To hit the hay


Welcome to a fresh edition of SoundCzech, Radio Prague’s language series in which you can learn new phrases with the help of song lyrics. Today’s topic is sleep and the song we are going to listen to is a popular lullaby by Petr Skoumal called ‘Když jde malý bobr spát’ – ‘When a little beaver goes to bed’:

The song describes how a little beaver gets ready to go to bed: he plays for a while, then he drinks a glass of milk, washes his ears, and brushes both his right and left tooth. Soon after, he is fast asleep, or as we say in Czech “spí jako dub”, a phrase which literally translates as “he is sleeping like an oak.” Notice that the phrase uses the verb “spinká” instead of “spí”, which is what little children or their mothers would say.

There are many other ways of saying that someone is sound asleep. The closest translation would be “tvrdě spí”, but we can also say “spí jako dřevo”– “he is sleeping like a log”, “spí jako by ho do vody hodil”– “he is sleeping as if thrown into water” or “spí jako zabitý”– “he is sleeping as if he’d been killed”.

The song ends by an appeal to children: please, do just like the little beaver and march off to bed: “pochodujte do hajan”, a phrase that could be translated as “hit the sack or hit the hay”. The word “hajany” is derived from the verb “hajat”, a child’s way of saying “to sleep”. We also commonly use the idiom “jít na kutě”, though no one really knows what “kutě” means and no dictionary seems to offer a clear explanation.

And I am afraid that’s all we have time for in this edition of SoundCzech. I hope I haven’t put you to sleep. Thanks for listening and na shledanou.