Polish Language Blog

Stary Piernik and Other Expressions, part 1 Posted by on Nov 8, 2008 in Culture, Vocabulary

John H. came up with an excellent suggestion for a blog post and I gotta say that neither I nor my friends have ever had so much fun gathering material and doing “linguistic” research. Some of those expressions – I even forgot they existed. Like “stary piernik” for example. When translated literally, it becomes “old gingerbread.” But in fact, it’s a gentler version of a more “to the point” Polish expression, which is not quite polite – “stary pierd…” and I don’t think I should be teaching you these, anyway.

(Now you see why my friends and I had so much fun… I think we event invented a couple of new Polish curse words!)

But, stary piernik is a rather benign version – and it means something like “old fart” or “old geezer.” And just like in English, it’s used to describe men of a certain age and certain characteristics.

And while we’re on the subject of “piernik” – this word is also used in another idiomatic expression:

  • Co ma piernik do wiatraka? – What’s that got to do with anything? (but literally: What’s a gingerbread got to do with a windmill?)

Nieopierzony kurczak” was another example given by John. Translated literally it becomes “unfledged/featherless chickling.” And as you can easily guess, it’s used to describe a young, immature and inexperienced person.

And while we’re on the subject of young and inexperienced, another useful word is “żółtodziób.” Literally – yellow beak.

Also, just as in English, you can describe someone as being “green” – “zielony” – a total newbie.

We will continue with this in the future. For now, here are the words we’ve used today:

  • stary (fem. stara, neuter: stare, pl. masc. person: starzy, pl. other: stare) – old
  • piernik (masc., pl. pierniki) – gingerbread, spice cake, honey cake, lebkuchen
  • wiatrak (masc., pl. wiatraki) – windmill
  • nieopierzony (this is not a very common adjective, but if you want all the forms, here they are: fem. nieopierzona, neuter: nieopierzone, pl. masc. person: nieopierzeni, pl. other: nieopierzone) – unfledged, featherless
  • kurczak (masc. pl. kurczaki) – chicken, chickling,
  • żółty (fem: żółta, neuter: żółte, pl. masc. person: żółci, pl. other: żółte) audio – yellow
  • dziób (masculine. pl. dzioby) – beak, also a derogatory term for a mouth
  • zielony (fem. zielona, neuter: zielone, pl. masc. person: zieloni, pl. other: zielone) audio – green

And I don’t know about you, but that photo of pierniki makes me very hungry for some reason. I can just about smell the freshly baked lebkuchen… Hmmmm….

Image: Caro Wallis

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  1. Thomas Westcott:


    The vocabulary phrases will surely be useful. Thanks for showing that there are translations / meanings completely different and separate from the literal meaning of these words.

    This article certainly shows that a lot of meaning in language is culturally based. One thing that confuses me from “Elementarz” and other elementary Polish texts is that so many ‘sentences’ have understood verbs. As an example, ‘Kto to’ is translated as who it or who this. Maybe you could do an article on understood meanings.

    thanks, thomas

  2. Thomas Westcott:

    p.s. Audio files?

  3. Anna:

    Hi Thomas!
    I’m traveling right now and so it’s a bit hard to prepare high quality sound files. I will go back and add them when I get home next week.

  4. Thomas Westcott:

    dzie,kuje, bardzo

  5. lycia:

    Anna, I think you write beautifully in English. Now, I have read what you have said about English grammar book. Why don’t you write a book yourself and then publish it? I think it would be a wonderful idea.
    As for me, when I manage to read your blog, I have so much fun. I love to guess what’s written in Polish. I think I better get an exercise book and start working seriously. For example, I know the word book in Polish, but I don’t know how to write it. I would have written “qsonska” and no one, who’s Polish, would have understood. So, you see, it’s fun for me to learn how to read or write in Polish. However I do believe it’s a very difficult language. I must thank you for all the patience you have to put up this blog. I was lucky to find you.