I guess we constantly keep forgetting how many words actually enter our languages as calques and borrowings from other languages. Polish is no exception here. Apart from very new acquisitions we have mainly from English and most often to call some new devices and technologies, there are plenty of words of foreign origin in Polish. Some of them have been there for so long that we no longer perceive them as foreign.
Let’s start with a short quiz. The following are some words Polish borrowed from other languages and applied its own spelling rules. Can you still recognize the words and their languages of origin? (some knowledge of Polish spelling/pronunciation rules would be of great help here)
Ready? Steady? Go!
So, here’s the solution:
mecz – Eng. match (like a football match)
lider – Eng. leader (band leader, political leader)
randka – Fr. rendez-vous (a romantic date)
butik – Fr. boutique
kalafior – It. cavolfiore (cauliflower)
wiolonczela – It. violoncello (cello)
kemping – Eng. camping
gorset – Fr. corset
dżinsy – Eng. jeans
szyld – Ger. Schild (sign)
So how many did you get right? Difficult to recognize, aren’t they? And that’s just a tiny sample of words Polish ‘stole’ from other languages and assimilated them i.e. changed the spelling, usually also pronunciation and added endings especially when the word is declined (and most are as we have 7 cases). Apart from that we have a bunch of words we use in which we didn’t change either spelling or pronunciation (well, that’s what WE think about pronunciation that is). The problem is we don’t usually know how to spell these words properly especially the accents in words of French origin.
Some words we use: à propos, vis-à-vis, savoir vivre, foyer, jury, femme fatale, haute couture, prêt à porter, tiramisu, loggia, walkman, au-pair…
Let’s take another test. Read the following text and try to grasp the sense. Do you speak Polish?
Jakie masz plany na weekend?
Zjem spagetti i tiramisu, namaluję akwarelę, rozsypię konfetti, zaśpiewam sonatę i serenadę pod fontanną, a potem pójdę na plażę opalać się topless. A Ty?
Mam ochotę na jakiegoś fast fooda, więc najpierw zjem hamburgera, potem jakiś sport, aerobic albo jogging… Potem napiszę coś na moim blogu w internecie, odbiorę maile, napiszę smsa i posłucham muzyki grupy, której jestem fanem na cd lub dvd.
So, how much did you manage to understand? Amazing how many foreign words there are in Polish. Many of them ‘in disguise’ of the grammatical endings but still there, prominent especially in writing. No idea why we don’t have a word for weekend but it is so and basta! (and that’s it!)