The Polish language (TPA/MPL: Pòlščŷz͆na; SPA/MPL: Polski) refers to the rustling, hissing, and hushing sounds heard in the nation of Poland. It also refers to the inscrutable rules of grammar and spelling that the Polish people have devised to represent these baffling noises. The word Polszczyzna is both the name of Polish in Polish and a case-in-point of its inscrutability.
Polish has several incompatible alphabets and writing systems, all in current use in order to keep the Polish people mindful of the history of their nation, and mindless of the point they were trying to get across.
Prolonged use of Polish causes tongue injuries, temporary loss of orientation, serious social withdrawal and general confusion. Users are driven to spontaneous boarding of airline flights to exotic locales where Polish has not made inroads (yet) and one can spend an entire week speaking something else.
- 1 History
- 2 Alphabet
- 3 Adaptation of alphabets
- 4 Grammar
- 5 Dialects
- 6 Trivia
The foisting of the Polish language on generally peaceful Poles has never been explained. Current scholarship suggests that the Poles foisted it upon themselves, while trying to imitate the sounds of a tracksuit wiped on sand, a hissing viper or a sword dragged over gravel.
There are problems with all these theories. There were no tracksuits at that time; moreover, the ancient Poles did not use swords except for the ritual hara-kiri that would go on to be adopted by the Japanese, and even that was performed on gravel-less peat moss.
Foreigners claim that the Polish language is an oddity. Renowned Harvard scientist Norm Chomsky once stated succintly: "Polish has too damned many consonants!" American linguist Bobcat Goldthwaite observed that "It seems that Polish has only one phonetic unit to represent all 50 letters of its alphabet. I would describe this as a sound made by a caribou being devoured by a lion in a dry bush."
Polish is similar to Czech, Slovakian, Slovenian, Croatian, and sounds made by some hungry dogs. The explanation is that the Poles imitate weird noises as a matter of course. It is an adequate way to get to "language" without actually wrestling with meanings, a method that neighboring lands were eager to import. The result in the 20th Century was the notorious Drang nach Osten, which dominated the region until it was superseded by the Marshall Plan.
To date, only one non-Pole has been able to properly speak Polish. In a cruel twist of fate, she was suffering from a recent stroke. Paralysis of the left side of her face rendered her fluent in spoken Polish as a side-effect, much as some victims of car accidents who lose much of their frontal lobes suddenly become able to recite the radio broadcast of the 1954 World Series to delighted crowds. However, after five years of rehabilitative therapy, she lost this gift.
Poles have evolved an immunity from larynx and tongue injuries resulting from speaking Polish, in a process comparable to Zimbabweans evolving to using U.S. dollars and ducking across to South Africa whenever they need to buy toilet paper. This shows again that there is no hardship the human race cannot adapt to, whether voluntarily or as a pleasant side-effect of a death march.
The English-speaking world usually describes Polish as the rustling language, even when there is no implication that a Pole is rustling cattle. However, English-speakers concede that Polish can also be a hissing and a hushing language as well. The pictograms of Chinese make it easier to sound out a word than the many writing systems of Polish.
Traditional Polish was widely used in Poland until the 17th century. After that, it became a minor dialect. Nowadays, it is a fringe dialect, used only by pensioners and conservatives, and then usually to yell at neighbor children to stay off one's lawn. It also finds use among priests, bishops, and at annual conventions of knights. Those who speak Traditional Polish sound pedantic, or else have drunk too much vodka.
It has two key advantages over Modern Polish:
- Its grammar is more difficult and complicated.
- It uses more words than necessary to say the same thing.
However, Traditional Polish is still recognized as an official form of Polish, and is taught in addition to Modern Polish in all Polish schools, primarily to kids who are sent to detention. The fact that Traditional Polish takes a long time to learn, as well as to complete any utterance, makes it a good way to kill time.
As a goodwill gesture, Poland in the year 966 allowed the Czechs to baptize them. Water from the baptismal font evaporated quickly, but the use of the Roman alphabet in the church program was more persistent.
While baptism did get an awful lot of Poles into heaven, the use of Roman letters was completely inappropriate to represent Polish. Poles considered these letters too "girlish." Fortunately, Polish poet Jan Kochanowski invented several letters that looked even more idiotic than the Czech ones. As well as "being truly Polish," they baffled foreigners, and that closed the deal.
Here is the Traditional Polish alphabet:
A Ą À Á Â Ã Ä Å B C Ć Ç Č D E Ę È É Ē F G H Ĥ I Ì Í Î J K L Ł M N Ń O Ó Ò Ō Ø P R Ř S Ś Š ß T U V W X Y Ŷ Z Ż Ź Ƶ Ž Ȥ Z̄ Z͆ Z̪ Z͌ Z͛ Z̊ Z͒ Z͚ Z̾ Z͙ Ẑ Z̀ Z̼ Z̰ Z̧ Z͖
We see that Traditional Polish has more Zs than most languages have total letters. However, most English-speakers who yawn and announce that they are leaving to "catch some Zs" have no intention of using the time to study Traditional Polish.
The Traditional Polish alphabet is used by some geeks. Mathematicians, for example, find there are more letters that can be used as variables because they would never be used for anything more useful. Some of the oldest Traditional letters can no longer be pronounced, as anyone who used them has died and decomposed without leaving any tape recordings.
The 19th Century was one of the darker times in Polish history (compared to, say, the light and breezy times of Nazi occupation). Poland had been removed from the maps of the world by the the low-self-esteem bullies from Russia, Germany and Austria-Hungary. Russian Czar Nicolae I Romanow added insult to injury by eliminating the Latin alphabet from Poland entirely and replacing it with Cyrillic script. Poles rebelled against this until promised they could refer to it in their native language as tzirillitza, also when they saw what a great many bayonets the Czar's troops had.
However, the Poles revolted in 1863 to restore their diacritics and endless runs of consonants. Many Poles senselessly died and many others senselessly escaped to France, but eventually, the Czar abandoned his idea. The Poles sold to Belarus and Ukraine the idea of trying to write in Cyrillic a language not designed for it, in return acquiring hyperinflation and rat-borne epidemics.
The Poles went back to using Roman letters. However, like a dog returning after being missing for weeks, the Poles looked at their old alphabet with suspicion, and would not hug it tight until it had been washed thoroughly.
The resulting scrubbing and lathering produced the greatly simplified Simplified Polish alphabet:
A Ą B C Ć CH CZ D DZ DŻ DŹ E Ę F G H I J K L Ł M N Ń O Ó P R RZ S SZ Ś T U W Y Z Ż Ź
Simplification was a concession to the hapless foreigners who were contracting nystagmus from looking at Polish texts and begged for the removal of some of the weirder letters. The Poles substituted better ways to annoy foreigners. After all, although every Polack hates foreigners, they do arrive with cash.
The move to Simplified Polish happened gradually. Beginning in 1918, Polish school-children were tortured to learn the correct Polish orthography, as opposed to the writing their parents and friends had been using. This illustrates that, if you want to force everyone to do things your way, it helps to have hundreds of government schools, although you may still have to wait two generations.
A problem with converting everyone to the new way was that the new way was largely senseless. For example, the word gżegżółka would look better written as grzegrzółka. After all, Grzegorz is a guy's name, and the combination "grz" is common, as surely it is in your language too. And the word rzołnierz in Traditional started and ended with rz. After conversion to Simplified, the one at the start became ż, while the one on the end did not. This helpfully increased the chance of making mistakes, and freed teachers from having to devise annoying trick questions on exams.
About 5% of Poles write their unique language in a uniquer alphabet called leetski. Users of leetski are called Pokémons or Neo kids. They can freeze time so as to dodge bullets. They pursue self-mutilation as a pastime. Leetski is used in texting, chats, and other situations where diacritic marks cannot be used and no one cares to write correctly.
Leetski has had a profound influence on the Polish language; namely, to get Poles not to bother writing diacritics even when they could, then to stop caring to write correctly even when they should. Some words such as ksiądz are dropping their diacritics completely. Linguists believe this is a conspiracy to prepare the language for Polish Jews to take over and omit all the vowels as well.
Recent ideas for standardizing the writing of Polish include:
- A 1999 proposal was based on the Wingdings font, which is present on most personal computers. The proposal relied on the fact that most readers of Wingdings cannot imagine that there is a "right" way to pronounce the result. This idea failed in a national referendum, by the margin of 49.9%-50.1%, with one key vote declared "spoiled" as it was handwritten in Wingdings.
- Emigrants sometimes try to adapt Polish to the writing systems of the countries where they wind up, with the same disastrous effects as when foreign alphabets were applied to Polish. For example, Polish immigrants in Israel write from right to left, and Polish immigrants in Japan write from up to down and right to left. Polish immigrants to Los Angeles write in their own blood.
In summary, Poles use two separate languages, but either can be written in several alphabets, each of which may be "traditional" or "simplified." Therefore, there are many versions of every word. The following table shows how the reader might encounter the word Poland.
|Modern Polish||Simplified Leetski||:(|
|Traditional Polish||Traditional||Řèčpōšpólîtá Pølščkâ|
|Traditional Polish||Simplified||Rzeczpospolita Polska|
|Traditional Polish||Cyrillic||Рєчпосполита Пољска|
|Traditional Polish||Simplified Leetski||☭|
Adaptation of alphabets
Much work, and even more complaining and hand-wringing, followed the decision to write the Polish language in alphabets that were utterly unsuited for the task. Unfortunately, the work went in two opposite directions. Though disastrous for speakers of Polish, it set the stage for the many incompatible variations of HTML, and the modern situation in which there are twelve ways to do anything, every piece of software has to support them all, and every buyer has to pay for them all. All thanks to the Poles.
The Polish language sprinkles a lot of pepper over or under various letters. They are called diacritics and they help direct the foreigner trying to speak Polish to the exact sounds he will get wrong. Diacritics are unknown in English since the decline of the fountain pen. Even early ball-point pens such as the Bic made their diacritics safely in pants pockets.
Of special note are sounds like ż, ź, and ś. If you were not born in Poland or if your Mom did not serve pierogies at least weekly, you will never pronounce these correctly. The best advice is to give up now and take up a language like Hawaiian with only thirteen sounds, before you become suicidal, injure yourself, or get a collapsed lung.
Native-born Poles, by comparison, breeze through linguistic slalom-courses such as: część, źdźbło, trzcina, rzeżączka or pszczoła, while having enough brain left over to learn sounds of other languages like Irish, Chinese and Thai.
The foreigner ignores diacritics at his own peril, as he might want to say Zrobisz mi łaskę? ("Will you condescend to me?") and instead say Zrobisz mi laskę? ("Will you give me a blowjob?") (It could also mean, "Will you make me a walking stick?" although, in Poland, you will be shopping for this less often.)
A greater risk is that, once the foreigner has gotten the pronunciation wrong, the tone of voice no longer fits. That makes him sound like — a foreigner.
As exactly half of Polish-language scholars were straining to make the adopted alphabet fit the Polish spoken on the street by jabbing above and below letters, the other half of the scholars were making it fit by simply ganging together letters that would never belong together normally. These became the digraphs.
For example, "sz" is common in Polish. The first letter is a fricative without voice and the second letter is the same fricative with voice. Obviously, no one is going to put his teeth together and turn his vocal cords on and off and on and off. So "sz" was available to represent a uniquely Polish sound. As "zs" probably is too, but they skipped that one. However, they got "rz" and "cz" and a few others.
The professors were so impressed with themselves that they went on to combine letters that might be useful separately, such as "ci" and "si" and "zi". Now the reader has to know that the combination of two letters together is intended to represent one niche sound of street Polish, rather than two. The reader should not attempt these maneuvers at home; rather than put any two letters together to stand for some noise that you hear in a bar in Warsaw, always use them exactly as given in an actual dictionary.
Resulting train wreck
Predictably, the diacritic gang and the digraph gang devised multiple ways of representing the same sound. So ż and rz are comparable; also ś and si, and ź and zi, and ć and ci, and ń and ni. The writer of Polish can essentially do whatever he likes, and to Hell with the reader. The warring factions rejoined momentarily to devise dż, a diacritic on a digraph, for which they did not even charge extra.
Astonishingly, at no time when the two groups were trying to stretch Polish in two separate directions to fit actual spoken Polish, did either reconsider the original decision to get rid of the letters Q, V, and X. One might have found uses for them. For example, aviators and ham radio operators using Morse code use Q codes liberally for purposes having nothing to do with Q. QSZ is a request to transmit each word twice, which would not hurt at all when speaking Polish. In Polish, QSZ could mean, "cup your lips and make that hissing sound through your nose, unless you have a head cold."
In addition to the idiotic alphabets and impossible spelling rules, the Polish language has gratuitously difficult grammar, involving a ludicrous number of rules, exceeded only by the exceptions to them. Virtually every word undergoes more changes for tense, case, aspect, number, gender, mood, and voice than a Houston pervert trying to decide whether he would prefer to use the men's room or the women's room today. Although native Polish speakers use these correctly, they cannot explain why a given form is correct, and any query about why Polish must have so many forms inevitably leads to harder drinking or an agreement to take up arms and fight someone.
Polish citizenship requires a test that the applicant has mastered the Polish language. This mostly explains why even Iraqi "war refugees" make for Germany after they break into a more poorly defended European nation, although there is also the free dental care.
In Traditional Polish, every noun, pronoun, and adjective has 26 different forms depending on how it is used in the sentence, the day of the week, the weather forecast, and whether the speaker plans to pay his bar tab. Historically, there may have been even more; there are simply no YouTube videos of medieval Polish speakers that we can study. Simplified Polish thankfully reduces this to "only" seven.
|Name (English)||Name (Polish)||Usage (Polish)||Translation|
|Nominative||Mianownik||kto?, co?||who? what?|
|Genitive||Dopełniacz||kogo? czego?||whose? of what?|
|Dative||Celownik||komu? czemu?||whom? to what?|
|Accusative||Biernik||kogo? co?||whom? what?|
|Instrumental||Narzędnik||z kim? z czym?||with whom? with what?|
|Locative||Miejscownik||o kim? o czym?||about whom? about what?|
|Extended vocative||Wołacz rozszerzony||o kurwa!||oh fuck!|
|Adolescentative||Młodzieżownik||tak, tak, tak!||yes, yes, yes!|
|Politicative||Politycznik||koalicja? z kim? po co?||coalition? with who? why?|
|Beforevotingative||Przedwybornik||komu? po co? co damy?||whom? for what? what are we going to give?|
|Aftervotingative||Powybornik||co ja, kurwa, zrobiłem?||for fuck's sake, what did I do?|
|Obama vocative||Wołacz obamowski||yes, we can!||Yes, we can!|
|Intimative||Intymnik||kto? z kim?||who? with who?|
|Material intimative||Intymnik materialny||kto? z kim? za ile?||who? with who? for how much?|
|Kidative||Dziecinnik||kto? z kim? ile ma?||who got? with who? how many?|
|Reasonative||Powodownik||dlaczego? dlaczego ja?||why? why me?|
|Confusative||Dziwnik||o co chodzi?||what's going on?|
|Idiotative||Tępownik||Eeee.... oooo???||Ummmm... Uuuuh?|
|Hungoverative||Kacownik||gdzie jestem? kim jestem?||where am I? who am I?|
|Vomitative||Wymiotnik||gdzie? po czym? po ilu?||where? after what? after how many?|
|Beatative||Przypierdolnik||komu? czym?||whom? using what?|
|Material beatative||Przypierdolnik materialny||komu? czym? za ile?||whom? using what? for how much?|
|Corruptative||Łapownik||kto? komu? ile?||who? whom? how much?|
|Thievative||Złodziejnik||kto? komu? co?||who? whom? what?|
|Shoutative||Krzyczalnik||kto? kogo? o co?||who? whom? for what?|
The 26 additional forms for the plural are left as an exercise for the reader.
To avoid confusion, every Polish noun is either male or female. (Or neither.) When you finish memorizing a Polish noun, you are not finished, because you also have to remember its gender, and it's not like they are dressed in pink or blue to make it easy. You discover the gender of a Polish noun by discreetly checking between its legs. If you see nothing of interest, then it is neuter, or perhaps you are.
The only saving grace is that, unlike German or French, you do not have to pick the matching form for the word "the" — because Polish has no such word at all. This is an aspect of Polish that is actually simpler than English, although a committee of the Polish Academy is working to solve this problem.
Anyone who believes that Polish nouns are difficult has not yet begun studying Polish verbs.
Traditional Polish verbs have six tenses, five moods, four voices, ten persons, and three aspects; in other words, 6 × 5 × 4 × 10 × 3 = 3,600 verb forms. The student should have a narrow-ruled notebook. For example, here is the conjugation of być ("to be"):
|Tense, Mood, Voice, and Aspect||Translation||Example|
|Ja, teraźniejszy przypuszczający czynny niedokonany||Me, present conditional active imperfect||Być może jestem będącym|
|Ty, przeszły oznajmujący bierny niedokonany||You, past announcing passive imperfect||Byłeś będącym|
|My, przyszły warunkowy bierny dokonany||We, future conditional reflexive perfect||Najpewniej będziemy wydobyci|
For simplicity, the above table omits the other 3,597 verb forms.
Simplified Polish reduces this count to three tenses, three moods, three voices, eight persons, and two aspects. With the additional innovation that different verb forms are spoken and written identically, they got the total number down under 100. Although it is no longer possible for the listener to tell exactly what form the speaker meant to use, both speaker and listener are now able to complete their study of Polish well before they complete their life on Earth. The above table now becomes:
|Tense, Mood, Voice, and Aspect||Translation||Example|
|Ja, teraźniejszy przypuszczający czynny niedokonany||Me, present conditional active imperfect||Wciąż jestem|
|Ty, przeszły oznajmujący bierny niedokonany||You, past announcing passive imperfect||Byłeś|
|My, przyszły warunkowy bierny dokonany||We, future conditional reflexive perfect||Wydobędziemy się|
The previous section discussed changes made to the end of a Polish verb. In addition, the start of a Polish verb can change. This changes the meaning entirely, for example converting a stutter or a tickle in the nose into an unintentional sexual proposition.
For example, the Polish language succeeds at making a simple verb such as lecieć (to fly) unfeasibly complex:
|Wylecieć||To get out, to fly to another country, or to get fired|
|Nalecieć||To attack with an air force|
|Dolecieć||To arrive at an airport in a plane|
|Ulecieć||To lose one's sense of smell, or the related concept of being so happy that one could fly|
|Polecieć||To have flown|
|Przelecieć||To hook up for an adventurous one-night stand|
|Wlecieć||To fly away so as not to be retrieved|
|Zlecieć||To fall to somewhere even lower|
|Odlecieć||To get high|
|Wzlecieć||To fly up|
|Rozlecieć (się)||To break into pieces|
This is why so many Poles intending to say they are taking a plane to visit their mothers instead say they have sex with their mothers.
Having learned a handful of words, studied how to change the ends of the words, and studied how to change the starts of the words, the student is now ready to put several of them together to actually say something. Unfortunately, the grammar of the Polish language suddenly has no advice to give; you are on your own. In a sentence such as Ala ma kota (Alice has a cat), the words can occur in just about any order. A person listening to Polish cannot prepare for the subject or the verb, but must take in every word that is said and hope to assemble them into a sentence in his mind at some later time.
To turn the sentence into a question, such as to ask if Alice does have a cat at all, one simply adds a question mark at the end; or, if speaking, changes one's pitch, as valley girls do even when not asking a question.
Polish proudly uses the double negative, unlike the world's dumber languages that let you negate a negation. Polish is the world's only language that does that, and that ain't no jive.
In Polish, when you negate a true sentence, you make it false. When you apply a second negative, you make it either true, false, or unknowable. If you use Google Translate on "Nobody's perfect" — and then Google Translate it back to English — it will come back as "Nobody's not perfect," a brilliant though unsolicited expression of the Polack's brimming optimism about the state of the world.
In Polish, you can also use multiple positives to make a negative. This too doesn't occur in no other language in the world. Yeah, sure.
In Simplified Polish, words are used instead of some punctuation. Instead of a comma, Poles use kurwa; instead of a period, there is i chuj; and instead of an exclamation mark, they say ja pierdolę. Polish is the only language in the world to do this, period, full stop.
These interjections can be put anywhere in the Polish sentence, just like every other part of speech.
Finally, combined with the multiple historical stages of Polish, the multiple alphabets, the multiple transformations to apply to the alphabets, and the multiple transformations to apply to the start, the end, and the order of words, the student of the Polish language also has a bewildering choice of dialects.
Standard Simplified Polish is spoken only in Central Poland, Lower Silesia, and on American cable television channels in the upper 800s that are only available in an extra-cost package deal. Every other region has its own dialect or regional language that differs so much from Polish that Polish native speakers cannot understand it at all. This is not a problem for the tourist, provided that you never leave the Warsaw city limits.
|Kashubian||Northern Poland||Spoken by mountaineers who missed the boat to the U.S. An official language of the European Union.|
|Silesian||Silesia and the South||Inscrutable to other Poles.|
|Masurian||The North-East||Masurians discard diacritics and digraphs in favor of simply lisping.|
|Podhale||Tatry, Podhale, and Żywiecczyzna||Polish for people who would rather be speaking Slovak, or whatever it is that sheep speak.|
|Benedictine||Vatican City||Spoken exclusively by Pope Benedict XVI, though not often, lately.|
|Russian||Russia||Russian is actually a Polish dialect. Many words are similar or identical, and Russian also uses the Cyrillic alphabet. It is entirely inconsequential that more Russians than Polish speak it, as Englishmen are now a minority of English-speakers.|
- The only country other than Poland where the Polish language is learned in schools as a second language is the Czech Republic. On the other hand, Polish students do not study Czech but instead Slovak, so as to subtly flip the bird to Czechs.
- The Polish language reached such total incomprehensibility that Polish Communists could give three-hour speeches using only 200 words, and no speaker was concerned about not being unable to understand them.
- Like American Indian "code-talkers" in World War II, Israelis used the Polish language to encode their meassages during the Israel-Egypt conflict. This was succesful for a long time, and it explains the flood of Egyptian exchange students into Polish Language departments at universities in Poland, and also their desire to learn to read but not to write, just like al-Qaeda "aviation students" who never need to land a plane.