Polish is a part of Slavic languages group and is spoken by around 50 million people worldwide. It’s quite an old language too – the first known sentence is dated back in 1270! Despite being considered one of the most difficult languages, it’s currently learnt by more than 800,000 people all around the world on Duolingo.
As you may already know, the term false friend in linguistics means two words in different languages that look or sound the same but have completely different meanings. There are more false friends between Polish and English that you may expect, even if these languages don’t seem to have a lot in common:
– fart vs fart
We all know what fart means in English, but did you know that in Polish the same word, (written and even pronounced the same way!) means good fortune or luck? If you hear it on the Polish streets, don’t worry, they don’t talk about the flatulence here!
– lunatic vs lunatyk
The word used in English to describe a manic, crazy person can be really misunderstood in Poland, where it just means someone who’s sleepwalking. Still, there’s something lunatic about sleepwalkers anyways, at least for me!
When we talk about the linguistic differences between the languages, we cannot forget about my all-time favourites: idioms. Those bring so much more fun while you’re learning a new language but can be a bit weird as well!
Nie mój cyrk, nie moje małpy. – meaning not more or less than ‘’Not my circus, not my monkeys’’!
This one is quite an old proverb in Polish, but such a good one. You can use it when you don’t want to be involved in someone else’s drama, when something is not your problem, so you just want to stay out of it! Such a useful one that is, especially in our times, when everyone has enough on their plate! (See what I did here?)
Czy słoń nadepnął ci na ucho?– as the way of saying: ‘’ Did an elephant stomp on your ear?’
Whenever you’d like to say that someone has absolutely no musicality whatsoever. If your big dream is to become a musician, it is worth to know that one because if you ever hear it- maybe it’s actually time to put the instruments away!
Wiercić komuś dziurę w brzuchu. – The literal translation of this one would be ‘’To drill a hole in someone’s belly’’.
Despite how dangerous and concerning this may sound, you can describe this way a person that goes on about something and they wouldn’t stop. They keep bothering you about it and it’s just getting annoying. Who would’ve thought that in Polish you can say a child is drilling a hole in their mum’s belly when she doesn’t want to buy them a new toy! Quite worrying that one right?
Putting the language fun facts aside, one more interesting thing I wanted to share with you would be a fairly unusual Polish tradition, that is really popular despite being celebrated since 16th century! The last Thursday before the Christian Lent, so 52 days before the Easter celebrations is called ‘Fat Thursday’’ (tłusty czwartek).
Even if the name doesn’t sound as appealing, that is the day when the Polish bakeries prepare tons of pączki: fried doughnuts, usually filled with rose jam, sprinkled with the powdered sugar or poured with icing. Delicious! According to tradition, if you don’t eat at least one of them during Fat Thursday, there’s only bad luck waiting for you this year! Not that I’m superstitious, but eating one of those goodies is not a high price for having some luck all year, right?
Poland, with a tricky language to learn, the nonsense idioms and weird letters (gżegżółka is a name of a bird!) is an unusual country for sure. Hope the above facts put a smile on your face and made you consider visiting! If not, maybe a pint of beer for less than £2 will? 😉
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