To have on your t-shirt

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Hello and welcome to another edition of SoundCzech, which will appeal in particular to dedicated followers of fashion. This week’s song is by dissident folk singer Jaroslav Hutka and is called ‘Knoflík’ (meaning ‘Button’). The phrase to listen out for in this ode to a fastening device comes near the end of the song, and goes “Ty mě máš na triku”:

This week’s chosen song lyric is actually a bit of a pun, because literally, “Knoflíku, knoflíku/ Ty mě máš na triku” means “Oh button, oh button, you have me on your t-shirt” – but idiomatically, “mít někoho na triku” (“to have somebody on your t-shirt”) means “to be responsible for somebody” or “to take responsibility for someone”. So, what Hutka is actually singing here is “Oh button, oh button/ You are responsible for me” (or “You have taken responsibility for me”). How? Because, in short, the singer’s button has fallen off his t-shirt, his superficial old girlfriend was so disgusted by his appearance that she left him, and, he sings, “dnes už mám lepší holku” (“Now I’ve got a better girlfriend”). All this because of his missing “knoflík”, which is certainly no longer “na triku”.

So, “mít někoho na triku” can mean “to take responsibility for someone”, and in this vein, you can also say “to si nevezmu na triko” (I will not take that onto my t-shirt”), meaning figuratively, “I refuse to accept responsibility for that” or “I will not have that become my responsibility”. But “mít na triku”– “to have on one’s t-shirt” also has another, slightly different, idiomatic meaning. “On má tři vraždy na triku” means “he is guilty of three murders”, or, more colourfully, “he’s got three murders to his name”. So, if you have a crime, or a series of unfortunate statements, or some other failure, “on your t-shirt”, then it means that you are guilty of a crime, or of making a series of unfortunate statements - that they are “on your account”.

And finally, here are a couple of further sartorial idioms for Radio Prague’s more fashion-conscious listeners. If a product, or a building, is unveiled “v novém kabátě” (“in a new coat”), that means that it has been given a facelift. So, the headline “Pražský Music Hall otevírá v novém kabátě” translates as “Prague Music Hall opens after facelift”. And the idiom “převlékat kabát” (“to change your coat”) actually means “to change your stripes” – so you will often read that a politician “převlékl kabát”, but instead of meaning the literal, that he or she donned a new coat, it means rather that he or she swapped one allegiance for another.

But that is enough layering of clothing idioms one on top of the other. For this week, na shledanou – good bye!