About the Mammas and the Pappas – in Polish Posted by Anna on Apr 23, 2009 in Grammar, Polish Language, Vocabulary
The other day I was discussing motherhood with one of my friends. No, I am not planning to have a baby, I have two cats and I’m quite happy with them for the time being. However, my friend has a baby and we were going over the joys and perils of motherhood and the problems of fatherhood. And then we started to marvel at just how gloriously illogical this language of ours is.
Because take a look at this:
Motherhood is “macierzyństwo”. But fatherhood is not “tacierzyństwo” but “ojcostwo”.
Maternity leave is “urlop macierzyński”. And what about paternity leave? Until very recently there wasn’t even such animal in Poland. But now that there is (and will be officially official at all places of employment beginning next year for all new fathers who want to take advantage of it) what do we call it in Polish? Urlop tacierzyński.
But that’s not all. That’s just the beginning of problems with dads.
Ok, mom and dad are two of the first words that a child learns, or so I hear. In Polish those words are easy: mama and tata.
You’d think that it must be pretty hard to screw up something to easy and so basic that every Pole older than 9 months knows it, right? Wrong! Because in reality it’s not that easy, trust me.
While the plural of “mama” is of course “mamy” – every child knows that, what is the plural of “tata”? Automatically, we wanted to say “taty”. We even called a friendly elementary school teacher to see what she had to say. How does she tell the kids to ask their moms and dads to come to the meeting, for example? She tried to cheat and said: “mamy i ojcowie” (moms and fathers).
But how do you say “dads” in plural without cheating and using “fathers” instead? Does “tata” even have a plural form? Yes, it (he? LOL) does.
The correct plural of “tata” is “tatowie”. I know, you don’t have to tell me. I don’t see any logic in it either. The plural of “mama” is “mamy” but the plural of “tata” is “tatowie”. Apparently, that noun follows the same pattern as “dziadek – dziadkowie” (grandfather – grandfathers) and “wujek – wujkowie” (uncle – uncles). Yes, but those masculine nouns don’t end in “a”. And those masculine nouns that do end in “a”, such as kierowca (driver) or doradca (advisor) have plural forms eerily resembling those of “mamy” – kierowcy (drivers) and doradcy (advisors).
So, let’s review:
- mama (feminine) – mamy (feminine, plural)
- tata (masculine) – tatowie (masculine, plural)
- urlop macierzyński – maternity leave
- urlop tacierzyński – paternity leave
- ojcostwo – fatherhood (also paternity), oddly enough, grammatically this noun is neuter in gender.
- macierzyństwo – motherhood (also grammatically neuter)
And those are just the linguistic problems, we’re not even talking about smelly diapers here!