Mieć nierówno pod sufitem


Lit. “to have uneven (not on one level) under the roof” which translates almost exactly into “a bit lacking upstairs”. You use the expression to informally say that someone is mentally unstable or simply not very bright. At the same time, using it makes the statement a bit gentler and friendlier than saying something like “idiota”, “wariat” or outright “popierdolony”.

Poles often use this metaphor to describe a person that is a bit crazy but harmless.

Continue reading Mieć nierówno pod sufitem

Zesrać się na różowo


Lit. “to shit pink”. This is used to describe a person putting an ultimate effort into trying to achieve something entirely impossible. It obviously is not used in official language as the verb “srać” is considered vulgar.

You say “choćbym się zesrał/a na różowo” to point that no matter how hard you try, what you want will not happen anyway. So it’s not worth the effort and you give it up.

Variants with different somewhat “unnatural” colours like green or gold occur but mean the same thing.

Continue reading Zesrać się na różowo

Prąd kopnął


Lit. “kicked by electricity/current” which is is the most common way to say that a person was electrocuted. A more formal way would be “porażony prądem” or struck/hit by electricity but in spoken languages Poles prefer the personification with electricity using its figurative legs to cause damage. The expression is a pretty old one, I remember it being already used in the 80’s to discourage me from tinkering with electrical outlets which, by the way, are called “gniazdko” which translates into “a little nest” in Polish.

Continue reading Prąd kopnął

Kaleczyć język


Lit. “to cut/wound a tongue/language” as in Polish the “język” noun is used to convey both meanings. The expression is a metaphor used to describe someone speaking a language poorly and making many grammatical or lexical mistakes. You can hear it when Poles talk about a foreigner trying to use their language – or a Pole speaking bad English or German.

You could also say “skaleczył się w język” – he cut/wounded his tongue – no metaphor, just bloody facts. This sentence is pretty unequivocal due to the use of reflexive form of the verb with “się” (herself/himself).

Continue reading Kaleczyć język

Mieć węża w kieszeni


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.

Continue reading Mieć węża w kieszeni