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17 Polish Words We Cannot Simply Translate Into English

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.

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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”……

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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.

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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.”

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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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Last Updated on August 6, 2020

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

We’ve all done it. That moment when a series of words slithers from your mouth and the instant regret manifests through blushing and profuse apologies. If you could just think before you speak! It doesn’t have to be like this, and with a bit of practice, it’s actually quite easy to prevent.

“Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” – Napolean Hill

Are we speaking the same language?

My mum recently left me a note thanking me for looking after her dog. She’d signed it with “LOL.” In my world, this means “laugh out loud,” and in her world it means “lots of love.” My kids tell me things are “sick” when they’re good, and ”manck” when they’re bad (when I say “bad,” I don’t mean good!). It’s amazing that we manage to communicate at all.

When speaking, we tend to color our language with words and phrases that have become personal to us, things we’ve picked up from our friends, families and even memes from the internet. These colloquialisms become normal, and we expect the listener (or reader) to understand “what we mean.” If you really want the listener to understand your meaning, try to use words and phrases that they might use.

Am I being lazy?

When you’ve been in a relationship for a while, a strange metamorphosis takes place. People tend to become lazier in the way that they communicate with each other, with less thought for the feelings of their partner. There’s no malice intended; we just reach a “comfort zone” and know that our partners “know what we mean.”

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Here’s an exchange from Psychology Today to demonstrate what I mean:

Early in the relationship:

“Honey, I don’t want you to take this wrong, but I’m noticing that your hair is getting a little thin on top. I know guys are sensitive about losing their hair, but I don’t want someone else to embarrass you without your expecting it.”

When the relationship is established:

“Did you know that you’re losing a lot of hair on the back of your head? You’re combing it funny and it doesn’t help. Wear a baseball cap or something if you feel weird about it. Lots of guys get thin on top. It’s no big deal.”

It’s pretty clear which of these statements is more empathetic and more likely to be received well. Recognizing when we do this can be tricky, but with a little practice it becomes easy.

Have I actually got anything to say?

When I was a kid, my gran used to say to me that if I didn’t have anything good to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. My gran couldn’t stand gossip, so this makes total sense, but you can take this statement a little further and modify it: “If you don’t have anything to say, then don’t say anything at all.”

A lot of the time, people speak to fill “uncomfortable silences,” or because they believe that saying something, anything, is better than staying quiet. It can even be a cause of anxiety for some people.

When somebody else is speaking, listen. Don’t wait to speak. Listen. Actually hear what that person is saying, think about it, and respond if necessary.

Am I painting an accurate picture?

One of the most common forms of miscommunication is the lack of a “referential index,” a type of generalization that fails to refer to specific nouns. As an example, look at these two simple phrases: “Can you pass me that?” and “Pass me that thing over there!”. How often have you said something similar?

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How is the listener supposed to know what you mean? The person that you’re talking to will start to fill in the gaps with something that may very well be completely different to what you mean. You’re thinking “pass me the salt,” but you get passed the pepper. This can be infuriating for the listener, and more importantly, can create a lack of understanding and ultimately produce conflict.

Before you speak, try to label people, places and objects in a way that it is easy for any listeners to understand.

What words am I using?

It’s well known that our use of nouns and verbs (or lack of them) gives an insight into where we grew up, our education, our thoughts and our feelings.

Less well known is that the use of pronouns offers a critical insight into how we emotionally code our sentences. James Pennebaker’s research in the 1990’s concluded that function words are important keys to someone’s psychological state and reveal much more than content words do.

Starting a sentence with “I think…” demonstrates self-focus rather than empathy with the speaker, whereas asking the speaker to elaborate or quantify what they’re saying clearly shows that you’re listening and have respect even if you disagree.

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Is the map really the territory?

Before speaking, we sometimes construct a scenario that makes us act in a way that isn’t necessarily reflective of the actual situation.

A while ago, John promised to help me out in a big way with a project that I was working on. After an initial meeting and some big promises, we put together a plan and set off on its execution. A week or so went by, and I tried to get a hold of John to see how things were going. After voice mails and emails with no reply and general silence, I tried again a week later and still got no response.

I was frustrated and started to get more than a bit vexed. The project obviously meant more to me than it did to him, and I started to construct all manner of crazy scenarios. I finally got through to John and immediately started a mild rant about making promises you can’t keep. He stopped me in my tracks with the news that his brother had died. If I’d have just thought before I spoke…

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