The road to happiness


Hello and welcome to this edition of SoundCzech, which takes up where we left off a couple of weeks ago with the saying “tak dlouho se džbánem, až ucho upadne” - translating, as you might remember, as “don't push your luck”. Well today, we are going to push at least luck-related idioms just a little bit further, using a song called 'Cesta ke štěstí' ('The road to happiness') as our aid. The song is sung by Hana Zagorová, across from whom, it happens, I used to live, in one of my least tenuous brushes with celebrity to date. The line to listen out for comes at the very end, and is “vždyť štěstí má ten, kdo má rád, kdo má rád.”

As regular listeners of SoundCzech will know, “štěstí” can mean both “happiness” and “luck” in Czech. What's more, in Czech, it's not a case of “being lucky”, it's a case of “having luck”. If you want to say “he is lucky” or “lucky him”, therefore, you use the verb “mít” (to have) and say “má štěstí” or “on má štěstí”, literally “he has luck”. And that takes us back to today's song lyric “vždyt' štěstí má ten, kdo má rád, kdo má rád”. This can either translate into English as “happy is he who loves, who loves” or “lucky is he, who loves, who loves”. Have another listen:

So “mít štěstí” is to be lucky, and to develop on yet another theme recently addressed in SoundCzech, there is a synonym for “having luck” which Czechs borrow from their neighbours, the Germans. If someone is particularly favoured by fortune in this country, not only can you say that he or she “má štěstí”, but also that he or she “má kliku”. To the best of my knowledge, this comes into Czech from the German word for luck, “das Glueck”.

Similarly, Czechs borrow from German when they are talking about misfortune. If something is unfortunate in Czech, you can say “je to pech” - translating literally into English as “it is tough luck” or “hard luck”. In German, “das Pech” means “misfortune” or “bad luck” - when you use it in Czech and say “je to pech”, it is, like many German borrowings, rather informal and slang-y.

Perhaps a slightly less colourful word for bad luck is “smůla”. If you want to say in Czech that someone has bad luck or is unlucky, the most standard way of doing so is “má smůlu”. If someone says to you “máš smůlu”, then anticipate disappointment – you are being told “tough luck” or “you are out of luck”. But this is all fast becoming most unfortunate, so let's have another listen to 'Cesta ke štěstí ' to cheer up matters somewhat:

And with Hana Zagorová's wise words “vždyt' štěstí má ten, kdo má rád, kdo má rád”, I leave you, wishing you both a most happy, and fortuitous week ahead. Na shledanou! Goodbye!