That pub of ours


Hello and welcome to SoundCzech, which this week will give you lots of the language you need to know when doing one of the things that Czechs like most: drinking beer. Czechs drink more beer than any nation in the world so there are a lot of words you need to know, beginning with “hospoda”, as sung in the folk song “Ta naše hospoda”, or “That Pub of Ours”:

Ta naše hospoda
odshora, odspoda,
to je pěkné zařízení.
Polívka hřeje se,
hostinský směje se,
že mu pivo dobře pění.

“That pub of ours is a fine establishment from top to bottom”, they sing. “The soup is being warmed and the publican is laughing, because his beer has a nice froth.”

These are some of the things you will meet in a Czech pub: the central implement being the půllitr– or half-litre mug. Unfortunately, the heavy-handled mugs called krigl are slowly being replaced now by all sorts of other, less rustic glasses, namely the vejška, or tall handleless mug. The more savage among you will doubtless accept a “little man” between your beers, or panák; that would be a shot of kořalka, “spirits”, generally meaning rum, plumb brandy, whisky or becherovka. The other items on your table are the tácky, “beer mats” and the ashtray, popelník. We still smoke in pubs in the Czech Republic.

Your beer is poured by výčepní, the master of the pípa, or tap. The waiter who brings it to you then is, číšník, a beautiful old word that comes from the word for a goblet, but you have to keep your eye on him. Your beer has to “have measure” or “mít míru”. If it is below the line at the top of the mug, it is “pod mírou” and you should send it back. Nad mírou, above the measure, has never happened.

Mr waiter (almost everyone can be addressed as pan [profession] in Czech), will note your beer consumption on a slip of paper left on your table. This is your lístek, and it will likely become the centre of much attention at the moment you say “zaplatím(e)”, “I (we) will pay”. All the beers are noted as slashes at the bottom of the lístek, so usually no one can remember how many they had when they want to pay up. Beware the waiter has not “stretched someone out”, natáhnout někoho, by sneakily adding a few extra marks to your bill.