Polish-English Translation competition #5 (closed)

Election fever is on the wane, things are getting back to normal and Polandian hits you with the next bi-weekly set of puzzling phrases.

Learners of both Polish and English surely have reached, or are going to reach, a certain level of fluency in a foreign language where basic communication is not the main thing that matters. At that stage in order to move ahead you need to get to grips with colloquialisms, understand puns and, sometimes, read between the lines.

In everyday situations we often want to express ideas that can be easily conveyed in informal language, but we realise this can be hardly ever learned at school — we are on the spot and communication breakdown is imminent.

Today’s set includes ten very colloquial phrases that you might hear (as a foreigner) or might want to use (as a Pole) in a casual conversation.

I hope you’ll find the idioms below particularly useful.

1. pilnuj interesu! – mind the store (Filip)
2. wikt i opierunek – board and lodging (Maggie)
3. złożyć coś do lamusa – consign sth to the dustbin (Maggie)
4. kupować na kreskę – to buy sth on account (Maggie)
5. odcedzić kartofelki – to take a leak (Filip)
6. kaktus mi wyrośnie – I’m a Dutchman (ella)
7. jechać po bandzie – not pull any punches / pull no punches (Maggie)
8. wypluj to słowo – perish the thought (ella)
9. robić coś na spontan – to play it by ear (Maggie)
10. odpicowany – spick and span (ella)

Good luck

PS. None of the phrases was used in Dom Zły…

That was a rough ride…

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40 thoughts on “Polish-English Translation competition #5 (closed)

  1. Peter says:

    8. Spit it out
    9. No worries

  2. What do you mean “election fever is on the wane?” It’s hotter than ever! DO NOT FORGET TO VOTE ON SUNDAY 4 JULY.

  3. Filip says:

    1. mind your business
    2. bed & breakfast
    5. to take a leak

  4. Bartek says:

    Hey, now it’s not as hot as it was on Sunday evening, but I know, the fever will reach its zenith on 4 July. And regardless of the result we’ll run the next competition.

    Me? Forget? Shrug it off? NEVER!

  5. Bartek says:

    It’s going to be a long competition…

  6. Foreigner says:

    1. pilnuj interesu! – keep an eye on things
    2. wikt i opierunek – food and accommodation
    3. złożyć coś do lamusa – to retire something
    4. kupować na kreskę – to buy on credit
    5. odcedzić kartofelki – to take a leak
    6. kaktus mi wyrośnie – when hell freezes over
    7. jechać po bandzie – to go overboard, over the top
    8. wypluj to słowo – don’t you dare say that
    9. robić coś na spontan – never heard this phrase, but my guess is “to improvise/ad-lib”
    10. odpicowany – in pristine condition

  7. arturwarrior says:

    4. kupować na kreskę – to put sth on the slate

  8. arturwarrior says:

    8. wypluj to słowo – take it back

  9. Bartek says:

    On second thoughts… I changed my mind, This competition is a particularly tough one. Take a leak might indeed be the one, though I wanted to get “to have a pee”, which actually is more like odlać się

    PS. Filip, how did you fare on your CAE exam?

  10. Bartek says:

    First hint: don’t try translating literally. There are English idioms, meanings of which square well with the Polish idioms above. Some are quite rare…

    Further hints on Friday

  11. Filip says:

    Thanks for asking. I think I did well, but you never know with those exams. At least I’ve manged to get a laugh from my assessor which may by a good sign :D

    I’m in doubt about the first question – ‘pilnuj interesu’. It’s not quite clear what’s the context of that phrase. Is it more like ‘fuck off and don’t bother me’ or ‘keep an eye on things when i’m gone’ ?

  12. Filip says:

    10. dressed up

  13. Filip says:

    8. bite your tongue

  14. Bartek says:

    It’s always misleading. I took another exam in English to get a certificate in April 2009 and I thought I had done badly. After three months it turned out I passed with distinction.

    Now aim at CPE or simply do what I do – learn for sheer pleasure!

    Pilnuj interesu – the latter. For example you help your father run his shop and he has to go to a warehouse and tells you to take care of the shop.

    Hint: ‘mind’ indeed is a part of the phrase, but there’s nothing about any business. Here it’s a bit less word-for-word translation, but in comparison to other phrases it doesn’t diifer that much.

  15. EM says:

    3. to leave/put in ark
    10. stepped out of a bandbox

  16. EM says:

    2. goods and chattels
    6. I’ll eat my hat
    9.go off half-cocked / jump the gun

  17. Steve says:

    1. Take care of your own business
    2. Bed and board
    3. Give it up
    4. Credit Card it
    5. Have the shits
    6. Not if I see you first
    7. Band follower
    8. Spit it out (when speaking, not when chewing gum).
    9. To ‘just do it’.
    10. Tarted up.

  18. Decoy says:

    2. wikt i opierunek – Bed and Breakfast
    3. złożyć coś do lamusa – to dispose of something
    7. jechać po bandzie – to follow the crowd

  19. wildphelps says:

    1. pilnuj interesu! – mind your own business
    2. wikt i opierunek – room and board
    3. złożyć coś do lamusa – put it in a box and lock it away
    4. kupować na kreskę – put it on the tab

    6. kaktus mi wyrośnie – eat my hat (as in “If the tram comes on time, I’ll eat my ha!”t)
    7. jechać po bandzie – to go all the way/give maximum effort
    8. wypluj to słowo – take it back (as in, “You can’t talk about my mom that way. Take it back!”)
    9. robić coś na spontan – on the spur of the moment
    10. odpicowany – dress to the nines

  20. arturwarrior says:

    10. odpicowany – Is it about cars?
    pimped up

  21. arturwarrior says:

    9. robic cos na spontan

    in the heat of the moment,


  22. wildphelps says:

    We are all breathlessly awaiting (translate that Word Boy) for you to grade our submissions…

  23. Bartek says:

    Apologies for my absence, and, sorry to say that – no right guesses ;(

    The phrases include the following words:
    1. store
    2. lodging
    3. dustbin
    4. account
    6. I’m a
    7. punches
    8. thought
    9. ear
    10. span

    I can’t promise to update it soon since my computer crash and my access to the Net is limited but I hope you’ll find it helpful

  24. Filip says:

    1. Mind the store

  25. Bartek says:

    Yes, mind the store

    How about the rest

    PS. I’m back, hopefully for good

  26. Maggie says:

    2. wikt i opierunek – food and lodging
    3. złożyć coś do lamusa – consign sth to the dustbin
    4. kupować na kreskę – put it on account (?)
    7. jechać po bandzie – to pull no punches
    9. robić coś na spontan – to play it by ear (?)

  27. Bartek says:


    2. Indeed, sth and lodging

    4. is kupować to put?

    7. almost…

  28. Maggie says:

    2 – board and lodging?
    4 – to buy sth. on account?
    No clue about 7, I’m afraid.

  29. Bartek says:

    Maggie, you were very, very close, just get this phrase right

    Nobody else has a clue?

  30. Filip says:

    Sorry, nothing springs into mind right now. I don’t want to use dictionaries, nor invent new idioms, so I guess this is all I could do in this round.

    PS. Computers are evil bastards ;) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6C_HjWr3Nk

  31. ella says:

    1. pilnuj interesu! – mind the store
    2. wikt i opierunek – room and board
    3. złożyć coś do lamusa – throw something on the scrap heap; or scrap it!
    4. kupować na kreskę – put it on the tab
    5. odcedzić kartofelki – take a leak
    6. kaktus mi wyrośnie – I’ll eat my hat!
    7. jechać po bandzie – [never heard that one]
    8. wypluj to słowo – take it back! [like in “What did you say that about my dad? Take it back!”]
    9. robić coś na spontan – [never heard that one]
    10. odpicowany – spic-and-span; or spruced-up

  32. Bartek says:

    grrr, come on guys… I’m closing this competiton on Tuesday and I’d be happy to get all right answers by then.

    6. I’m a… (here comes a nationality)
    7. What Maggie said was almost right
    8. In Polish we spit out a word, in English we perish something that can’t be heard (usually).

  33. ella says:

    8. wypluj to slowo – perish the thought

  34. ella says:

    7. jechac po bandzie – pull your punches

  35. ella says:

    Although, I do not quite agree this is the right translation of #6 kaktus mi wyrosnie – I know what you are after. So here you have it:

    6. I’m a Dutchman

    In my opinion. “I’ll eat my hat” is much more appropriate and much better known and used than “I’m a Dutchman” which seems to me to be an expression specific to some particular geographical location. Anyway, never heard it used here in Canada.

  36. Bartek says:

    I suppose “I’m a Dutchman” is typically British. We don’t have an uniform language policy, Polandian is run by two Brits, one Irish, one American and one Pole.

    A right translation? I don’t think there might be right translation when it comes to idioms, here we just have very similar meanings, so you may use another idiom to express an idea in a foreign language.

  37. ella says:


    Sorry to disagree but not even British use it! The idiom ‘I’ll eat my hat’ or ‘if pigs can fly’ – not an obscure and ambiguous “I’m a Dutchman” – have exactly the same meaning as the ‘kaktus mi wyrosnie’. But you’re the boss.

  38. wildphelps says:

    Bartek –

    It is after all your competition, but I think you are using some expressions that are archaic and are certainly skewed towards BE. I found ‘kaktus mi wyrosnie’ translated as “eat my hat” in Maciej Widawski’s “Polish-English Dictionary of Slang and Colloquialism”.

    Widawski has been doing (funny) things with slang for some time now, and several of your expressions are quite different than his. Odpicowany could refer to a thing or a man. I would never use spic and span to describe a man whereas dressed to the nines is exactly what you would use to describe a well-dressed man. Without more context (i.e. a sentence), how were we supposed to know that you were referring to a man or a thing? The”y” at the end leaves some ambiguity.

    Of course, it is your contest, but maybe you can give us a bit more context…

  39. Bartek says:

    archaic? skewed? Yes, but it makes the competition more challenging. Would it be fun if all phrases were guessed in five hours?

    odpociwany was used in context of a car / place. Agree on the context suggestion

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