Polish Language Blog

Proverbially Polish: Przysłowie Posted by on Sep 9, 2010 in Uncategorized

When learning any language, it’s often common sayings that stick in your mind. I remember one of the first English sayings I learned in kindergarten was, “Don’t put the cart before the horse.” In Polish, this would translate to, “Nie kładź wóz przed koniem.” Yes, I was an impatient child. But this impatience prompted my teacher to use that phrase and it has stuck with me since. These sayings, proverbs,  truly helped me learn English.

Przysłowia also helped me learn the Polish language. Tyle wiedzą ile zjedzą.  Tatuś would always say this when watching the evening news weather forecast. Whether the weather forecast was good or bad, Tatuś would turn his head and shrug, saying “They know as much as they can eat.” It always struck me as a funny saying when I was a little kid, after all, how did he know how much the meteorologist could eat? Maybe it was a lot.

Another przysłowie I heard A LOT when I was a kid was “Gdyby kózka nie skakała, to by nózki nie złamała.” If the goat didn’t jump, then she wouldn’t have broken her leg. I think a lot of Polish kids hear this from their parents. But kids will be kids. And after all, “Kto ma pszczoły ten ma miód, kto ma dzieci ten ma smród.” Those who have bees have honey, those who have kids have stench. Unfortunately, as the Polish saying goes, “Dzieci i ryby głosu nie mają.” Kids and fish don’t have a voice.

With so many things complicating my life,  I found myself remembering these simple phrases, these words of wisdom from my Father. And it inspired me to write down those he taught me, a few Mom threw at us as well and some more that I have heard from other Polish friends and family members. Of course, several of these are general in nature, however, others do have some mature tones to them.

I’m pretty certain many of you have heard “I need that like I need a hole in my head.” Well, the Polish take a twist on that proverb; same meaning but rather than a hole in the head it’s a whole in the bridge. “Potrzebny jak dziura w moście.” Literally, Needed like a hole in a bridge. And speaking of bridges, another Polish przyslowie we all know well is, “Nigdy nie należy palić za sobą wszystkich mostów.” It’s never necessary to burn bridges behind you, literally, or just don’t burn bridges.

Here are a few more that I can think of:

  • Nie smakować tylko pakować.” Don’t taste, just devour. This one is all my Wujek Bogdan, and I can easily remember him saying this to me as I was enjoying a heaping bowl of my Ciocia Marysia’s bigos.
  • “Nie dla wszystkich skrzypce graja.” The violin does not play for everyone. So true.
  • Co po trzeźwemu myśli, to po pijanemu powie.” What one thinks when sober is what one says when drunk. Enough said.
  • “Głowa pijana, dupa sprzedana.” When the head is drunk, the butt is sold. Yeah, I don’t think I need to elaborate here. And yes, my Mom seriously said this to me the day she dropped me off for my move-in to college. The woman sees boys living the floor below me and freaks out. Seriously. She should know that the strict Polish upbringing she delivered for eighteen years would keep me in line.

I think that’s all I can think of for now, BUT I know you, dear readers, have your own. So please share in the comments below! If I can think of any others, I’ll add to the comments as well.

Do następnego czytania…

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  1. Rick:

    Very true.

    Last year, when I first started to learn Polish, I was extremely frustrated because I (mistakenly) concentrated on the grammar.

    I had gone off to just mindlessly read stuff about Poland, but in English, and I came upon “To nie jest koniec swiata” somewhere – I don’t remember where now.

    I’ll never forget that phrase. It was an attitude adjustment I needed at that particular moment.


  2. Mika:

    ja raczej znam
    “nie dla psa kiełbasa”
    albo często używane przysłowie w szkole
    “jak pies je, to nie szczeka”
    czy też
    “wszędzie dobrze, ale w domu najlepiej!”
    “głupi jak but” to trochę obraźliwe, ale tak u nas się mówi.