I wouldn't give you a broken groschen for it!


Welcome to another edition of SoundCzech -Radio Prague's Czech language series in which you can learn useful phrases with the help of song lyrics. Today's song is by singer Karel Kryl and it is called Srdce a Kříž - Heart and Cross. The phrase to listen out for is : "nedal bych za nový zlámanou grešli".

"Nedal bych za nový zlámanou grešli" - literally means "I wouldn't give a broken groschen for a new one" - a groschen being a thick, silver coin used in these parts in the Middle Ages. This is derived from the well known phrase "nestojí to za zlámanou grešli" - the Czech equivalent of the saying "it is not worth a plugged nickel" or "it is not worth a red cent" - "I wouldn't give you a broken groschen for it." Now listen to the phrase again:

"Nedal bych za to zlámanou grešli" or " nedal bych za to fajfku tabáku" - "I wouldn't give you a pipe of tobacco for it" - are fairly old expressions. Today you are more likely to hear people say "to nestojí za nic" or "that's worthless". Or "stojí to za starou bačkoru" - "that's worth an old slipper" - as well as "stojí to za houby" -that's worth mushrooms -which may be the Czech equivalent of peanuts. Czechs often use those latter two expressions when commenting on a state of affairs - for instance when you ask them how they are doing. Now let's listen to Karel Kryl once again:

As I said "Nedal bych za to zlámanou grešli" - means I wouldn't give you a red cent for that - it is worthless. On the other hand, if you have something priceless which you would not be prepared to part with at any price you could say "neprodal bych to za zlatý tele" - "I wouldn't sell this for a golden calf". And that brings us to the end of today's Czech lesson - this is Daniela Lazarova saying thanks for learning Czech with me and nashledanou!