Many a Friday


Hello, welcome to this week’s edition of Sound Czech, our weekend language programme that has been providing you with the Czech you need for the last, roughly, 182 Fridays. Why Fridays? Today is Saturday, I hear you say. But when something has been happening for ages for Czech, you can say it has been going on for nějaký pátek, or some Friday. And if you don’t believe me, then have a listen to Hana Zagorová in her song Baron Prášil:

Ctitelky se tlačí u dveří,

ale já už těm tvým

bajkám dávno nevěřím.

Nezkoušej to na mě,

vždyť já nějaký

ten pátek už tě znám.

“I don’t believe your stories anymore,” she sings, “Don’t try them on me, I’ve known you for a Friday or two”… a loose translation of nějaký ten pátek, which means literally “some Friday”. You can use this phrase for just about anything that has been going on for a while, and you know its ins and outs, for instance už s ní chodím nějaký pátek, “I’ve been going out with her for some time,” or pracuji tady už nějaký pátek, I’ve been working there for many a Friday and I know the ropes. Don’t ask me why it’s like that, I’m still learning myself, but have another listen:

Another day of the week that takes an added meaning in Czech is neděle, which is Sunday. Czechs can count weeks by Sundays as well. One way for example you can say you are going to be somewhere for three weeks is budu tam tři neděle, using neděle instead of the normal work for week, týden. Sometimes it is even used officially, like in the period that a woman recovers from giving birth, for example, šestinedělí, or six-week term. And if you know a little Czech already then you’ve probably noticed that it comes from nedělat, literally “to not do” or “not working”. Since Czech is particularly logical language, all of the days of the week have similarly logical meanings. Sobota, Saturday, comes from the Latin word for Sabbath. Pondělí is an abbreviation of po-neděli, after Sunday, hence Monday. Úterý is an Old Slavonic word, used in other Slavic languages to imply the second day. Středa is the middle day, or Wednesday, střed meaning “middle”, and čtvrtek the fourth day, which means exactly that… Bringing us back to the “fifth” or pátý den, pátek, Friday.

Months, then, are another story altogether, but one for another SoundCzech. What I will let you in on now is the funny thought that Czechs, like other Slavs, count years in summers. Most Czechs are surprised when you point it out to them, just like “disease” no longer sounds to English speaker like what it actually is: “dis-ease”. A year in Czech is rok, but if you have more than five of them you count in “summers”, let, the word for summer being léto. Just like the Indians, I like to say. So it is three some-odd summers and 182 Fridays now that we have been broadcasting SoundCzech, and we hope to see you again next Sabbath. For now, na shledanou.