Root and branch


Welcome once again to Radio Prague's Czech teaching programme. Last week, we went through some Czech idioms about trees and today we'll take a look at individual parts of the tree, and what they stand for in popular expressions.

And we'll start with the roots - kořeny. To put down roots, to settle down, to become established somewhere is - zapustit kořeny. On the contrary, to destroy something completely, to root it out is vyrvat i s kořeny - word by word to rip something out, roots and all. Mít zdravý kořínek - "to have a healthy rootlet" means to have robust health.

Moving onto the branches - větve. If something takes you by surprise, you can say to jsem z toho na větvi - literally, I am on a branch because of that, I am nonplussed by it. The next idiom: podřezávat si pod sebou větev - is self-explanatory - to saw off the branch you are sitting on, to damage something you ought to protect because it is vital for you.

A tree stump is pařez. The implied meaning in all idioms is a kind of stiffness. Stojí tam jako pařez - he is standing there like a block of wood, he is completely wooden and blank. Another one: spát jako pařez - to sleep like a tree stump, or as the English idiom goes, to sleep like a log. And last but not least, hluchý jako pařez - to be as deaf as a tree stump, to be stone deaf. Deafness is ascribed not only to tree stumps but also to logs. Je hluchý jako poleno - he is as "deaf as a log", he is as deaf as a post.

And finally, one important word to do with the trees - smůla - pitch. The word in Czech also means bad luck, maybe because its sticks just like pitch and you cannot get rid of it. Smůla se mi lepí na paty - literally, pitch sticks to my heals, meaning I am bedevilled by bad luck.

We certainly hope you don't suffer from bad luck.

Anyway, today's lesson is over. But if you'd like to find out more about Czech idioms about wild flora, you can tune in again next week. Until then, na shledanou.