Polish Language Blog

Being Cool (episode 1): A Short History of “Lans” Posted by on Feb 11, 2010 in Culture

Today Adam Blomberg, our new permanent (I sure hope so! – hint, hint, nudge, nudge) guest blogger decided to show us just how far behind the times us old farts are. 🙂

This is what the cool kids in Poland did in the 00s, apparently. Read on:

As in every country and every city there are things that for some reason are cool. Before cool starts to mean different things to different people, there is a time in our lives when we are simply set to blend in – the time known as the teenage years.

The language of youth is also the most potent in reinventing itself, in finding new phrases or new uses for old ones. But the word that has made probably the most spectacular career in the “cool” department, and a spectacular fall, in the last decade was: “lans”.

It’s sprung up in the early noughties in the circles of young urban artsy-fartsy elite. It was the time of a huge 80s come-back in Poland – its synthesizer sounds, fishnet stockings and a new music genre that took the clubs by storm: electroclash.

The days of sweaty po-go, or careless rave or house were (somewhat) over. It was now all about dignified standing, nodding, maybe a bit of locking in the foot department. Sipping drinks in our neon fish-net tank tops, old-school trackies, looking around with a dignified, and a bit bored expression, we all were singing in our minds along with Miss Kittin “Every night with my star friends / we eat caviar and drink champagne / sniffing in the VIP area / we talk about Frank Sinatra…”.

And so we posed. And the most important thing was the element of kitsch – it all shouldn’t just be taken too seriously.

In this environment lans simply had to be born. Lans begun as a one-word describing all of the above. It comes from lansować, which originally meant “to popularize”, to make something popular, cool and hip.

The new meaning was lans as a personal activity. You would go out and lans – popularize yourself. Just go out and wow the crowd. Lansować się (lans yourself). You would also use this word, if you wanted to be funny, when talking about going for a walk, for instance, in the main Old Town street.
Lansować się na Szerokiej – would be a humorous and slightly tongue-in-cheek way of describing the act of basically hanging around and talking, especially while wearing come cool items of clothing.

The word, which originated in some artsy-fartsy circles, spread through the blogs on blog.pl service, which at that time was the place where advertising executives and artisty types mixed with the progressive student crowd. The term was used and spread by prominent bloggers of the time, like Ebo – or Maciej Szumny.

As the awareness of the word increased, around 2005, when mainstream media begun recording its use, it went out of fashion in its circles of primary origin. Slowly becoming a universal negative word, describing the other side of the coin of posing. Being fake. Treating this a tad too seriously. For those who weren’t genuine. Trying too hard, not really having any taste. It all happened simultaneously with the slow death of the electroclash culture, and amalgamation of its bits and pieces into the mainstream.

Today lans has lost its previous power. It can be used in both meanings. I wonder if the 00s will ever have a big come back and if there will be a huge lans-revival 🙂

What can I say? I haven’t the foggiest about lans and had to look up “electroclash” and “Miss Kittin” on wikipedia. Ah, the fun of getting old…

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