O for o'clock

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The letter for today is O and the topic o'clock, or things to do with time.

Hello and welcome to another edition of the ABC of Czech. My name is Pavla Horakova and today I'm joined in the studio by Vladimir Tax. The letter for today is O and the topic o'clock, or things to do with time.

The word for time is èas in Czech. The units of time are hodina - an hour, minuta, a minute, and vteøina for a second, or sekunda, which you may find easier to say. The word for clock is hodiny, literally translated as "hours" and a wristwatch is hodinky or "small hours". Be careful - both words are plurals. There are several types of clocks - sluneèní hodiny, that's a sundial, pøesýpací hodiny - an hourglass or kukaèkové hodiny a cuckoo clock. If you come across the expression hodinky s vodotryskem, remember it's not a special type of wristwatch with a fountain attached to it, as the literal translation suggests. It stands for something unattainable yet useless and people use the expression when someone wants something special which is not to be had and without really knowing what it is.

It is well known to students of Czech that the language has a complicated system of telling time. Czech use quarters, halves and three quarters and various words change their endings depending on the grammar. Matthew, a businessman from New York, has lived in the country for several years and he still finds the system puzzling. To say 'It's twenty to four' in Czech is quite difficult. I asked him if he could pull it off.

"Oh, it's five minutes before forty-five minutes after three, is that correct? Which by the time you say that it's really ten to four, isn't it. It means you're always ten minutes late to whatever you're going to. I think that's incredible, I think it's great."

Well, It's twenty to four in Czech is "Je za pìt minut tøi ètvrtì na ètyøi", literally meaning "It's five minutes to three quarters to four". Encouraging, isn't it?

I have one useful tip four you, if you don't feel up to penetrating the mysterious system of time-telling in Czech: you can always give digital time and instead of asking people for time, grab their arms and check their watches. Or one even simpler tip: carry your own watch.

Well, that's all that can be said in one episode, I'm afraid. Don't forget that all the previous editions of the ABC of Czech are accessible both in sound and text on our website, www.radio.cz/english. If you have problems viewing letters from the Czech alphabet properly, try setting your browser to Central European languages. Our time is up, I'm afraid, but join us again next time. Bye bye.


See also Living Czech.