Every language on earth boasts a rich variety of idioms – and Czech is no exception. In fact, it has some of the most unusual and inventive idioms of any language. As proof, here are just ten of our favorites…
1. ‘Chodit kolem horké kaše’
In the Czech language, ‘kaše’ can mean any food of a mashed consistency… and therefore, this idiom can
be translated in many different ways. However, the most common interpretation is ‘to walk around hot porridge’, and it’s used when somebody is skirting around a subject, trying to discuss something without
being too specific. It might sound quite strange, but is it really any odder than ‘to beat around the bush?’
2. ‘Je to pro mne španĕlská vesnice’
In English, we insult the Greek language to express our lack of understanding (‘it’s all Greek to me!’) but in the Czech Republic they pick on another Mediterranean country. And with a phrase like ‘it’s a Spanish village to me’, they’re not just picking on the country either… they’re picking on its baffling settlements.
3. ‘Šplouchá mu na maják’
Even knowing the literal translation of this idiom – ‘it’s splashing on his lighthouse’ – probably won’t help you understand it’s meaning. In short, it’s someone who is stupid or crazy… a sandwich short of a picnic.
4. ‘Zaplatit majlant’
If something is very expensive, the Czechs will use this phrase, which means as ‘to pay Milan’ (using the Germanic name ‘Mailand’). The reason? Because Milan was renowned for its wealth in the Middle Ages.
5. ‘Dát někomu modré z nebe’
Literally translated as ‘To give someone the blue from the sky’, this idiom is used to mean either one has offered up everything they possibly can, or that one’s promising something they cannot possibly deliver.
6. ‘Třást se jako osika’
This is a particularly dark idiom. The Czech equivalent of ‘to shake like a leaf’, this idiom literally means ‘to shake like an aspen-tree’. Why? Because that was the tree from which Judas hung himself, of course.
7. ‘Zlom vaz’
If you’ve always thought that the much-used English idiom ‘break a leg’ was inexplicably violent, it isn’t a patch on the Czech version. When an actor steps on stage there, they’re cheerily told: ‘Break your neck’.
8. ‘Hodit flintu do žita’
In this tiny Central European country, they don’t fly the white flag or give up the ghost. They don’t even throw in the towel – although that’s the nearest equivalent. Instead, they’ll ‘throw the rifle into the rye’.
9. ‘Knedlík v krku’
It’s also true that hoarse Czechs don’t ever get frogs in their throats… they get ‘a dumpling in the neck’.
10. ‘Držet palce’
Finally, to wish a Czech person good luck, don’t cross your fingers for them: ‘hold your thumbs’ instead.