It's drawing to a close

Kahan, photo: archive of Radio Prague

Welcome to a new edition of SoundCzech, Radio Prague’s Czech language course in which we explain idioms and phrases with the help of song lyrics. Today’s song is called “Malovaný džbánku” and is sung by the Czech pop-music diva Helena Vondráčková.

Kahan,  photo: archive of Radio Prague
In the 1970s song, the singer is for some reason talking to a painted jar – malovaný džbánek, an exhibit at a castle in the picturesque town of Český Krumlov in South Bohemia. She addresses the object as a witness of times past.

The phrase to listen out for is mít na kahánku. Translated word for word the idiom means "to have on a burner" – don’t ask me why. Kahánek is a small kahan, a small burner used in the past for lighting. The phrase means "to be on one's last legs, to be close to death”. The singer says noc má na kahánku, meaning "the night is drawing to a close".

The phrase mít na kahánku is not to be confused with the similar sounding mít na krajíčku. It is usually associated with tears. Má slzy na krajíčku means he or she is on the verge of tears. Krajíček is the diminutive form of the word kraj meaning edge, verge or brink.

The lyrics also mention a few natural phenomena occurring in the sky. They expressions are all featured in two lines: duho na červánku, svítáním vítej nás. Duha means rainbow. All the colours of the rainbow are všechny barvy duhy. The next word is červánek. Derived from the word červený– red, and usually used in the plural – červánky, it refers to the red sky just before sunset, or less commonly at dawn – svítání. The verb svítá means dawn is breaking, the sun’s coming up.

And I’m afraid today’s edition of SoundCzech už má na kahánku– it’s drawing to a close. Here’s Helena Vondráčková again, talking to a decorated jar in her famous 1970s song “Malovaný džbánku”.