying attention and you were letting the information in one ear and out the other, or “jedním uchem dovnitř a druhým ven”, you can check out this and any of the previous lessons on our website, that is Thank you for listening and nashledanou!