Yay, work!


Welcome to a new edition of SoundCzech, our long-running series looking at sayings and expressions through song lyrics. Today’s expressions all have to do with the Czech word for work – práce – at a time when people either don’t have enough or have too much, trying to clear their desk ahead of the holidays. Featured is a song by 1990s punk band E!E called Práce. In the tune, the group sings “práce, jé práce, práce, je práce”, which translates as work, yay work, work there’s work. The accent on the “e” in the first jé makes all the difference.

In the song the band celebrates, tongue-in-cheek yippee, work! They sing konečně mě vzali do fabriky– at last they gave me a job at the factory, konečně se splnil tátův sen– that was always my dad’s dream. This is great punk irony, really part of Punk 101, reflecting the difficulties of daily life especially if you can’t land a decent job.

One thing is having work, another though is performing, and there the Czech language is rich with countless expressions. If you work effectively, the Czechs say práce mu jde od ruky– he or she have things well in hand, they make it look easy. Or if someone is working really hard you’d say pracuje o sto šest. The parallel in English might be he or she is working at full intensity, something like a hundred and ten percent, giving their all, although it’s important to stress the sto šest (106 in Czech) has different roots, and is not a percentage. Pracovat jako posedlý means to work like one possessed and pracovat jako včelička means to work like a beaver although včelička is Czech for bumble bee.

Of course, you have to be careful not to overdo it, or you might work until you drop: pracoval do úpadu– he worked until he collapsed or you could say pracoval do úmoru - he worked himself into the ground, or pracoval do roztrhání těla– he worked himself to shreds. One can only hope those in such positions are at least well-paid, but of course often the very opposite is true and people often work hard for next to nothing, pracujou za pakatel.

Those who will be at work over Christmas, just a few days away, will work holiday or no holiday – budou pracovat svátek nesvátek. Never very pleasant. On the other hand, at a time when more and more firms are saving and cutting staff, many will be happy to just have any work at all. Jé, práce! Yay, work!