Heaven and Hell

Photo: Hansueli Krapf, CC BY-SA 3.0

Hello and welcome to a fresh edition of SoundCzech, Radio Prague’s Czech language course in which you can learn Czech idioms with the help of song lyrics. Today’s song, sung by Markéta Konvičková, is called Z ráje jsem utekla – I ran away from heaven. The words to listen out for are ráj and peklo.

Photo: Hansueli Krapf,  CC BY-SA 3.0
In this hit single, Markéta Konvičková sings “z ráje jsem utekla, teď mířím do pekla”– I ran away from heaven, now I’m headed towards hell. In Czech you will hear many phrases related to heaven, or ráj, and peklo– which means hell.

Ráj is often used to express something wonderful or out of this world. For instance, something that is sheer heaven is said to be pravý ráj. Ráj na zemi is heaven on earth, and je to tu jako v ráji means that this place is like heaven. Žít si jako v ráji is to live as though in paradise, or as some may say, to live off the fat of the land.

Just as in English, hell is a very popular subject in Czech expressions and fairytales alike. Kníže Pekel, or the Prince of Darkness, appears in many Czech stories – such as the film Z pekla štěstí. The saying mít z pekla štěstí, which literally means to have luck from hell, is to be dead lucky or to always fall on ones feet. If you want to say that you had a hell of a difficult time with someone, you say “měl jsem s nimi hotové peklo.”

Mít peklo na zemi is to experience hell on earth. Nastalo učiněné peklo signifies that all hell broke loose. If you are not fond of someone, you may try to make that person's life a living hell - udělat mu ze života peklo. To raise hell is udělat peklo– which literally translated means to make hell.

If it is as hot as hell outside then you can say je pekelně horko or je tu horko jako v pekle. Posílat někoho do horoucích pekel means to send someone to the burning inferno of hell. If something is unbearably loud, it can be said that there is pekelný ramus, it is noisy as hell. A pekelník is a devil, as is a ďábel or a čert. They are often very likable characters in Czech fairytales with the very best intentions.

I am afraid that’s all we have time for today. This is Clare Profous, saying thank you for learning Czech with me, and na shledanou.