The joys of Polish


We have already seen, that Leo Rosten’s The Joys of Yiddish pays special attention to the interjections – aha! oyoyoy! feh! hoo-ha! nu! –, distinguishing up to fifteen or eighteen shades of meaning of them, and illustrating each with a fitting joke. For example, the word aha:

Mr. Sokoloff has had dinner for twenty years in the same restaurant on the Second Avenue. This evening, as always, he orders bouillon. The waiter brings it, and wants to go back, but Mr. Sokoloff addresses him: “Waiter!” – “Yes, please?” – “Be so kind to taste this soup.” – “But Mr. Sokoloff, you have come here for twenty years and you have never complained.” – “Please”, repeats Mr. Sokoloff obstinately, “taste this soup.” – “But what is the matter, Mr. Sokoloff?” – “Please taste it.” – “All right”, the waiter says. “But… a moment. Where is the spoon?” – “Aha!”, says Mr. Sokoloff.

In the same post we have also seen that The Joys of Yiddish, this magical little book is able to inspire authors even without reading it, such as Tamás Raj, the chief rabbi of Budapest, to write his 100+1 Yiddish words. Now we can see another example of this from the Polish grammar of the Assimil publisher, written by Barbara Kuszmider:

1. Proszę pana. Może pan pozwolić na chwilę?
2. Słucham, czym mogę służyć?
3. Czy może pan spróbować tej zupy?
4. A co, niedobra? Może podać inną?
5. Po prostu, proszę jej spróbować.
6. Nie smakuje panu?
7. Niech pan sam spróbuje.
8. Mamy inne dania. Zaraz podam kartę.
9. Nie, dziękuję. Nie chcę nic innego.
10. Polecam panu doskonały bigos.
11. Prosze tylko, żeby pan spróbował tej zupy.
12. No dobrze, skoro pan nalega…
Ale jak mam spróbować, przecież nie ma łyżki!
1. Waiter, may I disturb you for a moment?
2. Of course. What can I do for you?
3. Would you please taste this soup?
4. Oh, is it not good? May I bring you another one?
5. No, simply taste it.
6. Don’t you like it, sir?
7. Just taste it, please.
8. We also have other dishes. I bring you the menu.
9. No, thanks. I do not want anything else.
10. May I suggest you a perfect pasta?
11. No, just be so kind to finally taste it.
12. Well, sir, if you insist so much…
But how could I taste it, since there is no spoon!

It is just the punch line, the aha! perfectly closing the original dialogue, which is missing here. Although emotion words are not lacking in Polish either.


(The start-up photo represents the elegant Odessan café Fanconi, a favorite restaurant of the Jewish businessmen at the turn of the century. The enlarged photo covers today one wall of the Jewish museum in Odessa. The spoon hanging on it is the only piece remaining from the original tableware, sent to the museum by the heirs of one of the café’s regulars from America; all the rest got lost during the revolution of 1917.)