S pánem Bohem

mykstor

Member
American English
I speak no Czech, however my grandmother came the United States as a young woman from Bohemia around 1880. My mother retained just a smattering of Czech from her early childhood in Iowa.
Whenever we would depart home on a long car trip, my mother would have the family say something like: Psané Bohém ... Which was meant as a prayer for our safekeeping during our trip. Obviously the expression would be very old-fashioned nowadays. I have been unable to find anything in dictionaries that resembles this. Can anyone help me figure out what this might have been and how it would be properly spelled? Psané seems to mean 'written' and bohém seems to be an inflected form meaning God?? ...or would it relate to the land of Bohemia itself? Or does Bohemia perhaps mean 'God's land'?

Thank you in advance for any help!

Mykstor in Arizona
 
  • Enquiring Mind

    Senior Member
    English - the Queen's
    Hi mykstor, non-native (professional translator's) opinion here: "psané Bohem" means "(being) written by God". I haven't seen this used in the kind of context you describe and wouldn't expect to, even in the parlance of many decades ago. What I might expect to hear is "s pánem Bohem" which, in the context of starting any kind of long journey, would mean (in shortened form) "may we be in the hands of God", "may God protect us", "may God watch over us", "may God keep us safe", "may God be with us" - as you suggested. [Unless, of course, they are saying this to the people they are taking leave of, in which case it's "goodbye".] Pragmatically, idiomatically and culturally here in English, you can substitute "the Lord" for "God" (though "the Lord" is a different word in Czech).
    The natives may be able to offer another perspective.
    ... does Bohemia perhaps mean 'God's land'?
    This looks plausible, but in fact it's not the case. Bohemia comes from the German Böhmen (nothing to do with "God"), and Bohemia in Czech is Čechy. Bohemia (thought to come from "Boi Heimat") is (part of) where the Beheimare Slavic tribe lived in the 9th century, and long before them - the Boii Celts (if we can believe Wikipedia ;) ).
     
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    mykstor

    Member
    American English
    Thank you, Enquiring Mind! Very interesting that Bohemia is actually from German Böhmen.. and not the other way around. ...and that hmen is from Heimat. I speak German, but would never have guessed this!
    I wonder if you or anyone else might kindly answer and explain the individual words.. I discover that s = with, which makes sense, .. pánem .. is an inflected form of 'man'?? and 'Bohem'?? what is that exactly?
     

    Enquiring Mind

    Senior Member
    English - the Queen's
    Yes, you're right. "S" is a preposition which (usually, but not always) means "with". It's followed (in this meaning of "with") by the instrumental (inflected) case of pán, which is pánem. You may also see it written with a capital P (s Pánem Bohem). From the examples I've been able to find, Czechs themselves are not always sure if they should capitalise it. It's comparable to Herr Gott in German. Pan and pán (long á) are two different words in modern Czech and are used differently - see Pán, pan.
    Bůh is God (it comes directly from Old Slavonic, in today's Russian it's Бог - "Bog"). Similarly it also has to be inflected in the instrumental case, and Bůh thus becomes Bohem.
    As you know German, you'll be familiar with the four case inflections there. Czech has seven case inflections.
     
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    mykstor

    Member
    American English
    Thank you once again, Enquiring Mind, for a beautifully clear explanation!
    Now I can pass your insight along to my sister who mentioned "S pánem Bohem" in an email to me remarking that she had no idea how to write it.
    Seven cases? OMG! German is bad enough with 'just' four!
     

    Onyx18

    Senior Member
    Czech
    Hi mykstor, personally I wouldn't say "S pánem Bohem" as a wish of safe ride (sometimes this expression can be used aslo ironically). My first choice would be "Šťastnou cestu" or (if you want use this wish with word "God") "Ať vás (na vašich cestách) provází Bůh". By the way, "Psané Bohem" would say nobody in Czech republic ;)
     

    bibax

    Senior Member
    Czech (Prague)
    I wonder if you or anyone else might kindly answer and explain the individual words.. I discover that s = with, which makes sense, .. pánem .. is an inflected form of 'man'?? and 'Bohem'?? what is that exactly?
    The phrase "s Pánem Bohem" is abbreviation of "jděte s Pánem Bohem", originally from Latin "ite cum Domino" (= go with Our Lord), i.e. under God's protection/tutelage (pod ochranou Pána Boha, sub tutela Domini).

    An example (from Paličova dcera by Josef Kajetán Tyl):

    ROZÁRKA: Nynčko jděte s Pánem Bohem do školy a pěkně se chovejte.
    ROZÁRKA: Now go with Our Lord to school and be good.

    This phrase is old-fashioned, I use it only ironically (in this case it is written as one word "spánembohem"), e.g. when an unpleasant person (imagine mother-in-law) is threatening that s/he will leave your house, you can say ironically "spánembohem".

    Instead of "Gute Reise!" you can also say "Opatruj tě/vás/nás Pán Bůh!" (= "Let Our Lord protect/guard thee/ye/us"). It is also very old-fashioned.
    Very interesting that Bohemia is actually from German Böhmen.. and not the other way around. ...and that hmen is from Heimat. I speak German, but would never have guessed this!
    The name Bohemia is a Later Latin name for the Bohemian basin bordered by mountain chains, derived from a geographical name Boihaemum (Old Greek Βουίαιμον /Bouiaimon/), used by ancient writers (it is a Latinized form of ‚Heimat der Boier‘ [in Modern German]). We can only speculate which land exactly the ancient authors had in mind (Where is Boiohaemum?, an article in Czech, with some maps).

    IMHO the German name Böhmen came from Latin (Bohemia), and not the other way around. The Latin name itself (Boihaemum) came from an ancient Germanic language/dialect.
     
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    mykstor

    Member
    American English
    Thank you, Onyx18 and bibax for your input as very informative native speakers!

    S pánem Bohem
    was taught to us three children and our father only by repeating it after our mother in the car. She learned it also only by sound from her mother, who brought the phrase to America as a 12 year-old sometime around 1880. I don't believe my mother ever learned how to spell it, so my attempted spelling was only a stab in the dark;)
    As an adult my mother would sometimes spontaneously recall a word or two in Czech from her childhood in Iowa, but could no longer speak it. In those days, it was stressed in families to quickly learn English and to not speak the 'old world' language so as to fit in as quickly as possible as an 'American'.

    Around 1880, Bohemia (Čechy) was a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and there was much political upheaval, as I'm sure you know. Many Czechs emigrated to America .. and in particular to the state of Iowa... to escape severe poverty and to avoid inscription into the army. My grandmother recalled gleaning in the forest for berries and mushrooms. The rich and royalty would pass by in their carriages and toss coins to the peasants.

    My mother did learn Czech cooking from her mother. Among some other amazing Czech dishes, she made us the most fantastic kolachys! Sometimes when I got home from school, every available kitchen and dining room surface would be covered with them, all laid out like precious jewels on brown paper. None of my school friends in California knew what these delicacies were. She always made them with prune, apricot or poppy seed filling. It was impossible to eat just one. We had to have at least one of each type because all were equally irresistible! In fact, I have never seen kolachys made the way my mother made them so light and fluffy with mashed potato yeast dough. Perhaps if I lived in Iowa, I might find them in a Czech bakery. Sadly, we don't have these in Arizona where I live now.

    –Both of you mentioned using S pánem Bohem mainly with irony, as say, when someone storms out of your home after an argument. In this case, an American equivalent might be to exclaim, "Good riddance!" ... riddance is a rather rare word used mostly in this phrase. In other words, 'It is good to be rid of you!' ...but the ironic piousness of the Czech version strikes me as much funnier!
     
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    mykstor

    Member
    American English
    How great that someone fixed the name of this thread to make it more useful! Perhaps a reverse reference in English, such as 'Go with God!' would be equally helpful... Or perhaps this has already been accomplished?
     

    bibax

    Senior Member
    Czech (Prague)
    "Go with God!" is probably not used or idiomatic in English, in German it is Geh' mit Gott! (wenn ich mich nicht irre):

    In German you can ironically say Geh' mit Gott, aber geh'! or better Geh' mit Gott, aber flott! (it rhymes).

    riddance in a dictionary;

    Now I've realized that goodbye is reportedly a contraction of God be with ye.
     
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