The world is rubbing salt in our wounds

Photo: Štěpánka Budková

Welcome to another edition of SoundCzech, Radio Prague’s programme explaining Czech vocabulary through song lyrics. Today’s song is the 1969 Czech cover of “Hey Jude” by The Beatles. It is sung by Marta Kubišová and the Czech lyrics were written by Zdeněk Rytíř. We shall concentrate on the chorus which features a number of idioms. Let’s start by listening to the whole chorus which begins by the line Svět je krásnej, svět je zlej, hej, Jude, věř v něj meaning “the world is beautiful, the world is evil, hey Jude, trust in it”.

Photo: Štěpánka Budková
Speaking about the world, the singer says it bestowed upon us more blows and lumps at our birth. Do vínku nám dal víc ran a boulí. The expression dát do vínku means to give somebody a particular talent or feature when they are born. The origin of the idiom is not quite clear. The word vínek may refer to the baby’s swaddling where well-wishers used to put small gifts or money. Or it may be related to the verb věnovat meaning to give, to donate.

Not only have we been given all those blows at birth but the world is making it even worse by rubbing salt into the wounds. The word rána can mean both blow and wound. Do těch ran ti sype sůl– it is rubbing salt into those wounds. Another phrase in the same line is láme hůl, literally to break a cane. Zlomit hůl is an idiom meaning to write somebody or something off. Zlomil nad tebou hůl– he considers you a hopeless case, he’s written you off. Literally, he broke a cane or stick over you.

That’s how the world rules over us, that’s how it’s playing with us, says the final line of the chorus. Tak vládne nám svět, tak s námi koulí. The verb koulet means to roll, but in this context it means to play with, to treat roughly. Let’s listen once again to the whole chorus before we recap today’s phrases.

The expression dát do vínku means to endow a new-born child with a talent or a character trait. Sypat sůl do ran means to rub salt into wounds. Zlomit hůl nad něčím is to write something off, to walk away from it. All those Czech idioms are crammed into a single strophe of the Czech cover of The Beatles’s “Hey Jude”. And that’s it for today’s edition of SoundCzech. Until next time na shledanou.