Some Favourite Czech Proverbs
My absolute favourite Czech proverb is bez peněz do hospody nelez, which translates to “don't go to the pub without money.” I love that saying! It’s a colourful way of telling people not to begin tasks they aren’t prepared to carry through on. Of course, part of the pleasure of a proverb is bringing your own interpretation to them.
A piece of good advice that lends a certain insight into the character of the Czech people is hněv je špatný rádce, which means “anger is a bad advisor.” I know it’s a piece of advice I should take more often than I actually do. A related saying that speaks to my own lack of tolerance of other people sometimes is host do domu, hůl do ruky, or “if a guest comes to your home, grab a stick.” I often like to mix that one with the good old English proverb “guests, like fish, start to stink after two days.”
Good Czech Advice
Proverbs are often little nuggets of wisdom that our long-ago ancestors have placed for us to find, trying to warn us away from poor behaviour. If you think of them like that, it’s pretty amazing – people from a thousand years ago trying to teach us what they’ve learned!
For example, I’d like to know the first person to say kdo se moc ptá, moc se dozví (he who asks too much will learn too much). It’s a brilliant piece of advice. Or, in the same vein, who first came up with mluviti stříbro, mlčeti zlato, which means “speaking is silver, silence is gold.” Genius – and left there in the culture for me to find, centuries later, and take some wisdom from.
Of course, I don’t claim to fully understand every piece of old Czech wisdom. A saying I like the sound of is v noci každá kočka černá, which translates to “every cat is black at night,” but I can’t claim that I completely understand that one. I like the sound of it, the poetry of it, but the actual nuance escapes me. If you’re Czech and want to illuminate me, please do!