Life on a heap

Hello and welcome to SoundCzech, our popular miniseries in which you can learn some interesting Czech phrases while listening to music. Today’s song is by Vladimír Mišík and it’s called “Co ti dám”. The phrase to listen out for is “na hromádce”.

The phrase “na hromádce” means “on a heap” and has very much the same meaning. But in Czech, it is also used to say that a couple lives together without being married. “Žijí spolu na hromádce” thus literally means “they live together on a heap”; they have a common law marriage. Unlike marriage, it has no legal ramifications in the Czech Republic, and is ever more common.

In this seasonal song, with lyrics by the Czech poet Pavel Šrut, the singer enumerates all the things he will give his loved one for Christmas. One of his promises involves “life on decent basis”, rather then “existence on a heap”. Have another listen.

Talking about living together without being married, people sometimes use the euphemism “bez prstýnku” – without the ring. There is also the peculiar phrase “na psí knížku”, which could perhaps be translated as “on a dog book”. The origins of that expression are unclear; linguists believe it might suggest the problematic legal status of this kind of union. But they say it’s impossible to find out how it was first coined.

There are also several expressions for people who live in regular marriage. For instance, you can say “jsou svoji”, literally they belong to each other. A married man can sometimes be referred to as being “v chomoutu”, or in horse collar, while married women are “pod čepcem” – under the bonnet, an expression the Czech language shares with German.