Photo: Marti

1. Masakra, tragedia

Yes, these words mean what you think they mean: massacre and tragedy. But they’re applied to totally different situations. For example, my husband and I went to Cracow once, and we wanted to take the last train to Warsaw, but the lady selling our tickets was rather slow. When she finally managed to print out our passes, she said, “Okay, now hurry up or there will be a tragedia.” This one’s similar to the Croatian word, katastrofa.

2. Bo tak

My favourite word to stop being questioned by my kids all day long: “Why do I have to do this?” Bo tak. “Why is the world round?” Bo tak. It’s the Polish equivalent of “because I said so.” Or simply “because yes” or “because so” — that’s what bo tak literally means.

3. No ba

No ba is used similarly to the English word “indeed”, even if it is way more colloquial. By itself, ba can mean “duh”, as in when someone states the obvious.

Example:
“So, did you win all that money?” “No ba!”

4. No

This little word has so many meanings. Just remember that the “o” is pronounced like in the English word “port”. Depending on the context, this word can mean yes (wanna go to the cinema? Noooo!), be used to issue a warning (no, no, no, most effective when accompanied by a waggling finger), to show sign of agreement (This film was so cool, right? Nooo!), stalling (so what do you think about this problem? No… I think it’s complicated) and many more.

5. No co ty!

This means “don’t exaggerate”.

Example:

“I am sick, I need to go to the doctor.”
No co ty, it’s just a headache.”

It’s also used to mean “Are you insane?”

Example:

“I asked her to marry me.
No co ty!”

6. Jak nie jak tak!

Literally, “how not when yes”, this one’s used to offer encouragement: “Of course you will do this. How can you not do this, when you’re totally capable?”

I was telling myself this multiple times while writing this article.

7. Spoko, wporzo

Abbreviations of spokojnie (calmly) and w porządku (okay), they’re used in a similar way — meaning cool, all right, okay, and the like. They’re also sometimes used in the context of “not so bad”.

Example:

How was your exam? Spoko.

8. No nie!

I don’t know how many times I use this to talk to my kids: “No nie, you made a mess again!” This one’s similar to “Oh no”. It can also be used in expressions like “No nie mów” (You don’t say) or no nie wiem (I don’t know).

9. Won! Precz! Spadaj!

These words have the same meaning, which goes along the lines of “please kindly remove yourself from this place”, but put less nicely. I really want to say this to some trolls who, without a doubt, will show up on my articles on Matador Network (including this one).

10. Ojej/Ojejku

Another handy word, this one allows you to express various emotional states, from admiration to panic, surprise to helplessness. For example, when your friend tells you some unexpected happy news, you can react with a loud “Ojej!” If you come back home to find that your laptop got stolen, shake your head and say ojej (it should be pronounced like ‘oyey’). And sometimes, it’s the only appropriate response to my kids wrecking chaos on the house.

P.S. If you point out to me that I didn’t include the most concise of Polish words, also known as the Polish K-word, let me tell you that it’s because I don’t swear.

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