Bulgarian Phrases

Michal Lisecki mlisecki at POLBOX.COM
Thu Oct 12 09:53:52 UTC 2000

On a memorable day of 00-10-10 at 09:22 you wrote an email "Re:
Bulgarian Phrases" :

>Michal is right to point out that 'kurwa' in Polish does not refer
>female genitals; it is, quite simply, the ordinary word for "whore"
(and is
>"slang" only if "whore" is).
>However, some readers may not quite understand what he means when he
>it a "plain old swearword," for it may be used in Polish as "whore"
is not
>used in English. For example, as a plain old swearword, it may be
>"exclaimed": That is, you can drop something, bump your elbow, be
>exasperated, etc... and say "Oh kurwa!" (just like you can say "Oh
shit" or
>"Oh fuck" in English, but cannot, at least in the varieties I know,
>"Oh whore").

You're absolutely right :-) Thank you for making it clear. Though
saying 'plain' I meant 'common', not elaborate phatic filler.
I'd also add to it that KURWA is a word of great 'affective strength'
and wasn't it for the sake of explaining some linguistic nuances, you
wouldn't have seen me saying that here. Though quite widely used
nowadays by some people, it still remains a taboo word often replaced
by somewhat tricky KURCZE which you mention (mind kurczE !!! not
*kurczA) and which indeed means a chicken. The pun doesn't end up
here. It goes even further with KURDE - another neutral euphemism to

>"Kurwa" also gives rise to a nice "play eupehemism." One begins the
>drawing out a long trilled r (Oh kurrrrrrrrrrr-) but ends with "cza"
>("kurcza" - pronounced like the "cha' of "cha-cha") which lets you

rather CHE :> /tshe/

>"Cipa" is indeed a word which refers to "woman and/or vulva" as
>says, but it is interesting to note that the near universal
agreement (at
>least in some old quantitative studies I have seen) that "cunt" is
>"dirtiest" word in English is matched by a Polish lexeme "pizda,"
>exactly the same sense and affective strength (and it is so strong
>Michal may have found himself incapable of putting it out on the
>even I as a non-native speaker found it a bit daunting).

ooops getting really nasty! Hope that there are not so many experts
on Polish over here :) You still have to bear that in mind that
swearwords, although not so widely used in Polish, are still a very
strong force. Thus it is, for example, an extremely hard task to
translate the scripts for all these Hollywood movies where they cry
out all the possible combinations of FUCK just in onle line using
them like commas. Only recently did Polish directors decide to make
the movies 'more natural' (at least that's what they claim...) and
make the actors have they go at all the possible swear forms. At
first it was rather funny but in time people got used to that - if
anyone can!
Anyway, I find the problem of English-Polish vulgarisms
correspondence a very interesting one. The problems encompass not
only the semantic variations but also some graphic differences (use
of commas in Polish). Thus, approaching any discussion on these
elusive differences one would ideally have to have an extensive
knowledge of both languages in their street/casual form and be
familiar with the ways of using vulgarisms in English as well as in
Polish (or vice-versa) in order to avoid the contextual failure.
tafn [lisu] <magura at giga.pl>

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