Idioms are the spice of language

18-02-2006

Hello and welcome to Radio Prague's Czech-teaching programme, focusing on idioms featuring domestic plants and farm crops. Today we take a closer look at spices and herbs - koření. The Czech expression is related to the word kořen - a root, which suggests that originally, spices were extracted from ground roots of plants.

Photo: Archiv of ČRo7Photo: Archiv of ČRo7 Czechs often say humor je koření života - humour is the spice of life. Pretty much every good thing can be called the "spice", or the "salt" of life, for that matter. For example love. Láska je solí života. And anything that is precious and scarce can be called vzácné koření - precious spice. Which leads us almost seamlessly to another spice which once used to be very precious in this region - the saffron - šafrán. It is used in expressions such as this one: Dobrých odborníků je jako šafránu. Good experts are scarce. They are few and far between.

Photo: KENPEI, Creative Commons 3.0Photo: KENPEI, Creative Commons 3.0 Traditional herbal medicine often used wormwood, a plant known for its repulsive bitterness, as a cure for intestinal diseases, or to stimulate digestion. Its frequent medicinal use earned wormwood a prominent place in the Czech language. Whenever anything is disgustingly bitter, it is compared to wormwood. Hořký jako pelyněk, as bitter as wormwood. Wormwood, or Artemisia absinthium in Latin, also gave its name - and flavour - to absinthe, the green coloured alcoholic beverage that is produced in the Czech Republic but is illegal in many countries. And maybe rightfully so, as it has been said that the painter Vincent van Gogh was drinking absinthe before he lopped his ear off...

Gebruiker, Creative Commons 3.0Gebruiker, Creative Commons 3.0 Moving onto other body parts, a person's buttocks can be likened to caraway seeds in Czech. Má zadek jako dva kmíny - his or her buttocks are like two caraway seeds - meaning very slim and narrow.

Another saying has become quite popular recently - jít do kopru - literally to go to dill. It means to go downhill, from bad to worse.

And it's time to say good-bye before our episode ends up somewhere in the dill patch, so until next time, take care, na shledanou.

18-02-2006

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