17 Polish Words We Cannot Simply Translate Into English
Like many Eastern European languages, Polish has many words and phrases that do not translate very easily into English. For the below ones, it’s particularly hard to find a translation that can convey the funny and local style of the literal meaning and the real meaning at the same time.
1. Myśleć o niebieskich migdałach
“To think of blue almonds.” This is used to describe when someone is daydreaming. For example, if you messed something up because you were not paying attention, or you missed something important, someone may say this phrase to you sarcastically.
2. Rzucać grochem o ściane
“Throw beans at the wall.” This is used when describing speaking with someone who just won’t see things your way. Speaking to him is like “throwing beans at a wall” (talking to a wall) he just won’t see your point of view.
3. Chodzić na rzęsach
“To walk on eyelashes.” This phrase is used to describe a very drunk person, or someone who is about to pass out from drinking. It can also be used to describe someone who is exhausted the next day from drinking the night before.
4. Owijać prawdę w bawełnę
“To wrap the truth in cotton.” Polish people use this when someone is lying or beating around the bush about something. It is used to call out a liar.
5. Po Ptakach
“After the Birds.” This is used when describing an action that happened way too late after the fact, and nothing can be done about it. For example, if you wanted to buy tickets to a concert but showed up so late that they sold out your friend may say “No i po ptakach” and shrug his shoulders. A variation in pronunciation of the expression would be “ptokach” instead of “ptakach.”
6. Prosto z mostu
It’s literal English translation is “straight from the bridge.” It’s real meaning is to tell it like it is or be blunt. The phrase comes from the name of a former Polish magazine that wrote very radical articles about the government of Poland during the Great Depression.
7. Jedzie mi tu czołg
“Is there a tank driving here?” This phrase is typically accompanied with a gesture of gently pulling on your lower eyelid, and tilting your head down to express sarcasm. It is used when someone tells you something absolutely unbelievable. I would compare it to saying “Yeah Right”……
8. Narobić bigosu
“To make Bigos – Hunter’s Stew” which is a traditional meat and cabbage stew. This phrase is used when someone messes things up. For example, if you gave out too much personal information about yourself to a co-worker and later regretted it and told you mom about it, she might say “Ale Narobiłaś Bigosu!” while shaking her head at you. It’s another way of saying someone is a blabber-mouth.
9. Urwać się z choinki
“Tear off from a Christmas Tree.” I know, right? This phrase is used to describe someone whose actions catch you off guard if they do something crazy, or always act crazy.
10. Pozjadać wszystkie rozumy
“To eat all the wits.” This is used when saying that someone is a know-it-all. It’s not a compliment.
11. Nabić kogoś w butelkę
“Stick someone in a bottle.” It means you’re pulling someone’s leg by telling a fib.
12. “Być nie w sosie”
“To not be in the sauce.” This phrase is used to describe when you are in a bad mood. If you come to work grumpy, and you don’t want to do with anyone, you don’t want to be in the sauce.
13. Mieć muchy w nosie
“To have a fly in your nose.” This is a way of describing someone who has a bad attitude about things because they’re not happy about what happened. They are said to have a fly stuck up their nose. The English equivalent would be if someone had something stuck in their craw.
14. Wypchaj się sianem
“Stuff yourself with hay.” This is a way to tell someone to get lost and leave you alone. If a girl was at a bar, and a creep guy was hitting on her, she might say this to him to get the guy to stop bothering her.
15. Bułka z masłem
“A roll with butter.” This is used to describe something very easy. The English equivalent would be “a piece of cake.”
16. zuć miętę do kogoś
“To feel mint, or smell mint from someone.” This means that you have an attraction to or a crush on someone else. If you are attracted to another person, you feel (or smell) pleasant mint coming from them.
17. Brać nogi za pas
“Take your legs under your belt.” This is a way of telling someone to hurry up and get the lead out.
So, as you can see, the Polish language has some unique words and phrases to describe things that don’t translate exactly to English, but are very similar in nature. Personally, I think the Polish equivalents are more interesting in their literal senses.
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