This makes me feel like a stag


Welcome to another edition of SoundCzech, RRs language course made easy. Today we’ll look at a few ways of expressing surprise. The song you’ll hear is called Antlers, the singer is Jan Burian and the phrase to listen out for is jsem z toho jelen.

Jsem z toho jelen literally translates as “this makes me feel like a stag” but make no mistake – the word stag in Czech does not have the same connotation as in English. In Czech the animal is used to express a complete lack of understanding – a state of puzzled surprise. When something leaves you with your mouth open, something that you simply can’t take in or figure out you can say “Jsem z toho jelen”. In this case the lyrics combine two colourful Czech phrases – I feel like a stag – means I don’t get it and vždyť mi z hlavy rostou parohy means I am growing antlers. The phrase I’m growing antlers is a way of saying that my wife or girlfriend is cheating on me. Have another listen.

But back to phrases expressing surprise. The Czech language is very colourful and inventive in this respect. If someone shows a total lack of understanding then you can say “kouká jako tele na nový vrata”“he is like a calf looking at a new stable door” – referring to the fact that cattle automatically know their way home but if the stable door is different they are likely to get confused. A more poetic way of expressing the same thing is to say that someone looks like they have just fallen from a sour cherry tree – vypadá jako když spadl z višně. And banged his head hard, presumably. Or you can say that someone has fallen off a strawberry plant on their tummy – spadl z jahody na znak -which I admit is hard to comprehend. So better stick with the cherry tree or the stag – which, funnily enough, women can use as well.