Nation of Poets#2 – Geography

Poles use a lot of rhyming expressions in everyday speech. The most famous is ‘smigus dyngus‘ – a rhyming name that sounds silly, but which actually fits well with the type of activity it describes!

I once told a friend that I like these rhyming expressions in Polish and he said:

What can I say? We’re a nation of poets!

So to celebrate this nation of poets, here are some of my favourites. This week two expressions that include cities / countries:

Jedno oko na Maroko, a drugie na Krym


What an excellent example of Polish poetry – using a rhyme to describe a physical feature, in this case, a squint (zez), i.e. one of the eyes looks west towards Maroko, while the other looks east towards Crimea.

Now this is quite a squint with both eyes looking very far apart. I wonder if Polish allows for smaller differences, i.e. jedno oko na Monako, a drugie na Kijów? Monaco isn’t as far west as Maroko so this would describe someone whose eyes are only slightly out of alignment.

Actually, just thinking about this idiom gives me a squint (see Shakespeare above).

Życie jak w Madrycie

Literally, this means ‘life like in Madrid‘ and describes a lifestyle that is fun and luxurious. To me, this is one example in which Poles have chosen a city that rhymes over a city that has an especially vibrant lifestyle. I mean ‘life in Paris or Rome‘ might have been better choices, but they don’t rhyme with życie.

All in all, this expression is great PR for Madrid, and I wonder whether any Poles have taken a holiday in Madrid just because they anticipated a fantastic nightlife? Perhaps the expression was created by a Spanish marketing agency to build a positive image about the Spanish capital?

With that in mind, I can imagine a Polish tourist agency trying to do the same thing by creating a rhyming idiom about a town or city in Poland:

  • Get it on in Ustroń
  • Party hard in Nowy Targ
  • Oh-la-la Dukla
  • Live in up in Gołdap
  • If it’s in, it’s Ryn
  • You and I, Biłgoraj
  • Run amok in Sanok
  • The nights are long in Elbląg
  • Live a lot in Sopot
  • Woo-woo Łódź
  • Shake your bun in Wieluń
  • Make a Wish, Przasnysz

If ‘live it up in Gołdap‘ became a common expression in English, then the tourist industry in the town of Gołdap would clearly receive a significant boost. Or if ‘You and I, Biłgoraj‘ was included in the Cambridge dictionary, then perhaps Biłgoraj would become a honeymoon destination like Paris or Niagara Falls. Or if ‘Make a Wish, Przasnysz‘ went viral, then maybe the next Disney theme park would be built in Mazowsze.

Imagine that!

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