10 words that look the same in Polish and English but have totally different meanings

1. But

In English, you have “but” and “butt,” and they’re very different things. In Polish, but is pronounced “boot” and means simply, “shoe.”

2. Jest

In English, “jest” is an old-fashioned word for joke. In Polish, pronounced “yest,” it’s the third person singular of the word być (”to be”). IS.

3. Pan

In English-speaking countries, a pan is used for cooking. In Polish, you can say, for example, Pan Kowalski or Pan Nowak. In this language, it simply means “mister.”

4. Most

In English, this word is used to form superlatives (the most important thing, for example). In Polish, most is “bridge.” Just keep in mind that the “O” is pronounced like “aw” in “awesome.”

5. Brat

We all know who “brat” is: an unruly, loud, badly behaved child. In Polish, brat means “brother.” And while the meanings of these two words can definitely overlap, not all brothers are brats and not all brats are brothers.

6. Fart

In Polish, mam fart doesn’t mean what you think it means. In fact when someone tells you that, you should be either happy for them because in Polish, fart simply means “good luck.”

7. Windy

In Polish, this word has nothing to do with the weather. The Polish word for “elevator” is winda, pronounced “veenda.” The plural form is windy, making it look similar to the English word describing a certain kind of weather.

8. Herb

In English, herb is something that you use in your cooking. In Polish, it means “coat of arms.” But if you ask me, I find the culinary herbs much more interesting.

9. Chart

Pronounced in a similar manner to the word “heart” but with a rolled R, it actually refers to a certain breed of dog, a sighthound to be exact. It has nothing to do with an actual, English “chart.”

10. Prom

There is no connection whatsoever between the “prom” that all American secondary school children are looking forward to and the Polish word prom, which is actually a ferry.

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Henry Sapiecha

You know you are in Poland when…

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Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland

1. You can’t figure out how to greet other people. Your friend’s grandparents give you three kisses on the cheeks — left, right, and left again. Their father kisses you on the back of your hand in an outdated fashion while their mother gives you a flimsy handshake and their brother just says, “Cześć” from a distance.

2. When people speak, all you hear is “shhh chhh shhh chhh.”

3. You have no idea what the deal is with those ą, ę, ó, ć, ł, ś, ż, ź letters. How are you supposed to pronounce city names like Szczebrzeszyn, Łódź, Wrzeszcz or Trzcianka?

4. There is a flat voice speaking Polish over the original voices in English in movies on TV. It’s the same voice that reads the lines of all characters in the movie: men, women, and children.

5. The Polish voice in movies heavily euphemizes the language. “Get the f*** out from here, you motherf****!” is read in a monotonous intonation as “Odejdź stąd, ty szarlatanie.”

6. You are required to take your shoes off and leave them by the door when you enter someone’s house. You get guest slippers to walk around in inside.

7. Buying bread becomes a mind-boggling decision. Bakery shelves are lined with a selection of bread you have never seen before. You find round brown whole-wheat bread, oval white with crunchy crust sprinkled with poppy seeds, square sunflower seed sourdough bread, rectangular soy or flax seed loaves, as well as croissant-shaped milky rogale and different flavored buns: cheese and onion, 7 grains, pumpkin seed and Italian herbs.

8. Your breakfast is huge. You get your favorite bread, spread some butter on it and prepare open sandwiches layered with ham, cheese or cottage cheese, lettuce leaves, sliced cucumber, tomatoes, radishes and spring onions. You then sprinkle some salt and pepper over. Instead of coffee, you drink hot tea with a slice of lemon in it.

9. You are grateful for the substantiality of your breakfast, because the main meal of the day isn’t until 4pm. Around noon you get “second breakfast” — a piece of fruit, a sandwich, or a sweet pastry and a coffee.

10. All the dishes in typical restaurants contain potatoes. Boiled, mashed, fried or baked potatoes accompany any main course, but there are also kopytka (Polish gnocchi), potato pancakes, pierogi filled with potatoes and cottage cheese.

11. With your meal, you are served a drink of warm strawberry water, a few boiled pieces of fruit floating in it. You learn that it’s called kompot and that it can be made out of any fruit.

12. You eat all kinds of food made out of “rotten” ingredients. Sauerkraut is just rotten cabbage, ogórki kiszone are fermented cucumbers, traditional barszczis made out of beets that had gone bad (now vinegar is used to gives it the sour taste), żurek is a soup based on fermented yeast dough.

13. You are surprised to discover that none of the “rotten” foods make you sick.

14. You go for a walk in the forest and run into people picking wild mushrooms and blueberries.

15. Everyone lives off seasonal fruit in the summer. You eat jagodzianki, blueberry-filled yeast-dough sweet rolls, every day.

16. You can buy beer and vodka in a shop dedicated entirely to alcohol sales. Any time, any day.

17. You order a beer at a bar and you’re asked if you’d like raspberry syrup in it. You decide to give it a try. Your beer is served with a straw.

18. You can never have another type of vodka again after tasting how delicious Żubrówka is.

19. You discover that Polish people indeed make great use of their seasonal fruit when you try nalewki, fruity spirits. Many households produce them for own personal consumption.

20. Zapiekanka is your anti-hangover food. At the end of the night, you eat an entire 50-centimeter long baguette cut open, topped with mushrooms and cheese and grilled, then served with cabbage salad and slices of ogórki kiszone on top and lots of garlic sauce.

Henry Sapiecha

20 of the rib-tickling Polish phrases (and how to put them to use)

1. A Pole won’t tell you to get lost.

They’ll tell you to “stuff yourself with hay” (wypchać się sianem).

2. Poles don’t snack.

They “take something on a tooth” (wziąć coś na ząb).

3. A Pole never beats around the bush.

He prefers to “wrap the truth in cotton” (owijać prawdę w bawełnę).

4. Polish people are not nit-picky.

They are “looking for a hole in the whole” (szukać dziury w całym).

5. Polish people don’t count their chickens before they’re hatched.

They “divide the skin on the bear” (dzielić skórę na niedźwiedziu).

6. A Polish person doesn’t sulk.

He “has flies up his nose” (mieć muchy w nosie).

7. Polish people don’t mess things up.

They “make bigos” (narobić bigosu) or “brew beer” (nawarzyć piwa) instead.

8. A Pole doesn’t daydream.

They “think of blue almonds” (myśleć o niebieskich migdałach).

9. Poles will not speak bluntly.

They’ll “tell it straight from the bridge” (mówić prosto z mostu).

10. A Pole is not uninformed…

He just “fell from the Christmas tree” (urwać się z choinki).

11. Poles do not simply grin and bear it.

They “put up a good face for a bad game” (robić dobrą minę do złej gry).

12. A bad Polish writer doesn’t waffle.

He “pours water” (lać wodę).

13. A Polish person doesn’t just run away.

He “gives a leg” (dać nogę) or “takes his legs under his belt” (brać nogi za pas).

14. A Pole is never a know-it-all.

Instead, he “ate all wits” (pozjadać wszystkie rozumy).

15. Polish people won’t pull your leg.

They’ll “stick you into a bottle” (nabić kogoś w butelkę).

16. A Pole won’t take you apart.

He’ll “mix you with mud” (zmieszać kogoś z błotem) or “hang dogs on you” (powiesić na kimś psy).

17. A Pole won’t promise you the world.

But you might get “pears on a willow” (gruszki na wierzbie).

18. Polish people don’t run like hell.

They “run where the pepper grows” (uciekać gdzie pieprz rośnie) or “where the devil says goodnight” (gdzie diabeł mówi dobranoc).

19. Poles won’t pester you.

They’ll “drill a hole in your belly” (wiercić komuś dziurę w brzuchu).

20. Polish people don’t bite off more than they can chew.

They “jump at the sun with a hoe” (porywać się z motyką na słońce).

This article was originally published on March 5, 2015. Featured Photo: PolandMFA

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Henry Sapiecha