Oh, deer

05-11-2005

A new tune has announced a new short sequence in Radio Prague's language series examining Czech countryside idioms. Last time we finished with farm animals and now we proceed onto animals living in the wilderness.

A new tune has announced a new short sequence in Radio Prague's language series examining Czech countryside idioms. Last time we finished with farm animals and now we proceed onto animals living in the wilderness.

The Czech word for animal as such is similar to the term for wild animals, or beasts. Zvíře means just animal, of course, with all its figurative meanings. The other word - zvěř; - means a wild animal. There's a third similar word - zvěřina - which means game or venison. So, once again, zvíře - animal, zvěř - wild animals, zvěřina- venison.

Today we start with the bigger forest animals and the first one will be the deer - jelen. A beautiful, lithe, graceful animal - but easily startled and confused. Otherwise our ancestors would not have coined the phrase to jsem z toho jelen, (roughly "this makes me a deer"), meaning I am very confused, I cannot make head or tail of it. To jsem z toho jelen. English has a newer expression proving that deer are easily terrified and can behave unpredictably: they simply stand and stare like deer caught in the headlights.

The female deer, the doe, is a symbol of grace in many languages. Unlike the stare of her mate caught in the headlights, the look of a doe's eyes is thought to be stunning. Má oči jako laň; - she has eyes like a doe, she is doe-eyed. If a woman runs in a graceful way, we say she has the run of a doe, běhá jako laň, or she runs like a roe, běhá jako srna. That usually makes men behave like rutting stags, jelen v říji - literally like deer in the rutting season. The month of October is called říjen in Czech just because it is the rutting season of stags - jelení říje.

In Czech, men who are cheated on by their wives are said to wear deer's antlers, parohy. To cuckold one's husband is nasadit parohy - to put antlers on his head, which makes the man in question a paroháč - literally a stag with a huge pair of antlers.

We're getting onto thin ice here, so we'd better say good-bye. Till next time na shledanou.

05-11-2005