Czech by Numbers - Zero

15-07-2006

Hello and welcome to Czech by Numbers, Radio Prague's own Czech language programme which explores Czech numbers in everyday speech. Today we'll look at one special number - zero.

The Czech word for zero is nula. It comes from Latin, whereas the English word zero is of Arabic origin.

There are a number of idioms using the word nula in Czech. One of them is začít od nuly, to "start from zero", to start from scratch. If you say about someone je to nula, "he or she is zero" it means he/she is a nobody.

An old word for nula is nicka, nought, from the word nic - nothing.

Because zero degrees Celsius is freezing point, the word nula is often used with those connotations. If you say nálada je na nule, it means the mood is at freezing point, the same as na bodu mrazu, literally at freezing point.

In recent years the expression nulová tolerance, translated directly from the English "zero tolerance" has become a real buzzword on the Czech political scene and elsewhere.

If you have ever dealt with the wiring in your house you will have come across nulák - which is the slang word for neutral conductor, neutral wire.

There is a verb derived from the Czech word for zero - vynulovat - which means to reset, set to zero, for example a meter of some sort. Another verb, anulovat, means to annul.

And this is all for today's lesson but we'll be back with more idioms and expressions using Czech numbers. Till next time na shledanou, bye-bye.