The BEST Guide to POLAND
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jon357 65 | 13,627    
5 Apr 2014  #421
the English language which lacked a neutral word for people of black skin

The English language tends to avoid nouns to describe ethnicity - they certainly exist however their use (where they refer to skin colour) is less and less popular. It seems that this (whether you like it or not) is happening in Polish too.
gumishu 11 | 4,850    
5 Apr 2014  #422
this is the source of the problem - bad dictionary translations - with an intention to match word to word which does not always work

the person who put this translation in this dictionary is an idiot:

The English language tends to avoid nouns to describe ethnicity - they certainly exist however their use (where they refer to skin colour) is less and less popular. It seems that this (whether you like it or not) is happening in Polish too.

you are completely wrong - Poles will never say angielski instead of Anglik or Angielka - this is only in your imagination
Magdalena 3 | 1,837    
5 Apr 2014  #423
if in doubt, be polite.

The person in question WAS being polite. He was speaking HIS native language in its own historical and linguistic context, and using a perfectly appropriate word. How could he have known all the possible associations of the word as used in other countries? For the Polish speaker, a "mulat" is simply someone of mixed black and white parentage:

(as you can see, the Dictionary of Polish Language does not even list any slangy or derogatory meanings of this word, as it is too high-brow in Polish to have any).

Wiki says this on the subject:

A relevant quote:
"Contemporary usage of the term is generally confined to situations in which the term is considered relevant in a historical context, as now most people of mixed white and black ancestry rarely choose to self-identify as mulatto.[2]

The term is generally considered archaic by some and inadvertently derogatory, especially in the African-American community. The term is widely used in Latin America and Caribbean usually without suggesting any insult. Accepted modern terms in the United States include "multiracial", "mixed" and "biracial". (Highlighting mine).

1) A large part of the world (Latin America and the Caribbean) seem to have no issues with "Mulatto", from where this term was probably borrowed into Polish in the first place;

2) Polish people do not live in the United States, and do not speak English, but Polish;
3) For Polish speakers, terms such as "multiracial", "mixed", or "biracial" smack of Nazi terminology, with which we have had the occasion to acquaint ourselves in practice; I wonder whether English speakers ever think of this when they use words like that in Polish? In other words, are they in doubt and do they choose to be polite? I doubt it.
jon357 65 | 13,627    
5 Apr 2014  #424
The person in question WAS being polite

Something tells me he wasn't either young and a resident of the capital. He probably meant well.

Language does change - no matter how much that riles you.
Magdalena 3 | 1,837    
5 Apr 2014  #425
Funny thing is how it's always a foreigner's sensitivity against the normal language use of a native speaker here. Do you not believe Słownik Języka Polskiego? Also, being "older" or not a "resident of the capital" are not in any way markers of poor language skills. You are being both ageist and provincialist when you say that! ;-)

The meaning of the words Mulat and Murzyn have not changed; it is people like you who are desperately trying to change it as quickly as possible, because you are unable to look at some Polish words without seeing them through the tinted glasses of your Anglophone perception, if you will. Your understanding is skewed however much you try to convince native speakers that their understanding of these words is "wrong" and needs to be "rectified".

Well, I hate the way most Americans used the word "race" and "racial" all the time; I find terms such as "biracial" or "mixed-race" extremely offensive, and I think you should stop using them because they have been forever tainted by the Nazi Master Race theory:

I think my claim is quite legitimate and I will now start a campaign to change the way Americans use their language in their own country.
jon357 65 | 13,627    
5 Apr 2014  #426
That's one of the ways that languages evolve; by being exposed to external cultural influence. I doubt that many people would prefer isolation.
Magdalena 3 | 1,837    
5 Apr 2014  #427
external cultural influence

"External cultural influence" =/= "authoritatively telling native speakers how to use their language". That would be cultural imperialism, I'm afraid...
jon357 65 | 13,627    
5 Apr 2014  #428
Some cultures have more of a global influence than others, whether or not you like it. You can always advocate isolation.
Magdalena 3 | 1,837    
5 Apr 2014  #429
Some English speakers telling Polish speakers how to talk do not constitute "global influence". Sorry to burst your bubble there. As soon as Anglophone media finally stop saying "Polish concentration camps", I'll be willing to discuss linguistic progress and the positive aspects of external cultural influence with you.

BTW, this is not really a conversation I'm having here; while I quote dictionaries and other valid sources, and explain things, and present my case, and ask you questions, all you ever do is repeat like a parrot: "Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated".
jon357 65 | 13,627    
5 Apr 2014  #430
Great that you're so passionate, almost obsessive or compulsive about it, however your views do fly in the face of current linguistic thought.

Anyway, I notice that the media - doubtless because of pressure from Polish citizens for them to be politically correct on the matter - have started to avoid talking about 'Polish Concentration Camps'.

So you see language does evolve through external as well as internal changes. Thanks for proving my point.
Magdalena 3 | 1,837    
5 Apr 2014  #431
current linguistic thought.

Which is what? That you can force the language to change spontaneously? Bit of a contradiction there, don't you think?
I'm all for the spontaneous change part, mind you. Modern Polish is changing and developing in leaps and bounds right now, not always in the most desirable directions, but as long as it's the native speakers initiating it, you can't really do anything to stop it. The alleged "racism" of the word Murzyn is not one of those changes, though; it's a typical example of external, and largely unwanted, politically correct fiddling performed by non-native users. Of all the Polish people on this thread, did even one agree with your viewpoint? No.

have started to avoid talking about 'Polish Concentration Camps'.

What I've noticed is that they might dial it down for a bit, and then the term comes right back. "Polish Concentration Camps" is not a term that is politically incorrect; it is a term that is FACTUALLY incorrect, but seemingly PC. The controversy has been going on for years and years, and still hasn't been fully resolved as of 2014!

Thanks for proving my point.

I didn't prove it at all. See above.
jon357 65 | 13,627    
5 Apr 2014  #432
Hard to say whether you misunderstand accidentally or deliberately. As it happens you're coming across like someone who is totally OCD on the matter of language. Never good, since languages rarely behave the way you want them to.

Nobody - as you well know - can "force the language to change spontaneously". It happens without anyone "forcing". And as ever with language, it happens in a beautifully chaotic and disorganised way.
Magdalena 3 | 1,837    
5 Apr 2014  #433
Exactly. And it's NOT happening this way in the case of "Murzyn". You, and others, are trying to force it.

languages rarely behave the way you want them to.

Couldn't have put it better myself. And Polish in this case is not behaving the way YOU want it to.
gumishu 11 | 4,850    
5 Apr 2014  #434
all discussion with you John is useless - you don't know how to discuss fair - you employ an ad hominem tactics every time someone disagrees with you - good bye - duś się we własnym sosie
jon357 65 | 13,627    
5 Apr 2014  #435
I wonder if you can spot the obvious logical fallacy in your post.
Magdalena 3 | 1,837    
5 Apr 2014  #436
getting all worked up

No, I am not getting all worked up. I keep pointing out the unsound parts of your reasoning, and you keep telling me I have OCD. Our discussion so far can be summed up in this short exchange:

You: "Murzyn is a racist word. Nice, young, educated, polite, urban people in Poland are avoiding it". (You might be right to the extent that your friends / family, having learnt of your dislike for the word, tend to avoid using it around you).

Me: "The overwhelming majority of Polish native speakers have no issue with the word".

You: "They must be uneducated, senile hicks. They should not use it because I say so".

Me: "But they are native speakers and you aren't. You can't tell them what to do."

You: "Language change is inevitable! I know best!"

Me: "You can't force the language to change".

You: "Are you silly? It's all beautifully spontaneous!"

Me: "No, it's not. You're trying to force a change."

You: "You must have OCD. You're obsessing. And "Murzyn" is a racist word".

gumishu 11 | 4,850    
5 Apr 2014  #437
Magdalena thank you for you brilliance and patience

btw John you are doing the PC a great disfavour in Poland - unwittngly for the most part
jon357 65 | 13,627    
5 Apr 2014  #438
Very interesting Magdalena, but none of those quotes are actually mine. Every single one of them is your own words and your own, somewhat obsessive, take on the situation.
Magdalena 3 | 1,837    
5 Apr 2014  #439
none of those quotes are actually mine

Of course they're not. Can't you take a little dose of licentia poetica? Apart from the fact that I can't be bothered to rummage around cutting and pasting bits of your posts ;-) Nevertheless, the summary is quite accurate IMO ;-)
bluesfan - | 85    
5 Apr 2014  #440
Oh for goodness sake guys. I can see this arguement will never end.
I've never known that word to be used in a racist context. (I don't think such a word is racist in itself).
I'm not quite sure why some non-native speakers are desperate to convince the forum that that word is racist, it seems a little bit strange.

If anyone new to forum is reading this, then listen to the native-speakers of Polish. ;)
The foreigners have got this one wrong (but are too stubborn and too egocentric to ever admit it) ;)
Magdalena 3 | 1,837    
5 Apr 2014  #441
I can see this arguement will never end.

It will, on my part - I just washed my hair and will need to style it. ;-)
Lenka 2 | 1,067    
5 Apr 2014  #442
To me it all goes to one- foreigners (not all off them) cannot be a.... to ask Poles or use dictionaries. And cannot be bothered to aclimatize in our culture instead telling us what we can and cannot do.

Look at Pam's post (no insult or personal attack intended, I hope you know that Pam, just an example):
She was talking to a Pole, in POLISH. Yet after the word mulat was said she didn't ask him about the meaning of the word in Polish. She didn't even said: Listen, I'm not sure about the connotations in Polish but here it's considered a rude word. She said she doesn't want to hear the word again.

Oh for goodness sake guys. I can see this arguement will never end.

I try and try but seem unable to stay away :P
jon357 65 | 13,627    
5 Apr 2014  #443
Of course they're not. Can't you take a little dose of licentia poetica

I suspect you mean poetic licence - any other term in English sounds pretentious and as a learner of English, that might be worth remembering.

Your poetic licence doesn't change the fact that when using words (especially racial epithets) we should take great care not to offend. Unless of course that is our intention.

And it's just the same in Polish as in any other language.
gumishu 11 | 4,850    
5 Apr 2014  #444
Many people with it lead normal lives

but they cannot be trusted, yes?? especially when they say that the word murzyn is not racist
Malopolanin 3 | 136    
5 Apr 2014  #445
It's racist to impose foreign language standards on Poland and polish language, because that way racist westerner puts himself above polish people.
jon357 65 | 13,627    
5 Apr 2014  #446
it happens anyway. Nobody, whether Polish or anything else can "impose standards" on a language. Many have tried over the years (the Academie Francaise is a good example) and all have failed.
5 Apr 2014  #447
Look at Pam's post

Problem was Lenka, at that time I'd only just started learning the language and I wouldn't have been able to ask him if the word was considered to be racist in Poland.

If that had happened recently it would have been a different story. I was just concentrating on making him understand that the word wasn't acceptable when applied to my stepdaughter.
McDouche 6 | 286    
6 Apr 2014  #448
You don't need to be from UK/US to understand English just as you don't need to be from Poland to understand Polish. The issue with the words are as much political as linguistic.

I should not have said you need to be American to understand how powerful the N word is but it's not about understanding English. Growing up in America, you would have a better sense of how offensive the word is. The power of the N word has everything to do with historical, political, and cultural issues.

A Briton once asked me why in America we don't view the word "cracker" as offensive as the N word. He thought it was a double standard when in fact it wasn't. White people were not subjected to slavery and other forms of oppression based on their race while being called crackers.

When people try to say that "murzyn" is anywhere near as bad as the N word, it's clear they need to get off the computer and stop getting involved in things they have no idea about. I'm not saying the word "murzyn" is not offensive or racist, but it's not on the caliber of the N word.

If you were to say that "murzyn" is just as bad to a black American living in Poland, he would knock your teeth out. I guarantee it.

The word "murzyn" is not racist and just because some foreigners living in Poland think otherwise it means they need to put some more effort into learning the local language

I think it depends on the context. The word can definitely come off as being racist depending on how it's used.
6 Apr 2014  #449
(especially racial epithets)

Such as white, black, red, yellow? OCD?
As far as I know the word "Murzyn" should be translated as an African if one care enough to consider its origins rather than talk crap.
jon357 65 | 13,627    
6 Apr 2014  #450
What makes you think the 'origins' of a word define its use?

Home / Language / IS "MURZYN" word RACIST?
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