Brussels Says – Get Rid of “Pani” and “Panna” Posted by Anna on Mar 18, 2009 in Culture
What is this I’m hearing about the paper pushers in Brussels telling us to not use words such as “Pani” and “Panna”? Or “Madame” and “Mademoiselle”, “Frau” and “Fraulein” and so on… Seriously, does anyone still even bother with those panna/mademoiselle/fraulein forms?
The great majority of people I know never even use the word “Panna” when addressing a young woman. In my family, the only person who was allowed to call us that was my grandpa, when he was still alive. I only identified myself as “Panna” when asked for marital status on official documents. But that was when I was still a single woman. In normal conversations, people have been calling me “Pani” since time immemorial. Even when I was very much a panna at the age of 17.
So, I have absolutely no idea what the EU’s problem is with “Pani.”
Is it their lack of understanding of our beautiful, but convoluted language?
Back in the olden days “Pani” referred to a married matron, that much is true. But these days it’s just a simple, polite expression to address any and all women and has nothing to do with whether these women are married or not. For crying out loud, there are private high schools in this country, where the staff are required to address their students as “Pan so-and-so” and “Pani so-and-so.”
So, the first part of this language directive from Bruksela is utter nonsense, but I must admit I kind of agree with the second part.
They don’t want us to use the feminine forms of certain nouns describing occupations. Oddly enough, this is something I’ve already been doing for years. And I just know this will not endear me to my Polish-speaking readers, who are rather orthodox about preserving the purity of the Polish language. (As if Polish could be pure. Yeah right!)
Instead of saying, for example, “listonoszka” (female mail carrier) I’ve always been saying simply “listonosz” (mail carrier), or if I wanted to be really specific, then: “pani listonosz”.
Same with “policjantka” (policewoman). I just say “funkcjonariusz policji” or “oficer policji”.
What really irks me is the double standard of how we refer to TV weather people. You know, those types who tell you it will be snowing in morning and smile, as if it was the best news ever. The women doing the smiling and telling are commonly known as “pogodynki” (singular: pogodynka). Comes from “pogoda” (weather).
But the guys are “prezenterzy pogody” (singular: prezenter pogody). Why the difference? What? Guys don’t want to be called “pogodynki”? Well, technically, “pogodynka” is a feminine noun, but what’s the big deal? Just call him “pogodynek” instead. But of course, it would be considered goofy and unprofessional. So it looks like it’s OK to call a woman by a cutesy, unprofessional nickname, but not a guy. Not fair.
My system of using the masculine version for both men and women is also very economical, especially when you’re just learning Polish. Because then you don’t have to think too much about: “what the heck do I call this woman with the dental drill”?
Hint: in my world, she would be “dentysta” (dentist, masculine form), just like a man. Or “a torturer”, depending on the situation. (And did you know that modern dental drills can rotate at up to 800000 RPM?)
Here’s the news blurb about this EU decision (in Polish).
And next week, I’ll give you a whole bunch of those masculine-feminine occupations. You’ll have to wait until next week, because on Friday we’ll be drowning Marzanna. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to drown something. Anything to bring on warmer weather!
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