21.9.11

About that... (Superstitions and "Customs")

Re CzechingIn

The funny thing about "national cultures" is that they don't exist. They're just creations of discourse, just constructions made by the media or outsiders.

While we know that there we don't actually do all the stuff that is supposed to be OUR national customs, and that there are regional differences within our countries, and that if we meet another person of our nationality, it's more important what part of our country they come from, or what city/town/village they come from, when we meet a foreigner, we look through "national stereotype" glasses.

Christmas (Ex)Traditions

I'm not saying you should disregard customs and other stuff completely, but come on! How many Czechs actually cut an apple in half and believe the forecast it gives?! Anyway, there are also other forecasting traditions on the Christmas Day (that only few Czechs actually keep), such as pouring lead into water. And I don't know if you've ever heard about Karel Jaromír Erben, but he's a popular Czech writer who lived in the 19th century, collected fairytales and wrote a book of poems called "Kytice" (A Bouquet - a full version of in Czech). One of the poems there is called "Štědrý den" (The Christmas Day) and it's about two girls who wanted to know their future - so they went to dig a hole into a pond, and while one of them finds out she's going to get married in the following year, the other one learns she's going to die - and the point the author makes is that it's better not to know what future holds... (BTW, most of the poems from the book are as morbid and creepy as this one...)

You can watch the following video with English subtitles... (But the director seems to have chosen to interpret the death differently there.)

One ear and twenty what?

As to the idioms, I've always understood the expression "jsem jedno ucho" (I'm one ear) as being all one ear - so the entire being of mine becomes one ear and I'm all at the disposal of the person that wants to speak to me. :-)

And when you say "dám si dvacet" (I'll give myself twenty), nobody thinks about winking in Czech - as far as I'm concerned, "twenty" means "twenty minutes", but I believe there might have been originally a different meaning that I'm not aware of.

1 comment:

  1. The "winking" refers only to the common english saying "forty winks". You are right - the Czech "twenty" is twenty minutes!

    I think it's true of all "traditions" and superstitions - some but not all people do them, even fewer (if any) people believe them. My Czech friend keeps a fish scale in her purse to bring her money over the year. Does she actually belive it? Not likely, but she does it anyway!

    I think most countries have the same - Brits put money into the christmas pudding and the person who finds it is meant to get good luck.

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