Diminutives of Proper Names Posted by Anna on Apr 3, 2009 in Culture
Are you ready for more zdrobnienia (diminutives)? I’m not… But I thought I’d give them a shot anyway.
I told you already that I’m not particularly fond of diminutives. And if there is a thing I dislike even more, that will be diminutive forms of proper names. Hate the stuff. Really.
Lucky are the people whose names don’t lend themselves to casual diminution. That would be Jacek, Andrzej, Paweł, Michał, for example. Yes, you can say “Jacuś, Andrzejek, Pawełek and Michałek” but chances are you wouldn’t do it when talking to grown men. And the ladies? Agnieszka, Sylwia, Beata, Iwona come to mind. Agnieszki are truly lucky. Their name stays as is. Frankly, I can’t even think of what its diminutive form would be. If that’s the case, then this must be the proverbial exception that only goes to prove the general rule – that most Polish names are not even used in their “birth certificate” forms.
Take my name, for example. Anna. Simple enough, right? Not when, as Barb very helpfully pointed out, you can also have Ania, Anka, Anusia (or Aniusia), Aneczka, Andzia, Anula, Anulka, Anunia and probably a couple of others that I’d rather forget about.
My sister’s name is equally simple in its basic form – Maria. But I’ve never met a Polish person who would call her “Maria” – “it’s just too churchy,” as one lady explained. Instead, she’s Marysia, Marysieńka, Mania, Mańka, and so on.
Diminutive name forms are so ingrained into out collective Polish psyche that even professional men and women don’t see anything odd with introducing themselves as “Magda so-and-so” (really: Magdalena) and “Darek so-and-so” (really: Dariusz).
And so Barbara becomes “Basia” and Jolanta – “Jola”, Joanna – “Asia”, Izabella – “Iza”, Zofia – “Zosia”, Aleksandra – “Ola”, and so on. There’s no rhyme and reason to it. This is something that you will need to learn on a case by case basis.
Guys’ names are easier, but just a little. Most of the traditional Slavic names are simply impossible to use in everyday conversations in their proper forms – Zbigniew, Sławomir, Jarosław, Mieczysław, etc. They morph into: Zbyszek, Sławek, Jarek and Mietek. Other male names, especially when talking to adults you’re not all that familiar with, stay pretty much the same: Maciej, Piotr, Krzysztof (though you can say “Krzysiek” if you feel you know the dude well enough and he won’t mind), Mateusz, Łukasz, Janusz, etc…
As for my own name, I will tolerate “Ania”. The other diminutives of Anna – even my own family doesn’t use them. And what about my sister? My dad calls her “Marie.” When I asked him why, he simply said “it’s shorter.”
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