From Readers’ Comments – How to tell someone off Posted by Anna on Mar 15, 2010 in Grammar
One of our American readers was bragging in the comments section not so long ago that “i can honestly say polish is one of the easiest languages ive learned so far. its not harder than any other language” (punctuation and spelling his, not mine).
And then he went on to say that:
“people that tell you its hard is just jelous and are pissed that a foreigner can learn their language.” (again, punctuation and spelling his, not mine).
And finally, he suggested that “if those pollacks give you trouble than just tell them “palic w piekle k***a” to them haha”. (I removed the expletive from the quote, but again, punctuation and spelling is his, not mine).
Well, haha indeed.
I don’t know what other languages Mike (he gave his name as Mike) has been learning so far, but it must have been either Hungarian or Finnish. Or perhaps Chinese. In comparison to those, Polish is indeed a piece of cake.
And how convenient for us that Mike decided to demonstrate just how easy Polish is by attempting to curse.
I will leave out the final k-expletive from the quote, but let’s take a look at the first three words he suggests as a suitable way to tell people off.
“Palic w piekle”… Hmmm.
It’s “palić” not “palic”, but that’s besides the point.
I think what he meant was to tell someone “burn in hell”, but since he has learned at least a couple of languages, I am sure he knows that direct translations of such phrases very often (if not always) make the speaker look like a total idiot.
Also, if he was directing this particular phrase at one person, I am sure he is aware that he should have said “Pal w piekle” (imperative, instead of infinitive), or if to more than one person – then “Palcie w piekle”.
But what exactly are we supposed to palić in hell? Cigarettes? Weed? Old newspapers? Not sure.
If Mike wanted us to physically burn in hell, I’m sure he knows (since Polish is so easy, as he says) that he should have used the reflexive form – palić się – to burn oneself.
And then, of course, it would be:
“Pal się w piekle” to one person, or “palcie się w piekle” to more than one.
Of course anyone who’s spent more than just a couple of hours studying Polish knows how silly this sounds. Nobody in their right mind would use this phrase to tell someone off.
So, how would we do it?
There’s a variety of emotionally charged expressions to use in this situation. The mildest of the bunch would be “Odwal się”. Stick the k-expletive at the end, and there you go. Your message will definitely get through.
And Mike, it’s back to Professor Swan’s grammar book for you. Show off in the comments section again in a few months after you master a couple of chapters, OK?
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