Krakać

Meaning:

Lit. “to caw” – as crows do. If this verb is referred to a person then this person is being accused of being extremely pessimistic and having a worst possible outcome in mind. This is why other, more optimistic, people taking part in the same enterprise often say “nie kracz” – don’t caw, don’t discourage us.

The expression is very popular among Poles and is the only meaning apart from the literal one. It might stem from crows’ cawing being a bad omen.

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Mieć węża w kieszeni

Meaning:

Lit. “to have a snake in the pocket” which refers to somebody being very thrifty, or even, stingy. Poles readily apply this to inhabitants of my hometown Kraków who are widely known to save every penny they can. And so, such a person is under no circumstances willing to put hand in their pocket as if the said reptilian was sitting there waiting to bite them.

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Kocia muzyka

Meaning:

Lit. “a cat’s music”, which can be used either to describe a very noisy and dissonant (or simply: poor) music or a noise that irritates you. You can hear/read it quite often to describe groups of people making noise not to let someone else speak or partygoers singing and breaking glasses on the streets.

The expression obviously stems from caterwaul waking Polish people at night, especially in March. Its origin being the same as that of German “Katzenjammer”, this Polish expression is not used to describe a hangover.

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Pytasz dzika, czy sra w lesie?

Meaning:

Lit. “are you asking a boar if it shits in the woods”? Which sounds ridiculous but, at the same time, quite funny. It is used to agree to a proposal and stress your full commitment and that the choice is obvious. The verb “shits” makes the expression coarse and not suitable for any official conversation. But it is perfect for accepting a proposal from a buddy to have a few beers on a Friday evening.

You may wonder why some of the examples below include the question mark while some don’t. Well, it’s because syntax in Polish does not define if a sentence is a question or a statement. It’s the intonation or the magical word “czy” (“if”), which in this case is only an element of the subordinate sentence. So, “pytasz dzika, czy sra w lesie” will be a question with the question mark and a statement without it.

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Jak koń po westernie

Meaning:

Lit. “like a horse after (shooting) a western (movie)”. The expression is usually preceded by a verb like “zmęczony” (tired) or some vulgar substitute of it. It describes a state of exhaustion after a long-time working, marching or any other, usually physical, activity.

The genesis of this parallel is obviously in horses being thought of as the most important ingredients of a good western movie, even more important than cowboys, and, as a consequences, spending most time on a set, especially recording tiresome chases.

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