Welcome to another edition of SoundCzech, Radio Prague’s Czech language programme in which listeners can learn new expressions through music lyrics. In today’s episode you’ll hear the expression “mazat karty” which means to play cards. “Mazali jsme karty” is the past tense and is used in the song “Marta” by the Czechs 1960s folk trio KTO (Kamarádi táborových ohňů or The Campfire Boys). The song is about what a bunch of friends and what they do when Marta fails to show up.
Taken literally, the verb “mazat” means to oil or to grease. It can also mean to spread, as in butter or jam on a slice of bread. Namažu ti kus chleba máslem– I’ll spread some butter on bread for you. More maliciously, the verb is also used in the idiom mazat mu med kolem huby– literally, to spread honey around someone’s yap, meaning to butter someone up. Clearly, mazat karty, or playing cards, is just one of many uses. One can imagine the feel of greasy old cards in one’s hands.
You might say that someone in the game who bets carefully but times his wins right is mazaný– crafty or smart. Likewise, mazat si kapsu means to line one’s pocket, to feather one’s nest, which you could do, I suppose, if you played and won a lot. Someone taking too long to play their hand would be criticized: nemaž se s tim, stop fussing over it, as in just play your cards.
And someone who fails to pay their debts might have to Mazat– run like the blazes.
The next you play cards make sure you don’t lose the shirt off your back or you too might have to make an unexpectedly quick exit! Mazej, kámo, mazej… run, buddy, run!