It’s too late to chase after “the Would”

Hello and welcome to this week’s edition of SoundCzech, Radio Prague’s Czech language series in which you have a chance to learn some interesting phrases through songs lyrics. Today’s song Tichá domácnost, or “Quiet Household”, comes from a 1995 album, of the same name, by the Eben Brothers, and features Iva Bittová. The phrase to listen for is “je pozdě honit bycha”.

“Je pozdě honit bycha” literally translates as “It’s too late to chase after the ‘would’ or ‘what if’”. The Czech word “bych” is the first person singular of the conditional form of the verb “být”– to be. The word “bych” comes after the verb to form a conditional – for example “dělám” means I do, whereas “dělal bych” means I would do. In the phrase “je pozdě honit bycha” the interesting point is that the verb “bych” becomes a noun, taking the accusative suffix –a. You can’t chase after a verb!

In the song, the Eben Brothers sing about a quiet household. But “tichá domácnost” does not mean that the couple in the household are nice and quiet – but rather that they had a fight and are now not talking to each other. The guy in the song came home at 4:30 in the morning, and he’s getting “tichá domácnost”. His wife does not scream or tells him off – instead, she is giving him the silent treatment. And he knows it’s too late to ask what if he had come home earlier – “je pozdě honit bycha”.

You can say the same, or similar, using the Czech phrase “kdyby jsou chyby”– literally meaning “ifs are mistakes” – all the could haves, would haves and should haves are wrong. A similar meaning can also be expressed with the phrase “plakat nad rozlitým mlékem” which has a direct English counterpart – to cry over spilt milk.