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14-10-2019, 20:55 UTC
Living Czech

Shoulders to the grindstone

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Hello and welcome again to Living Czech. I'm here with Zuzka Durcakova, from our studio, and you'll find out why in a little while. This week's topic is one that will be familiar to everyone: work. We'll take a look at official terms for it, slang terms and expressions, plus some golden oldies from the Communist era.

The most common word in Czech for work is práce, from the verb pracovat. This is a fairly universal term. If you say "mám práci", then this can mean "I have work to do" or "I have a job", just as "jdu do práce" means "I'm going to work".

A term for hard work is robota. This originally meant a tithe, which was a set amount of work peasants had to do on their master's land every year in part payment of their rent. This word is now known to the rest of the world through Karel Èapek's play RUR, or Rodrum's Universal Robots. It is a commonly, and mistakenly, believed that Karel Èapek invented this word, but is was actually his brother, Josef Èapek, with whom he worked on various plays and stories. When Karel was working on RUR, he asked his brother to help create a name for machines that could do the work of men. Josef suggested robot, from robota, literally meaning hard-working machines.

Makat means to work hard, and from this we get the term nemakaèenko, which ironically, and deliberately, sounds Russian, and means a lazybones. A flákaè, from the verb flákat se, also means an idler or time waster. A man who is skilled and professional is a fachman, and someone who cannot master even the most basic of skills is a lempl, and both of these terms are of German origin.

If you work freelance, you have a melouch, which is from the Hebrew word meloche. You can also get a k¹eft, which is German in origin, and means a job.

There are many common expressions used in Czech for working. Here are some of the more common ones. Dìlám od nevidím do nevidím, which literally means "I work from when I can't see to when I can't see", or from dawn till dusk. Práce kvapná, malo platná is an old Czech saying meaning that hastily done work is worth nothing at all, and another one is bez práce nejsou koláèe, or no work, no cakes.

During the Communist era there were enormous amounts of slogans related to work. Now this is why Zuzka is here, because she is going to tell us her favourite Communist slogan that she uses as a joke catch-phrase. This is ke strojùm, which means to the machines, and was shouted to encourage the proletariat masses to work. Thank you, Zuzka.

When workers started the day, they would say èest práci, or honour to work. Nechme døinu strojùm, is a good one, and means let's leave the hard work to the machines. A favourite one of the Communists is Co mù¾e¹ udìlat dnes, neodkládej na zítra, or don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today, and a joke version of this is Co mù¾e¹ udìlat dnes, klidnì odlo¾ na zítøek or what you can today, just put off till tomorrow.

Well, we've reached the end of our shift, or should I say padla, which means the end of the working day. This comes from the verb padat, or to fall, and literally mean drop what you're doing and go. Next week we will have a look at telling the time in Czech. So, until then, mìjte se fajn, or take care.

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