The language of trees


Welcome to another episode in our short series on wild flora idioms which closes the whole nature cycle. Today we'll focus on trees - stromy. We have already talked about fruit trees and their place in the Czech language but now it's time to look at some other trees. Generally speaking, trees in the language stand for good qualities: strength, height and firmness. The expressions usually refer to young men.

Urostlý jako bříza - built like a birch tree or, urostlý jako jedle, like a fir tree. Tall and slim men can be likened to poplars.Štíhlý a urostlý jako topol, slim and well-built like a poplar. A man can also be zdravý jako dub, as healthy as an oak tree or equally strong - silný jako dub. Or he can have a head made of oak - dubová hlava, which either means stubborn or not too bright.

Jedle,  photo: Crusier,  Creative Commons 3.0
The beech - buk - is also a common tree in the Czech Republic and because it rhymes with the word kluk - boy, the Czechs coined the expression kluk jako buk, a boy like a beech tree, meaning a healthy and good-looking boy. A typical situation in which to use this phrase is when a baby boy is born - Je to kluk jako buk!

The rhyming principle is also behind the saying vedle jak ta jedle - "to be wide of the mark as a fir tree".

We've already mentioned the oak as a symbol of stubbornness - and dumbness to a certain extent. Here is another example: To je jako mluvit do dubu - "it's like talking to an oak", or in proper English, it's like talking to a brick wall. On the other hand, mluvit do duté vrby - "to talk to a hollow willow tree" means to confide your deepest secrets to someone as if the person were a hollow tree. Dělat někomu vrbu - is to be someone's confidant.

Vrby,  photo: Jitka Erbenová,  photo: Creative Commons 3.0
And here's another expression with the word vrba - a willow tree. Malovat straky na vrbě - "to paint magpies on willow trees" means to fob somebody off with empty promises.

And to close our lesson about trees; the expression "tree of life" is the same in Czech - strom života. Whereas "the family tree" is rodokmen, or a family "trunk" or "log".

And that's all for today, I'm afraid. Join us next time if you can for more Czech idioms about wild flora. Until then na shledanou.