Czech is a hard nut to crack

11-02-2006

Welcome to Radio Prague's Czech-teaching programme discussing idioms about farm crops. Today we look at peas, nuts, seeds and the like.

Although peas were a staple food in this part of Europe only a couple of hundred years ago, they were later replaced by the more filling potatoes and never regained their onetime fame.

Probably the most favourite type is the green pea - hrách. If you are trying to persuade somebody or make them do something and the person just won't listen to you, you can say to je jako by hrách na stěnu házel - "it is like throwing peas against the wall", or it's like talking to a brick wall. Very large tears can be likened to green peas - slzy jako hrachy. About oversensitive and picky people, especially women you can say they are like princezna na hrášku - the Princess and the Pea, who was so delicate that she could feel a single pea under twenty mattresses.

Attractive, strong and healthy looking women - the opposite of the delicate princess - can be referred to as holka jako lusk - a "girl like a pod".

Poppy seeds have an important place in Czech cuisine and it's no wonder that they found their way into Czech phraseology as well. If you do not like something ani za mák - "not for a poppy seed" - you don't like it at all.

If something does not make an impression on you, if it is neither fish nor fowl, you can use the rhyming expression ani takový ani makový - literally "neither such nor with poppy seeds", neither one thing, nor another. If you feel indifferent towards something, for example if you don't care whether you buy black or brown shoes, you can say you will take takový nebo makový.

The word for poppyhead - makovice is often used in a joking way to describe a person's head.

Now, onto nuts. A nut is ořech or oříšek in Czech. The figurative meaning of the word is "a difficult problem". If a task is described as tvrdý oříšek, it means it will be a tough nut to crack. And to solve a difficult problem is rozlousknout oříšek - "to crack a nut". One type of nut is the almond - usually used to describe the beauty of a woman's eyes - oči jako mandle.

Finally, English and Czech share the expression "to plant a seed of doubt" - zasít semeno pochybností. Another agricultural metaphor is used to remind people that they will have to bear the consequences of their acts. Co sis zasil, to si taky sklidíš - what you have sown you will have to reap.

On that moralising note we shall leave you today. Until next time, na shledanou.

11-02-2006