Polish-English Translation Competition #7 (closed)

I recently read some official PL->EN (mis)translations (guess if they were drawn up by a native speaker) and wondered if it would be advisable to run at least one competition in which instead on colloqialisms we would focus on lingo – financial, legal, etc. At the moment I am wary of this stillborn idea. Besides, I would be glad to get any feedback from you on what you make of running next translation competitions. I am not short of more-or-less challenging words and idioms, but as I observe, the popularity of translation competitions is on decline.

Anyway, the leitmotiv of my second competition was “calling people names” or something like this, I’m too lazy to check it right now.  Given the abundance of expressions languages have to describe miscellaneous types of weirdos, we would have to hold at least a dozen contests to cover them exhaustively. But today let’s try to find translations of only next 10 such phrases. Here we go!

1. ćpun – junkie (Maggie)
2. kanalia – scum (Michael Dembinski)
3. zołza – hog (scatts)
4. popychadło – doormat (Maggie)
5. niezła d*pa – a (fine) piece of ass / arse (PMK)
6. pirat drogowy – road hog (Decoy)
7. bachor – brat (PMK)
8. równy gość – regular guy (scatts)
9. stary piernik – (old) fogey (Maggie)
10. grafoman – scribbler (Maggie)

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21 thoughts on “Polish-English Translation Competition #7 (closed)

  1. PMK says:

    1. Drug addict
    2. Bastard
    3. Bitch
    4. A weak person whom you can manipulate; a sap
    5. Nice ass
    6. Someone who drives fast and dangerously; a lead-foot
    7. Brat
    8. A pretty cool guy; a cool guy
    9. lit: old gingerbread; col: an old person (insult); old hag
    10: An author who thinks he is smarter than he is; James Joyce; an over-intellectual writer.

  2. Maggie says:

    1. ćpun – junkie
    4. popychadło – doormat
    6. pirat drogowy – road hog
    7. bachor – brat
    9. stary piernik – old fart/old gaffer/old fogey
    10. grafoman – um… scribbler?

  3. 2. Kanalia – scum.

    Kanalia is the stuff that floats down kanały – sewers.

    5. I do believe it’s niezła szprycha among the more cultured cognoscenti of the female form.

    6. Pirat drogowy – just about anyone in possession of a Polish driving licence (sorry – just after a five-hour drive back home from Małopolska)

    8. Równy gość – good bloke

  4. Bartek says:

    Niezła szprycha – I believe it comes from Małopolska, I haven’t heard it in Warsaw. Indeed quite civilised, compared to other phrases such as szparka, etc.

    I gather you still hold a British one. What happened this time?

  5. 2. kanalia – skunk, rascal
    8. równy gość – geezer

    Firstly, many thanks for holding the competitions, Bartek! They do contain a lot of useful knowledge.

    I’m afraid they are simply to hard for me since I’m born in Sweden. Polish is my mother tounge, so I do understand some of the expressions, but these days I don’t get to hear colloquial language very often. I use English daily at work, but it is my third language after all and, hmm, we don’t call each other names. (Should start right away after this, right? ;-) ) Additionally, I agree to the previous comments that said that the competition is a lot of guessing even if you know what the word means. It takes me a lot of research before I can make a guess, which if fun, but unfortunately too timeconsuming…

    I would love to read posts exploring all the pitfalls of idoms and language in general.

  6. PMK says:

    5. A fine piece-o-ass.

    8. Good egg; lovely chap; a gentleman and a scholar.

    Also, my tomatoes are starting to ripen.

  7. Decoy says:

    5. A bad ass (mo-fo!)
    6. roadhog
    8. a regular Joe

  8. Cosi says:

    3. zołza – witch
    8. równy gość – good ol’ fellow

  9. Bartek says:

    8. indeed ‘regular’

  10. Bartek says:

    3. Now regular readers have a chance to show off. Scatts used that word to describe babsztyl.

  11. PMK says:

    Are there fabulous prizes for these competitions, or are we just allowed smug satisfaction?

  12. scatts says:


    Old hag?

    can’t even remember myself!

  13. scatts says:

    The latter! But only if you get more than 75% right.

  14. scatts says:

    Regular guy?

    Pretty boring but worth a stab.

  15. PMK says:

    Total drag.

  16. Bartek says:

    I’ve been looking out for a sponser for a few months, but I couldn’t see anyone eligible on the horizon.

  17. Steve says:

    Thank you and please keep on. I don’t know about lack of popularity, but the interest shown in the responses to your competitions is too much for me. They are normally closed before I see them.

    Financial and legal language would be great for me. It would also be fun more generally if you see any other PL->EN mistranslations, where you know the Polish original, to find whether we can do better.

  18. island1 says:

    I like the way, now the answers are in place, we’ve managed to subtly insult a bunch of people. Maggie is a junkie doormat, Decoy is a road hog and PMK is a fine piece of ass :)

    By the way, what’s a ‘scribbler’?

  19. Bartek says:

    I don’t get the point. My competitions have always been updated over their courses and always the layout was the same:

    Polish word – guessed English word (winner’s nickname)

    A scribbler is a bad writer. Maybe not the best equivalent of Polish grafoman, who is a bad, but also complacent writer who really enjoys writing .

  20. island1 says:

    I know, it just looks funny:

    scum (Michael Dembinski)

    I wasn’t being terribly serious.

    I don’t think I’ve come across ‘scribbler’ used in that sense. I know it’s not relevant to the competition but ‘hack’ is a much more common word with this meaning.

  21. Steve says:

    Since I am unfamiliar with either grafoman in Polish or scribbler (on its own) in English, I looked them up. Interestingly, Grafomania has different meanings in Polish and English according to Wikipedia. They both have the meaning of a bad writer, but in English it is denoted by excess, whilst in Polish it includes authors who “combine the compulsion to write with a desire to disseminate their works, despite the negative assessment of the artistic level”. Miriam Webster gives a scribbler to mean either a minor or insignificant author, or a scribbler (with scribble in this sense meaning to write hastily or carelessly without regard to form). My only knowledge of this comes from the term ‘a bit of a scribbler’, where the overall effect of the writing is marred by lack of from or by the addition of unnecessary information. Hack (from M-W) on the other hand is a writer who works on order or who aims solely for commercial success. From Bartek’s description of grafoman, ‘scribbler’ seems, better, but I suspect it is one of those words that, if you were translating an article about a writer who is described as a ‘grafoman’, you would have to research her/his work to get the translation correct.

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