Poles and kombinowanie Posted by Anna on Oct 27, 2009 in Culture, Vocabulary
Today we will tackle something that is a bit controversial. Or maybe not, I guess it all depends on your point of view. But we’ll see.
I really don’t like sweeping generalizations, though that doesn’t stop me in making them myself from time to time, to be perfectly honest. So most of the time when I hear such a general comment, I just take it with a grain of salt. But when those sweeping generalizations begin to include me, well, that’s a whole another story. It’s personal then, and for me that’s when the gloves come off.
But yeah, what kind of generalizations are we talking about here? You know, those broad comments that encompass perhaps an entire nation or an ethic group, like that the French are generally rude (not true) and the Americans fat (again, not true). So why am I getting all worked up about it today? Somebody has told me recently, and to my face no less, that Poles are a conniving, dishonest bunch that can’t be trusted. As a proof of those national characteristics, the person used the famous Polish art (or is it a skill?) of kombinowanie.
Now, I know those comments have been around for centuries, and I know that Poles made kombinowanie into a whole new art form in its own right (that much is true), but when someone says it to my face, that makes it personal.
And personally, some of the most dishonest and untrustworthy people I’ve met in my life were single males between the ages of 22 and 32, university educated, no less. Does that mean that I’m going to pass sweeping generalizations that all single males between the ages of 22 and 32 are dishonest pricks? Of course not. So it really bothers me when narrow-minded people apply such generalizations to whole nationalities and ethnic groups.
I explained as much to the person I was talking with, and his response was “but you guys (meaning Poles) have a bad reputation everywhere you go.”
Oh really? Is that true? Am I that out of touch with how the Polish people are perceived by foreigners?
And is “kombinowanie” really all that bad? I’m as good at it as the next Pole, and yet I’ve never used it for nefarious purposes. Quite the opposite in fact.
But what is that “kombinowanie” anyway?
Some of my fellow countrymen will tell you that it’s one Polish word that can’t be translated into English. I disagree. It can be translated, but how you do it depends on the context.
The verb “kombinować” can mean many things. It can be used as in “to scheme”, “to fix”, “to sort out”, “to arrange” and so on. You get the idea. Nothing wrong with a little “kombinowanie” itself, it’s why you want to kombinować that might be perceived as less than honest by some people.
So yeah, we are the masters of kombinowanie, but does that immediately mean we are dishonest and untrustworthy as a nation?
Your opinions please. Honest opinions, of course.
PS. I apologize for the recent lack of comments from me, but we’re moving again and have internet issues.
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