Having no steam


Hello and welcome to SoundCzech, the only programme on global airwaves in which you can learn something interesting about the Czech language while listening to song lyrics. In this edition, we’ll hear the track “Ani k stáru”, part of the music score for the popular Czech film, “Vratné lahve”, or Empties. The phrase to listen out for is “nemám páru”.

The phrase “nemám páru” literally translates as I don’t have steam. However, this doesn’t correspond to the English phrase to be out of steam. When you say nemám páru, you are admitting that you don’t have a clue about something. It’s often used with the word “ani”, as in “o tom nemá ani páru”, which means he’s hasn’t got the least clue.

The sentimental song “Ani k stáru”, or Not Even When I’m Old, appeared in the sentimental 2006 Czech film Empties. The movie is about an aging man who is not sure about what he wants to do with the rest of his life, and who no longer understands the world around him. “O životě nemám ani páru”, he says, I don’t have the slightest clue about life. Have another listen.

If you haven’t got a clue about something, you can also impress Czechs by saying “nemám ponětí”, I have no idea. The word ponětí literally means notion, but in Czech it’s pretty much only used in this phrase. If you want to be more causal, you could also use the word “šajn”, as in “o tom nemám ani šajn”. This expression apparently comes from the early 19th century, when the Austrian Empire issued its first paper money, known as Schein. The meaning has shifted over the years, but the word is still the same.

The word “pára”, steam, is used in many Czech expressions. However, if you say I have steam, “mám páru” it doesn’t mean you have a clue, but rather that you have oomph. As you could hear in one the previous editions of this programme, the verb “vypařit se”, literally to evaporate, is used to suggest that someone has made a quick but quiet exit. I hope you have the oomph it takes to learn Czech, and to tune in for a fresh edition of SoundCzech next week. Good bye.