Original YT playout date: 11 March 2009
A discussion with the talkradio guru about a number of topics: driving in Poland, surfeits of lampreys (it was Henry I by the way – I got the Henry bit right) Henry the Eighth, and about meeting Lech Walesa and Lech Balcerowicz. The video of the evening I’m talking about with Tommy is coming up as the next video and that’s going to be my 750th video, as it is a very special video. It’s rare to see those two giants of Polish politics on the same platform.
Read the rest of this entry
Shouldn’t Poland be taking in more African refugees? Poland is a large EU country with a booming economy.
Last time I looked, Poland wasn’t the First Safe Country for any African country. Nor any Middle Eastern one. It is, however, First Safe Country for Ukraine, so in accordance with the relevant international treaty that is actually signed up to by our nations, namely the Dublin Accord, (as opposed to making new laws up as you go along, which is what some leaders in the EU, notably Merkel, have been doing) it accepts refugees from that country, and has done so far in excess of its duty, with about a million Ukrainians having benefited from an open door to Poland. And this in spite of Ukrainians having been responsible for some of the worst massacres against Poles in living memory. They are not exactly natural allies. In the main Ukrainians get on OK, and are popular, but there are those who need to keep their views to themselves as they would be quickly excoriated if they expressed Banderista tendencies in Poland. As long as they treat the Poles as friends, it is reciprocated.
As far as economic migrants are concerned there is no point in accepting these from Africa in a big lump but for sure there might be some who have skills we need, and indeed you do see Africans around, and I have been to a fine Nigerian doctor here in Warsaw, probably some of the people from Poland reading this post know who I mean, I will not embarrass him by naming him but there are several African doctors here and people like this man will always have an open door to Poland.
But they are also needed by their home countries, so accepting Africa’s best is not necessarily a brilliant moral high ground either. Still, I do believe in freedom of movement for those who have talent and hard work. It is up to them, after that, what they do for their country of origin. On the one hand it seems unfair to drain the best brains from Nigeria, but on the other hand we can expect that among 200 million there will be some more with brains who would like to solve the considerable problems that country still has. Maybe a partnership between them and their countrymen and tribesmen resident in Europe and America will enable them to do more. I only hope the best for the Nigeria people as any African nation.
Now I should say clearly one more thing. Poland is not interested in allowing armies in. When Ukrainians come, we see couples, families, and singles of both sexes. When North Africans come we see men who ought to be fighting for their homes, not leaving women and children behind to fight us for our spaces, which they will go on to ruin because the sort of people who cannot make their own country right cannot make ours right either.
We’ve been told by al-Baghdadi and his baggy buddies that the refugee stream will contain trained jihadis but so far this threat doesn’t seem to have been taken seriously enough in Europe. I get “innocent till proven guilty” but when you consider that the people who have been barging into Europe have already broken multiple laws to get here and linked themselves up with gangs on insalubrious people, I think we would be justified in suspending that grand maxim of jurisprudence in the interests of the safety of those we already have in our part of the world who live peaceably and pay their taxes.
I will admit that it is a major headscratch to know how to distinguish jihadies from ordinary people, it is not like they walk around with “I’m a jihadi” written on their faces (they don’t do tattoos, that’s one thing I actually like about them), but the most serious agents are of course going to have like a “dispensation” to behave in a non-Islamic manner to avoid suspicion. Just because someone has a drink with you and enjoys a ham sandwich and is nowhere near the Masjid on a Friday night – it’s no guarantee, I’m afraid. On the other hand there are plenty in the Masjid who wouldn’t hurt a fly, and you can’t tell for sure who they are, either.
People used to say that Russians were like matryoshka dolls, with different levels that you peel off to get to the next one, but in my experience, Russians are “Israelites in whom there is no guile” in comparison with the sons of the desert. And Uighurs, I have heard it said, are like onions.
If people genuinely fleeing conflict need help in the First Safe Country for sure Poland will send aid commensurate with its economy and in accordance with what the law intends and not Mrs Merkel and her great solo performance of holiday help. Poland has footed its share of the bill for measures undertaken both in Turkey and in Greece. And Greece itself is only First Safe Country if you say that Turkey is unsafe. I think the jury may well be out on that one.
(First published on Quora by me and now rewritten given that the original answer, which was not as full as this one, received 1.6 thousand views and 72 upvotes.)
Wednesday, September 2, 2020
Original YT playout date: 22 February 2009
An original song written by me (words and music) in 2002, while not living in Poland. Since then I moved back, and so I don’t think of singing this song of missing Poland so much, as obviously I’m here. This is a call home to all the emigres with their qualifications doing work which is punching well below their strength in countries they think are richer. I’d remind you of the words of Denver, where he talks about a man who “said he’d be a poor man, if he never saw an eagle fly”.
I am singing this song
For the place where I long
to be. That’s Poland
Life is wonderful there
In the sweet forest air
That’s free, in Poland.
In the valleys of Wisla and Bug,
Nature’s beauty wherever you look.
There is plenty and peace
In this new land of ease
For me, in Poland.
Here are the chords:
d G G7
e G C
Read the rest of this entry
Original YT playout date: 12 July 2008
Ironically this is being uploaded on a day (6th May 2019) when I am making a similar journey from the UK to Poland in the reverse direction. Already for several years Stryków is less significant, as the motorways go right through now. Still, nice trip down memory’s country rther too narrow lanes.
It’s a second series of Uncle Davey’s Herts Content. This time we go there by car, unlike last time in the plane. Here we see Strykow in the days when the motorway didn’t go all the way to Warsaw.
Read the rest of this entry
Today I can segue quite nicely from both the fact that I mentioned “Orange” last time and also the fact that the day I started writing this was the 8th March or International Women’s Day – Międzynarodowy Dzień Kobiet, a day associated with flowers, to approach a large and interesting topic.
Recently I was walking past the main headquarters of Orange (they have a lot of buildings and some of them are old telecoms-offices no longer needed with modern infrastructure, and these are for sale. If you want to buy one please let me know and I am sure I’ll be able to wangle a commission out of it, but this is their flagship office on al. Jerozolimskie) and it looks like this:
As you see, the green space in front of the office is looking rather unkempt but the reason is clear from the information board, which explains all. This is in fact a collection of natural meadow plants which have been optimistically planted in the green space in front of the Orange building in the hope that the exhaust from the cars won’t destroy the growing plants. In fact since we practically don’t have lead that much any more and the main pollutants coming off car fuel are CO2 and NO2, there shouldn’t be much harm to plants nearby, although maybe you wouldn’t want to eat them. These are both good fertilisers and their nuisance value comes from their being greenhouse gases. They can’t both be greenhouse gases and fertilisers at the same time, of course. On a molecule-by-molecule basis it has to make up its mind if it is going up or down, and such green spaces are indeed valuable oases of carbon sinkage.
The meadow plants that can possibly be protected in spaces like this may indeed find it harder to survive in an agricultural environment. Even forage grasses for pasture tend to be planted pure having had “weeds” or “impurities” removed, and only certain species left in. These mixes are then applied to land which has been tilled. So many species of wildflower are these days just as likely to be encountered in the protected environment of a corporate HQ green space as they are miles from anywhere in a place where the cropping is intensive. Some farms do look out for this, even some large agribusinesses, but sadly some don’t. The subsidies for set-aside are not always very specific about the species you need to be protecting in order to qualify and maybe for certain types of set-aside they should be.
If not, then it’s easy to see how many of the plants we are going to talk about today will simply disappear and never come back.
Now, to focus on the linguistic side, as this blog is Much Ado About Polish and not Much Ado About Agriculture, one of the things learners will soon note about Slavic languages generally, not only Polish, is that they are very good at making names up for all manner of plants, animals, fungi, places, illnesses and other natural phenomena where many Germanic languages default to Greek and Latin, and the way they go about it tells us a lot about the deeper workings of the language. I have noted precisely the same thing in Russian and Czech, where for every plant, insect or tropical fish there is a common name in the local language. In English or German on the other hand there is a tendency to find some having a whole bunch of common names, some with one and some with none at all because people simply default to the scientific name and use that as the common name.
Those are the general principles. Another principle is that often the base word underlying the Slavic common name for a living thing will be a verbal root, whereas often in Germanic languages it will be a noun or adjective. All are possible in each of the languages, but there is more of a frequency of verbal roots in Slavic and noun roots in Germanic.
Now I thought we could look at the information board set up by Orange as an independently drawn sample. I didn’t pick them so in a sense it is like a challenge set to me also to analyse these plant names in the light of the above theoretical talk and show you some insights about how Polish word creation works and how it compares to English in this area. It may also dispel this old chestnut about English being the richest language and other languages not having as many words as we do. You hear this again and again and it really is some properly warmed-up nonsense.
Here goes, first the close-up of the board itself:
- PoppyFirst we see the well-known poppy. In Polish you have “mak polny” or “field poppy” whereby “polny” comes from “pole” meaning “field” and is at the base of the name of the Polanie, the early tribe who became the Polacy, or Poles. You could regard them as the people of the fields. Mak itself means “poppy” but often you will encounter it referring to a sweet mass of poppy seeds in sugar used in cake fillings in Poland, the Czech Republic and Russia, all of whose languages have the same word “mak” for the poppy, “mak” of that what you will.Poppies are not known here so much as a symbol of the fallen in the World Wars. Poland obtained its independence only at the end of the First World War, when the Flanders fields and their poppies became an indelible symbol of war deaths, especially as they are neophytic, and quickly settle on newly-turned earth; for example, earth dug for entrenchments or for battleside graves.Papaver rhoeas, the scientific name, is a very typical mix of Latin (Papaver means milk or food, the Latin term was also “papa” for food, and this is also a Polish slang term like “grub” and its use here may refer to the milky substance obtainable when the seed head is cut (don’t try this at home, boys and girls, at least not on some species) the term rhoeas is a Greek word for “red”. Now whereas Polish simply has “mak” or the fuller “mak polny” for this species, English has common poppy, corn poppy, corn rose, field poppy, Flanders poppy, or red poppy. Perhaps most people would just say “poppy”, and be unaware of the fact that there are numerous kinds which look similar, including the “blindeyes” or “long-headed poppy”, Papaver dubium, known in Polish (as in the “Latin”) as “the doubtful poppy” or “mak wątpliwy”, but if in doubt, check the stem. Red poppy proper has the hairy stem.If you want a key to the etymology of “mak”, the Latvian “magone” and Picardy French “mahon” suggests an older term used across Europe. Most Slavic languages have “mak” and so does Romanian, probably borrowed from Slavic. German has “Mohn” and this is also clearly derived from a “magon” style base. “Mogra” is Arabic for Jasmine and may (or may not) be cognate.Bulgarian has “polski mak” but they don’t mean “Polish poppy” – that’s their way of saying “mak polny”.The English version follows most languages including Greek to have words based around Pap… and then there are the few exceptions, such as the French coquelicot (which isn’t their remembrance flower, by the way, theirs also happens to be on this board so we will get to it) or the Spanish “amapola” just like the song which you can see me making a proper mess of here.
Polish consciousness does have a wartime memory associated with red poppies however, even if it is different to ours. A song exists “czerwone maki na Monte Cassino” which can be seen here . This refers to the Polish war dead at Monte Cassino, around one thousand people. Not a lot in comparison with the total war dead in Poland in the Second World War, but a very iconic battle which was one of the best achievements of the Poles in the war, along with breaking the Enigma Code and the resistance breaking the supply lines to the Russian front. All of these things will be the topics of future articles.
- ChicoryThe next plant around is the blue (can be pink or white, but it’s blue here) Cykoria podróżnik or Cichorium intybus. Now this is common chicory whose leaves you’ll have eaten in fancy salads without knowing what they were, and you’ll have also drunk it as a coffee substitute or flavour enhancer. It’s a good forage crop for animals too. Other than common chicory, English can refer to this as blue daisy, blue dandelion, blue sailors, blue weed, bunk, coffeeweed, cornflower, hendibeh, horseweed, ragged sailors, succory, wild bachelor’s buttons, and wild endive. On top of that people sometimes erroneously call this the cornflower, but the real cornflower is coming up and that’s the French remembrance plant I already hinted at. Cykoria in Polish, or Chicory in English come straight out of the Latin. The plant is well attested in classical literature, even appearing as early as Horace “me pascunt … cichorea” in his 31st Ode, written in 30BC. For most of us there is no need to invent a word for this. But it has travelled very well, hence the Polish term “podróżnik”, or traveller, from “droga”, road. Here the German word “Wegwarte” is similar in meaning.Most other languages including even Japanese チコリー derive from the Latin.Often the Polish name will follow the scientific name re-slavicising the Latin or Greek. That’s not the case here. If you look at the term “intybus”, which after many alternative namings the scientific community has settled on, you’ll see it has no appearance beyond being the species name for chicory. Most commentators seem to pass over the point, but if you are stubborn in your research as I have been, you’ll find someone claiming that it is a mix of Latin and Greek as a way of describing the structure of the leaf, as being cut around a tube. Well, I am not really seeing that piece of etymology myself, but for sure the observation that it seems a mix of Latin and Greek is at least justified in that you won’t find many “y”s in Latin, while the Greeks were ever wont to consider themselves “y”s.Although Chicory, unlike some of the plants in this list which we think about almost on a daily basis and others which are barely known at all, people know about chicory, but they don’t tend to know it well. The endive which is much more broadly consumed as a vegetable, was thoughout history usually Cichorium endivia and to cap it off there’s a wild one also called Cichorium pumilum. Each of these is pretty similar, and no doubt hybrids exist and certainly there are numerous cultivars, so that identification becomes a tricky business. Polish here calls endive cykoria, whether we would call it endive or chicory. So in this sense Polish tends to be a bit simpler than English.
- Bluegrass/meadow grassPoa pratensis is known in English as bluegrass, especially Kentucky bluegrass (also lending its money in America, and as a range of things such as sweet meadowgrass or common meadow grass in British usage. In the scientific name you have the Greek “Poa” of fodder and the Latin “pratensis” from the meadow. Poa is the base genus of the Poaceae, or the grasses and cereals which make up the majority of the worlds caories, spread over 12,000 species and several times that many varieties, of which only a minority of species are eaten by humans or given as fodder to animals and these species account for the majority of the varieties which are bred out from wild-tye exit versions.Poa as a genus has on its own 500 species and while English has no word for them other than grasses (which applies just as well to numerous other genera) the Poles call all the members of this genus “wiechlina” which is an old word, sounding a bit like “wiek” and “wieczny” but probably not related. the łakowa part simply translates “pratensis”.This grass is not something you’d consider at all endangered, it must be one of the most common plants on earth, and indeed if it goes too far north in the North American subcontinent it is considered invasive. It is not native to America in the first place, having been carried over by the Spanish as part of the Colombian exchange. Nevertheless, the image on this board can’t be what it says it is by any stretch of the imagination. I am still trying to work out if that’s a real plant or something which Orange’s botany consultant borrowed from the Voynich Manuscript. Probably that was supposed to be the lamb’s tongue (coming up), but if so they got the leaf-shape rather wrong.
- Meadow ClarySalvia pratensis, which in English has the common name meadow sage or meadow clary (derived from “clear-eye” – a reference to it’s former use as an ingredient in eye drops prior to the advent of industrial brands) is rendered into Polish as Szałwia łąkowa. We saw above how łąkowa means “meadow” so there’s no real need to walk over “łąkowa” again.Szałwia, like the Latin Salvia, is used for any kind of sage and as you see Polish follows the Linnaean idea of placing the descriptor after the noun, which is a natural place for Polish adjectives anyway, a huge topic to come back to in the future. The szałwia you will find used as a herb is Salvia officinalis, or medical sage, and the name in Latin Salvia, from salvere to heal, save, make whole also attests to the long history (recorded in Pliny, Galen and in the instructions for monastic gardens created by Charlesmagne), but Salvia is a very large genus with a thousand species, and most of these are not referred to with the term “Sage” in English, but rather “Salvia”, whereas it is rare for Polish not to use Szałwia as a simple default, so that we can say that in Polish, “szałwia” stands in for cases both where English uses “sage” and where we use “Salvia”. This is a common phenomenon.
- Brown knapweedThis plant is a close relative of Centaurea (not “Centaurera” as shown on the board) cyanus which is the cornflower and the French remembranc flower for similar reasons as the poppy to us, but pre-dating the poppy. The French call these bluets, and the same term is one of a series of English language terms describing the 350 or so species in the genus Centaurea, a pretty bunch of hardy flowers resembling a thistle crossed with a daisy.English has for the genus generally the terms knapweeds, bluets, centauries, starthistles, centories, and loggerheads, the last of these being a dialect word in certain parts of southern England.
The specific identification of species within this group is often not bothered with as they are rather troublesome weeds in arable crops and have no economic use themselves, although some have alkoloids which could be developed into cancer drugs potentially. They are important however in the ecosystem as a whole as they attract and support pollinating insects. And here we come on to the Centaurea jacea or brown knapweed (aka brownray knapweed) specifically – it has its very own butterfly, the knapweed fritilllary. Often we see however crosses between C. jacea and C. nigra – they may be subspecies of each other.
In Poland this mauve-coloured meadow flower is once again termed “łąkowa” or “meadow” – this time not following the Latin as jacea actually means “hyacinth” and is no doubt a reference to the colour of the flower. Certainly it is not “brown” as the English puts it, not in full flower anyway. The term “chaber” is used alone to talke about the cornflower C. cyanus and is also used to stand in for Centaurea generically.
Centaurea as a genus refers to the name given in Latin, and this is supposed to have come from a story that Hippocrates stated that the flower had been shown to man by the centaur Chiron. Whether Hippocrates himself believed that or merely regarded that as a cultural meme is anybody’s guess.
- Lamb’s tongueLamb’s tongue is just one of many names for Plantago lanceolata, also known as ribleaf, ribwort plantain, narrowleaf plantain or English plantain. It is however not only English, as the Poles also have it in abundance and use “lancetowata” as the species name to follow the Linnean form, while the general term for a plantain in Polish is “babka”, which normally refers to a small woman, like a grandmother, babcia.The image here is a grass not a plantain, so my best guess is that this was supposed to be Poa pratensis or the Kentucky bluegrass above, that they simply got them muddled up. Don’t tell them this in Kentucky. Or in KFC for that matter, thinking of which this may explain something…
Again this plant is overlooked economically and regarded as a weed these days, although a tea made from it was a popular cough medicine in the past. It is of course useful as a home to pollinating insects.
- Ragged robinOrange’s team of botanists have once again shown up their skill by getting the scientific name wrong. It is no longer Silene flos-cuculi but Lychnis flos-cuculi. Linnaeus himself placed the flower with the campions in the genus Lychnis, but the genuns Silene also has campions, and they told the Lychnis members “WE are the campions, my friend”, which persuaded some to get Lychnis members like Lychnis flos-jovis or Lychnis flos-cuculi to go over. Poland’s wikipedia is about the only one to accept this uncritically though, and Orange seems to take their side. Deutsche Telekom and BT probably follow the German and English wikipedias and go for Lychnis, while the French try to keep everyone happy and have both.The Latin and the most common forms in most European languages refer to this as the cuckoo flower, flos cuculi, although opinion is mixed on whether this is due to the timing of its flowering in May (probably not the case as many flowers come out then) and the fact that it is favoured by froghoppers and spittlebugs to lay their eggs, which they do in a protective foam known as “cuckoo spit” in most European languages. Russian has “Kukushkin” also referring to the cuckoo also, as does almost the whole European area, with the Polish “firletka poszarpana” (practically meaning “ragged campion”) being not far from the English, which uncharacteristically has only one name for the species. Why robin? Nobody seems willing to venture an opinion, and probably that mystery is lost in the depths of time.
That’s all the botanical etymology for this time. In a few weeks we’ll come back and look at some more of these.
Maybe in the future, when I read over this article again, it will all have blown over and will seem like another Y2K big fuss over nothing, but right now, in February 2019, with Brexit a month away and no major plan still in sight after 95% of the time available for negotiation has been wasted, it looks actually very tense for British people in Poland and Polish people in Britain.
In fact, Poland has been one of a minority of countries making generous overtures to the British living in their land that nothing bad will happen, they will get a transitional period and be able to get residence if they have been here a while. At this point I said that finally the moral debt incurred when the UK allowed Poles full working rights on entry to the EU when all the axis powers, Germany and France especially, blocked them for years in a way not known when they had their own referendum on joining, but we UK or Irish people (soon followed by Sweden and Spain) had no returning advantages over the Germans or French living in Poland. As far as the UK is concerned, the concern that Poland has had to let us know that we are still welcome has gone a long way to cover that. Although some may say that 800,000 Poles in the UK are closer to their heart than 8,000 Brits in Poland, many of whom by the way already did obtain Polish citizenship or who have rights accorded to them by virtue of marriage with a Polish citizen, which is not my case, although I do intended to apply for Polish citizenship.
What is not so clear, though, even with Poland’s display of goodwill, is the issue of whether we will be able to exchange our driving licences so easily or indeed drive on our British driving licenses after leaving the EU. Probably we are not going to penalise them for their EU licenses. After all, before 2003, they could use their licenses in the UK and nobody really policed the issue of whether they changed them after a specific period. The idea was that people were supposed to be allowed to drive around wherever they liked, as part of the general freedom of movement. After all, it is hard to talk about freedom of movement and then have Soviet style restrictions on driving from region to region in your car.
As it is now, in February 2019, UK citizens can still simply exchange for any other country’s licence in the EU if they live there for six months or intend doing so. I am talking in rough terms. In fact you are supposed to do so, so as to make it easier to get your points if you are driving in a particular part of Europe and we farm animals should make jolly sure we don’t make it harder for Old Farmer State to get a full bucket of milk out of us, nevertheless if you do decide to “laisser passer sous silence” this petite nuance of EU living in practice nothing happens. I did have the police moaning and groaning about it, but given the way the laws are set out in a way that smacks more of guidance than absolutes, the Polish police were not ready to take anything further and were content to take the money without the points, this being, after all, what is most important to Farmer State, be that in Poland, the UK, anywhere you like to mention. They can’t give themselves pay rises out if drivers’ penalty points.
In the looming uncertainty of Brexit though, in which Heisenberg might as well stand in for Juncker, Tusk, May et al for all the uncertainty it is giving us, in fact I would not be surprised if the noted physicist cum drug dealer came back from the dead and launched a leadership challenge to the 1922 committee, things start to take a different turn.
I decided I had better change it while I am still entitled and while it is still easy and get at least one EU ID doc I can flash around and not get the worst case scenario maybe if everything goes pyriforme at the twentynides of March.
And so I did what is necessary, and I urge any UK readers living in the EU who have this little matter outstanding to go thou and do likewise. It takes a month to do it, we are one month and 12 days away from Independence Day, so you have about 10 days from the date of publishing to get there and do it. What happens after that might be something or it might be nothing, but changing the licence seems to be a personal hedging move with more upside than downside. Even if we need to go back to the UK, I don’t think the holding of an EU license is going to stop anyone driving while they are in the UK, or prevent us from being able to take it back withoout doing lots of tests again, and the tests to be done in Poland are much tougher, including psychometric tests, which we just don’t have.
But this is a Polish language blog series rather than a European Union driving one, so let’s get to the language points which emerged from the exercise.
The first thing is, you need to go to your Urząd Miejski, or Town Office. For those in village areas it could be an Urząd Gminy – Gmina is like a Borough, but not in the sense of a London Borough – the larger Polish cities have Dzielnicy. My own one in Warsaw is called Ochota – after an old Inn on the way out of Warsaw that gave its name, meaning “feeling like something” – and the Urząd Dzielnicy Ochoty is translated as “Ochota District City Hall”. I am not sure what a “District City” is, but okay. Arriving there in the actually very well-redesigned and renovated building (with full disabled access and very friendly and helpful staff – as well as love-heart sweets to help yourself to for Valentine’s) and saying what I wanted to do, I was given a place in the queue (only one person ahead I hasten to say) for the Wydział Komunikacji.
This means “the Department of Communication”, or at least it looks as if it does, but the usual use of the word in Poland is not so much for communication between people. It can indeed mean that, but there is a perfectly good Polish word “porozumiewanie się” and therefore this Latin term (which loses the double “m” it has all over western Europe in the interests of being true to Polish spelling conventions) is more likely to be heard as one of the words talking about road use, rails, etc., in short getting from a to b. The word “transport” exists and is practically a synonym other than also being used for goods transport. So if you want to talk about traffic you could use komunikacja, or “road movement” which is “ruch drogowy”. The word “Trafik” is used as the name for a bookshop which I think went under a few years back, but it isn’t used for traffic or even drugs trafficking which is “przemyt narkotyków”, or even human trafficking which is “Handel ludźmi”, in honour of Handel’s song on the subject with the lyric “Did you not see my lady?”.
The word “telekomunikacja” exists, but the Company that was the state phone company Telekomunikacja Polska S.A. was bought by the French and included in Orange, as described in the song lyric “Bien sûr nous eûmes des Oranges, vingt ans d’amour ça fait bien de coups de téléphone…”.
So we see a number of false friends going on here. Komunikacja doesn’t necessarily mean communication, which does rather make things difficult for communication. “Ruch” is the main word for “traffic” but is also said when it’s your move, “twój ruch” or turn at Chess. (Backgammon is barely known or played by Poles, by the way).
The actual driver’s licence is a good example of how collocations trump isolated vocabulary in language learning every time. If you know that a driver of a car in Polish is known as a “kierowca” and a licence is usually called “licencja” (in fact numerous words exist depending on what kind of licence we are talkinga bout, but being the cognate form, that’s the one you might think of first rather than “zezwolenia”, “prawo” “koncesja” or all sorts of other permit words that there are. So you might expect the Polish for “driver’s license” (in US English) or “driving licence” (in UK English) might well be “licencja kierowcy”. This is likely to give rise to blank looks in Poland though, and if they do understand they are likely to explain that the term is “prawo jazdy” which in turn iterally means “a right of ride”, which is not really a very precise term as everyone of course has the right to ride along as a passenger, with or without this piece of paper, but this is the term which has become a fixed expression. You will usually find it as the full “prawo jazdy” or just abbreviated to “prawo”. When the police stop you for speeding or not having your lights on (24/7 all year round in Poland, by the way) then they might come up to your window and say “prawa” – “your rights”. This is shorthand for “prawo jazdy” just as “dokument” is shorthand for your vehicle registration document and “dowód” (‘proof’) is shorthand for your ID card or passport. These tend not to be the meanings assigned to these singe words in dictionaries and so anyone dealing in these situations with the police who has learned Polish with a dictionary only, and not delved into this blog or lived here and learned the hard way, will find their interaction with the police or municipal wardens, “straż miejski” rather confusing. These days, the officers are able to speak basic English as too many people were getting away from their fines by not being able to speak Polish.
There used to be a story told of how a couple of traffic police stopped a motorist and asked him for his dowód, dokument and prawa, and the motorist said he couldn’t speak Polish, could they speak English, then he tried the same in French, German and Italian. Everyone got bored so they simply let him go. Then the younger policeman says to the older “maybe I should have another go at learning foreign languages” at which the older replies “Why bother? He knew four and it didn’t get him anywhere.”
Original YT playout date: 1 May 2008
Australian fun continues as we get Lord Moggy’s first impressions of Poland. He had the opportunity to go out into the Polish countryside, see horses, storks and special Polish greyhounds.
Read the rest of this entry
Original playout date: 7 November 2007
Poland has a wide variety of birdlife, from white-headed eagles and great bustards down to tiny wrens and colourful golden orioles.
Read the rest of this entry
Playout date: 2 April 2007
I hope you enjoy the gallery part, showcasing photos of mine taken on a Spring walk like a hanami, with Sophie, feeding the birds in Szczesliwicki Park. Here you have Ochota in a nutshell, the part of Warsaw where we live, its charming mix of the drab post-socialist, the timeless park, and the new developments.
Read the rest of this entry
I thought I would just round off the year’s blogging personally, rather than just with the machine generated summary in the previous post which is very interesting, maybe more so for me than for the readers, just to give you all my warmest wishes for 2013 and to hope that I may continue to be part of what you look at online in the coming year. Your ratings and comments and hits, both here and on Quoracy.com blog and also on the YouTube channel, on Linked-In and Facebook and several other places are all very highly appreciated and at times of crisis I do derive a certain strength from knowing that I’ve still got my readers, at least I got my friends:
In the deliciously ironic video to this interesting recent hit, the girl’s friend is a robot, but in my case behind the robot face of the internet and it’s various interfaces are real people who have been willing to share a bit in my life by watching the videos, listening to the voice droning on, reading the posts and the comments. That means a lot to me, and some of you I’ve got to know as well as people I’ve spent time with in the same room, or better.
I didn’t manage to do as much as I wanted to in 2012, partly because I always set my plans too high anyway, but also because I had a bad round of pneumonia in the summer which wiped out July and August. Read the rest of this entry
As a guest pdf-cast, I am making the topic of today’s post here on Huliganov TV the Prof. Moses Schorr Foundation, a unique non-profit organization in Poland, which runs an educational centre for secular and religious Jewish studies and the country’s largest Hebrew language school.
Using a wide range of professional tools, as well as social media, they educate both Jews and Poles about the enormous presence of Jews in the Polish society before the Holocaust, their contribution to culture, political thought and community life, all in a contemporary context, but respectful of tradition. What makes them distinctive is their flexible programming, which allows them to participate in the public debate in Poland, while remaining inclusive for students of all backgrounds and viewpoints.
Their overarching objective is to support the development of an open society in Poland and help counter the rise of xenophobia and isolationism in Europe by using documentary material and scholarly work to re-create the past and bring back to life links between communities that were brutally destroyed by the Holocaust.
Here is the annual report of the Foundation. Hopefully it will spark the interest of some of my readers.
- Jill Shaw Ruddock: To Snip or Not to Snip Is Not the Question (huffingtonpost.co.uk)
- Polish officials call on Obama to apologize for ‘death camp’ remark (jta.org)
- Museum of Polish Jews Wins Major New Donations (abcnews.go.com)
- David Herman interviews Jan Gross, chronicler of Polish atrocities (thejc.com)
- The answer is Zionism – Ynetnews (ynetnews.com)
- Aided by Ultra-Orthodox, City’s Jewish Population Is Growing Again (nytimes.com)
So now finally, the inevitable has happened. The long-awaited competition jointly hosted by Poland and the Ukraine has come to an end, the teams and fans and the organisers have all gone home, that is those who weren’t home in the first place.
What conclusions can we draw from this competition? For each of us no doubt the conclusions will be unique and personal, but some of the ones I have reached are as follows:
1. England has in fact got a very good football team, however we do need for them to learn a few games other than football, especially the one involving the goalkeeper simply trying to save a ball which somebody’s kicking into the net from point blank range. It would appear impossible to win a football tournament without knowing the other game also. It seems tantamount to having a chess competition in which one grandmaster, unable to do more than stalemate the other grandmaster, suggests a game of draughts in order to decide the competition.
2. The organisations which are responsible for arranging these competitions have turned into huge molochs whose every whim must be obeyed even by the state servants who are paid out of everybody’s taxes, and also by elected politicians. People seem so desperate for their cities to be hosts to these huge competition is that normal democratic considerations – as in does anybody actually want this – are swept aside, and the people of the place put to amazing inconvenience in order to be able to host these events. Nobody seems to be in a position to present a business plan that shows whether a place is likely to be better or worse off for hosting an event. Also UEFA were able to stop people filming in public places as well as block routes to and from work for people.
3. The conception of Poland in the Western part of the EU wasn’t necessarily helped by being twinned-up with a CIS nation in order to run the show. The Ukraine got to host 17 of the 33 matches, a slight majority, as they had the final in Kiev, or Kyiv as they insisted on spelling it on the boardings around the pitch, like we didn’t already have a perfectly serviceable word for the place in English. There was no difference in quality of broadcasting and filming at all in the various game locations, and the camera work and cutting were of the highest quality I’ve ever seen. However, Poland played host to thirteen of the sixteen teams. One of the three teams in the Ukraine was of course the Ukraine itself as indeed one of the teams to choose Poland was Poland itself, so effectively Poland quartered 12/14 of the visiting teams and 5/7 of the visiting teams whose matches were played in the first part all in the Ukraine. This included England of course, who were based in Nowa Huta, an unlikely destination as that place has Stalin nostalgist tours running to it out of Krakow to show what communism used to look like. The destinations chosen by visting teams really seem to have done their utmost to welcome them and whole towns in Poland have been decked out in colours of such countries as Greece, Portugal or Italy. The hotels where the teams stayed have been inundated with post-tournament accommodation requests, with holidaymakers willing to pay top zloty to be in the room where their favorite football star stayed for the tournament.
4. Mr Platini who is the UEFA top brass had a lot of praise for Poland and said that this tournament had set the standard that everyone from now on would have to measure up to. He had great praise for the hospitality in Poland. He called the Ukrainian hoteliers “crooks and robbers” for upping their prices during the tournament, which seems to be a fine case of double standards seeing how official merchandise from his own UEFA is much more expensive than unbranded merchandise of the same quality. Ecuadorian Radio Sports Commentator Alan Heath went on record saying how he was glad to see that a man like Platini, making several millions of EURO, could still find the time to criticize ordinary men and women who were trying hard to scrape together an existence.
5. Platini has also caused controversy since the tournament by suggesting that instead of countries winning and then appointing cities, individual cities, 12 or 13 of them from around Europe, will each bid to host some matches. The potential for bribery and corruption given that way of doing this will escalate tremendously, and so my congratulations go to Mr Platini’s personal advisers for dreaming up that one for their client. That’s real thinking outside the box.
6. It seems that if you want a road built in Poland, you need to wait for twenty years waiting for it and driving on overcrowded back roads with your life in your hands, and then when a football tournament comes along suddenly it will all magically be finished on schedule.
7. Polish people really care about whether they look good in the eyes of people from other countries. The Ukrainians were much less worried about that and just expected people to take them as they found them.
8. The police in this country are quite clever and capable of handling a situation with balance and without undue provocation, while putting the right amount of resource on the street.
9. International media are only interested in stories about yobbery and violence among fans, and immediately put out with relish the few such scenes that occured in Poland. They had very little to say about the 99.9% of the interactions of strangers on the streets in Warsaw, which were friendly and cordial, and frequently ended in sexual intercourse, if what I noticed is anything to go by. I don’t see the international news networks reporting on that. Likewise there were all these reports about likely racial abuse from Polish fans, whereas in fact there were no such incidents. Will the networks now kindly offer Poland an apology?
10. I still don’t understand the offside rule, and often get the impression that people make up the rules of football as they go along. Some goals that were disallowed, some things that were fouls and didn’t look like it or which were not fouls when they did – all of this adds to the impenetrable mystique of this game.
If you’d like to see my full coverage on film of the impact of EURO 2012 on Warsaw, please look up the EUROWARS series on http://www.youtube.com/usenetposts. In due course they’ll also be up on here as their own category.
- Platini hails Euro 2012 (iol.co.za)
- Platini suggests Euro 2020 may be held across Europe (panarmenian.net)
- Shake-up planned for Euro 2020 (3news.co.nz)
- Euro 2012: Michel Platini will sour a winning formula with ill-conceived Euro 2020 plans (telegraph.co.uk)
- FA tell Platini of fears over racist violence at finals (thisislondon.co.uk)
- Uefa president Michel Platini warns ‘Mr Balotelli’ about leaving pitch over racism during Euro 2012 (independent.co.uk)
- Euro 2012: Michel Platini warns of bookings for racism protest players (guardian.co.uk)
- Platini floats idea of multi-country Euro 2020 (thehimalayantimes.com)
- Platini hails Euro 2012 a success (todayonline.com)