Tag Archives: tongue

Do you want to know my tongue?

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 I’m starting to wonder whether Czech is really a language or a secret code.  I’ve never seen so many Z, Y and Ks so close together before which made me ask myself if Czech wasn’t just made up of all the letters you are usually stuck with at the end of a game of Scrabble.  In the English version of the game, a ‘Z’ scores a big fat 10 points.  According to Wikipedia, in the Czech version, the ‘Z’ tile only scores a measly two.  A quick flick through the final pages of your Czech-English dictionary will show you why.  For those of you without one close at hand, here are a few highlights.  ‘Zvuk’ may sound like a vicious bird-of-prey that would rip your beating heart out and then swallow it whole, but it actually means the rather more innocent ‘sound’.  To be ‘zbrkly’ – yes, that’s right, no vowels in this word logofiles, not one – doesn’t mean to act like a berk or freeze your proverbial arse off (z-brrr-kly) but to be hot-headed or rash.  And finally, ‘zcizit’ – which I just spent five minutes trying to pronounce until Czechman told me to give up and say ‘ukrast’ instead – means ‘to steal’.


Sometimes I’m think I’m not very good at being foreign.  When people can’t understand me I tend to get sulky and stroppy.  I got a bit sulky yesterday when I spent a whole afternoon hanging out with some of Czechman’s friends getting progressively more drunk while playing croquet in the park.  Having a couple of beers with your croquet is fair enough, but moving onto tequila and finally doing shots of plum vodka would result in a conviction for a public order offence these days back in England.  Some of Czechman’s friends are very sweet and try to coax language out of me by asking me lots of easy questions but most realise that I can hardly string a sentence together and then politely ignore me.  When I whine about this on the way home, Czechman is characteristically blunt.  ‘You’d better get used to it, because things aren’t going to get better anytime soon.  Even when your Czech improves you probably won’t understand much when we’re all speaking together.’


I refuse to give up though.  I won’t be the typical English speaker who spends years in Prague and hardly manages to expand their vocabulary beyond ‘knedliky’ and ‘pivo’.  


The attractive, dark-skinned lady in the picture is advertising a language school by asking if you want to know her tongue.  According to Czechman, this is as dirty as it sounds.



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sausage-man4They have Tesco here, but not as we know it.  A trip to the meat counter reveals a selection of the usual offerings in those plastic trays: pork chops, chicken thighs and big red chunks of beef ready for roasting.  Alongside these, I see items that are less common back home: a cow’s tongue, neatly coiled up so it fits into the rectangular container, two dozen chicken necks which looked like skinned babies’ arms with the hands sliced off and a whole rabbit, also flayed but not boned so it still retains its original rabbit like shape, minus the head and ears.  Nothing is organic so there’s no hope of finding a free-range chicken so I’m forced to pick up a battery-reared one for sixty crowns: less than three pounds.  I know its plumpness is all fat rather than real meat; it will dissolve in the roasting tin to a dried up carcass.


The picture you can see of a man happily sucking up a sausage is on display in the butchers next to our flat.  Below him there is a pile of pigs trotters.  Offal is very fashionable in London these days.  Fergus Henderson made his name selling the concept of ‘nose to tail’ eating to metropolitan diners at the St John in Clerkenwell.  Czech Man tried to take me there once as a surprise but they were fully booked even on a Tuesday night.  I probably had a lucky escape.  The smell of offal makes me want to heave.


When I went to Czech Man’s parents for the weekend, his mum welcomed us with fried potato pancakes which were arranged in a little basket on the table and sausages.  The sausages were those long skinny frankfurters which she served to us on a plate with two blobs of mustard next to them. We ate them with our hands, dipping the sausage into the mustard before biting into it.  I felt just as surprised as the man in the picture about this new way of consuming questionable meat products but I chomped it down regardless.


When I come out of the tube on my way home the first thing I notice is the aroma coming from the hot dog stall.  One day I’ll probably give in and buy one, but somehow I know they can’t taste as good as they smell.



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