Poglish, Polglish or Ponglish (in Polish, often rendered "Poglisz"), a portmanteau word combining the words "Polish" and "English," designates the product of mixing Polish- and English-language elements (morphemes, words, grammatical structures, syntactic elements, idioms, etc.) within a single speech production, or the use of "false friends" and of cognate words in senses that have diverged from those of the common etymological root.

Such combining or confusion of Polish and English elements, when it occurs within a single word, term or phrase (e.g., in a hybrid word), may, inadvertently or deliberately, produce a neologism.

Poglish is a common (to greater or lesser degree, almost unavoidable) phenomenon among persons bilingual in Polish and English, and its avoidance requires considerable effort and attention. Poglish is a manifestation of a broader phenomenon, that of language interference.

As is the case with the mixing of other language pairs, the results of Poglish speech (oral or written) may sometimes be confusing, amusing or embarrassing.

Variant names for this linguistic melange include "Polglish", "Pinglish" and "Ponglish". A term sometimes used by native Polish-speakers is "Half na pół" ("Half-and-half").


One of the two chief approaches to translation, "metaphrase" — also referred to as "formal equivalence," "literal translation," or "word-for-word translation" — must be used with great care especially in relation to idioms.[1] Madeleine Masson, in her biography of the Polish World War II S.O.E. agent Krystyna Skarbek, quotes her as speaking of "lying on the sun" and astutely surmises that this is "possibly a direct translation from the Polish."[2] Indeed, the Polish idiom "leżeć na słońcu" ("to lie on the sun", that is, sunbathe) is, if anything, only marginally less absurd than its English equivalent, "to lie in the sun."[3]

"False friends"

Some erroneous lexemic substitutions made by Polonia – members of the Polish diaspora living outside Poland – are attributable not to mis-metaphrase but to confusion of similar-appearing words (false cognates and "false friends") which otherwise do not share, respectively, a common etymology or a common meaning. Thus some Poles living in Anglophone countries, when speaking of "cashing a check," will erroneously say "kasować czek" ("to cancel a check") rather than the correct "realizować czek" ("to cash a check").

Latin calques

In fact, a remarkably high proportion of Polish terms do have precise metaphrastic equivalents in English, traceable to the fact that both these Indo-European languages have been calqued since the Middle Ages on the same Latin roots.

"Chicago Polish"

Some Chicago Polonia (Polonia is the Polish term for members of an expatriate Polish community) speak Poglish on a daily basis, especially those who have lived there a long time. The most common phenomenon is the Polonization of English words. Instead of saying (in English), "A cop gave me a ticket on the highway," or (in standard Polish), "Policjant dał mi mandat na autostradzie," a Polonian might say (in Poglish), "Kap dał mi tiketa na hajłeju." A Polonian attempting to speak this kind of Polish-English melange in Poland would have difficulty making himself understood.

In popular culture

Anthony Burgess' novel, A Clockwork Orange, has been translated in Poland by Robert Stiller into two versions: one rendered from the book's original English-Russian melange into a Polish-Russian melange as Mechaniczna pomarańcza, wersja R (A Mechanical Orange, version R); the other, into a Polish-English melange as Nakręcana pomarańcza, wersja A ["A" standing for the Polish word for "English"] (A Wind-Up Orange, version A). The latter, Polish-English version makes a fairly convincing Poglish text.

BBC Look North (East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire) Television produced a report on Poglish in Boston, Lincolnshire, which has a large Polish population. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/7500077.stm

See also


  1. ^ Christopher Kasparek, "The Translator's Endless Toil," The Polish Review, vol. XXVIII, no. 2, 1983, p. 87.
  2. ^ Madeleine Masson, Christine: a Search for Christine Granville..., London, Hamish Hamilton, 1975, p. 182.
  3. ^ Christopher Kasparek, "Krystyna Skarbek...," The Polish Review, vol. XLIX, no. 3, 2004, p. 950.


  • Christopher Kasparek, "The Translator's Endless Toil," The Polish Review, vol. XXVIII, no. 2, 1983, pp. 83-87.
  • Madeleine Masson, Christine: a Search for Christine Granville, G.M., O.B.E., Croix de Guerre, with a Foreword by Francis Cammaerts, D.S.O., Légion d'Honneur, Croix de Guerre, U.S. Medal of Freedom, London, Hamish Hamilton, 1975.
  • Christopher Kasparek, "Krystyna Skarbek: Re-viewing Britain's Legendary Polish Agent," The Polish Review, vol. XLIX, no. 3, 2004, pp. 945-53.

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