Road or no road

Foto: archiv Radia Praha
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You're listening to SoundCzech - Radio Prague's Czech language series in which you can learn Czech idioms through song lyrics. Today we'll be listening to a song from the 1960s called "Jezdím bez nehod" or "I drive without accidents" sung by the pop-star of the day Milan Chladil. Today's first featured phrase is "cestou necestou".

The singer is boasting about being a fast and safe driver. He can be in Prague at one moment and an hour later in Brno, some 250 kilometres away. The phrase "cestou necestou" - literally "road or no road" refers to travelling on difficult roads, with lots of obstacles. The word cesta means road. No such word as "necesta" exists on its own, except for this idiom. Milan Chladil sings that he travels on difficult roads and says it is not by chance that he is never involved in an accident. He uses two words that are very similar: náhoda and nehoda. Listen to the chorus once again and after that we'll be talking about those two words.

Milan Chladil sings that "není náhodou, že se nesetkám s nehodou". It is no chance, or it is not by accident, that I never encounter an accident. While in English the word accident has a double meaning, in Czech there are two words for the two concepts yet they are very similar. "Náhoda" is an accident as in a chance, a coincidence. Whereas "nehoda" is an accident in the negative sense, an unfortunate occurrence. A 1980s Czech road safety slogan said "nehoda není náhoda", "a traffic accident is no accident". Let's now listen to the very beginning of the song.

This song seems to be packed with idioms. At the very beginning, Milan Chladil says he's been driving for two years without an accident and adds "s větrem se honím o závod" - which translates as "I am racing with the wind". A more usual form of the idiom is "s větrem o závod", "racing with the wind" and can be loosely translated as "hell for leather". Today we have learnt three phrases: "cestou necestou", the slogan "nehoda není náhoda" and "s větrem o závod". Thanks for listening and drive safely.