"folk" with an L

victor steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Fri Mar 19 18:16:09 UTC 2010

I was going to mention this too--Poles would not recognize the
dance/music as Polish. It certainly has Central European origins--some
part of the old Austro-Hungarian empire, where Bohemia might have been
"Polish" to some interpreters. Also the name might have been derived
(truncated) from some Czech compound that meant "Polish dance".

Accordion does not strike me as a particularly Slavic instrument,
especially not Polish or Russian, although it has been widely adopted
and used. But there are plenty of Austrian, German and Dutch accordion
hits--not a musicologist, no idea of the actual history of the

> But it was the Viennese Cyril Damian, of Armenian descent who patented the accordion at Paris, on the 6th of May, 1829; a small four octave instrument that was to be the basis for the development of an absolutely revolutionary musical instrument. A reproduction of the original patent is shown on a photographic panel in the entrance hall of the Museum, near Paola Soprani's portrait the founder of the Italian accordion industry.

Wiki has a slightly more detailed version (note the German
involvement), but essentially says the same thing.

> The accordion's basic form is believed to have been invented in Berlin in 1822 by Christian Friedrich Ludwig Buschmann, although one instrument has been recently discovered that appears to have been built in 1816 or earlier by Friedrich Lohner of Nürnberg in the German State of Bavaria.
> The accordion is one of several European inventions of the early 19th century that used free reeds driven by a bellows. An instrument called accordion was first patented in 1829 by Cyrill Demian, of Armenian descent, in Vienna .

Note the parallel account of the history of the polka (also centering
on its introduction in Paris):

>  “The polka is a dance of bohemian or polish origin, the name being derived from the Bohemian polka, which is the half-step characterization of the dance.  The invention of the step is credited to Anna Slazak, a farm servant at Elbsteinitz, near Prague in about 1830.  It was popularly introduced in Prague in about 1835, and in 1839 was brought to Vienna by the musical band of the Prague Sharpshooters, a military unit.  There both the music and the dance met with extraordinary acceptance.  In 1840 it was received with tremendous applause at the Odeon Theater in Paris and was soon the favorite dance at all the public and private balls.  It spread rapidly into every other country in Europe and is now popular all over the world.”
> Another account begins this way.
> "Polka, a lively dance in 2/4 time of Bohemian origin, characterized by three quick steps and a hop.  Introduced in Paris about 1843, it became an extraordinary craze in the ballroom and on the stage, sweeping rapidly across Europe and the United States."
> So says the Encyclopedia Britannica.  But what do they know?  Have they danced it, or merely written about it?  And how did it get to Texas?
> The Czech version is that the polka was first danced by a Czech girl in 1830, and originated in the Bohemian culture.  It is named from the Czech word "pulka" which means "half-step."  Citizens of Prague danced to polka music some five years later, and the music then spread across Europe.  Czech. Polish, Slovenian and German immigrants popularized the music and dance in their homes and festivals.
> The Polish version is that the Czechs popularized Polka but the dance actually came from the Poles.  A Czech passing through a Polish village saw the dance being performed by a Polish girl.  They called the dance "Polka" which in Polish literally translates to "Polish woman."

Wiki is silent on the origin, focusing instead on the Viennese
classical music scene.

Of course, one does not need an accordion for the dance step, but it
does help. Yes, I know, it's been used in classical music too--without
an accordion. But the same can be said about tango--originally tango
had no accordion, but try to separate it from the bandoneón now.


On Fri, Mar 19, 2010 at 10:18 AM, Eric Nielsen <ericbarnak at gmail.com> wrote:
> I believe the Polka (dance) is originally from Czechloslovakia--more
> specifically Bohemia. What's very strange is that it is, I think, generally
> assumed to be Polish in origin.
> Two years ago, my young cousin, Magda, was visiting from Poland. People were
> trying to impress her with their collections of Polka music, to which she
> replied, "That's not even Polish."
> Eric

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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