Ponglish!

No, this isnt a word referring to smells, but to a mix of English and Polish which the Daily Telegraph says has sprung up on the streets of London and is now gaining ground in Poland.

Just as French and English combined to form Franglais, the Polish have their own linguistic cocktail: Ponglish.

The slang takes in everything from taxes –­ taksy – to driving, whose Ponglish equivalent, drajwnic, seems unlikely until it is pronounced: driveneech.

Those Ponglish drivers, of course, are sure to take care around “kornerze” on the “strity” while in the “kara”.

After a hard day’s work, what better than a chat with some “frendy”? Read More.

This sort of linguistic mixing is perfectly normal, though it’s great fun for newspapers to pick up on when it’s a slow news day. Anyone living in a linguistically mixed situation will start to ‘code switch’ that is mix in words from other languages into their speech. After years of living in a French speaking culture, Sue and I still stick a lot of French into our English at times; we aren’t being pretentious, it’s just force of habit.

The Kouya are a minority people group surrounded by larger ethnic groups and with the national language, French, the only one taught in school. This means that the Kouya continually code switched, sticking Gouro, Dioula and especially French words left right and centre in Kouya sentances. One of the interesting by products of the Bible translation project was that the Kouya guys who worked with us found themselves code switching less. I wrote the following in my MTh dissertation:

During a village football match, one young Kouya man was commentating for the onlookers by loudspeaker. Afterwards a number of people complimented him on the purity of his Kouya being amazed that a young, educated man could speak the language without invoking lots of French words and phrases. The young man, Bita, replied that this was because he was working with us on translating the New Testament into Kouya and it had given him a much deeper grasp of his own language. The incarnate Gospel had enriched his appreciation of his own language and the effects were, somewhat unexpectedly, felt at a village football match.

Neither English nor Polish are threatend by mixing a few words here and there. But Kouya, which is a small language could be in danger if other language influences become too dominant. It is encouraging to see the way in which a Bible translation and literacy project are helping to preserve the language. Lamin Sanneh has written about this sort of thing in his excellent (if difficult to read) Translating the Message: Missionary Impact on Culture.

This post is more than a year old. It is quite possible that any links to other websites, pictures or media content will no longer be valid. Things change on the web and it is impossible for us to keep up to date with everything.

6 replies on “Ponglish!”

Eddie, isn’t there a difference between using multiple loan words and “code switching”? The latter, which I have witnessed sometimes between three languages, is when a whole conversation suddenly switches from one language to another, sometimes in mid-sentence but as a clear switch rather than a gradual change from one to the other. Sometimes the switch is back and forth every few sentences. English and Polish, like most pairs of languages which are not quite closely related, are distinct enough that the overall grammatical structure of a sentence must be in one language or the other, however many loan words there may be. Even when loan words completely drive out the original vocabulary, the underlying structure remains, and the result is a pidgin or creole. At least that is what I think I learned at the school you used to run!

My favourite load word story is this. An interviewer was talking to a German (probably politician) and a Conservative politician. The German said, “I think it’s a case of…., sorry I don’t know the English word for ‘schadenfreude'”.
The interviewer said, “We don’t have an English word for that, we just use schadenfreude”. Then he turned to the Conservative politician and said “Would you say it’s a case of schadenfreude?”. The politician replied, “no I wouldn’t, as that’s a German word”!
No loan words for him (apart from pretty much most of the “English” language).

By the way, your comments appear in reverse order.

I’ve got the comments set to appear with the latest comment first, is that a bad idea?

I’ve forgotten which socio-linguist I last read. Probably the one the Horsleys Green school recommended 15 years ago, before you no doubt reformed the syllabus.

No, you haven’t “got the comments set to appear with the latest comment first”. Did you change something, a good idea, or is the order variable or random?

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