In recent years English swear-words appear to have become mainstream in Polish society. Are words like ‘shit’ and ‘fuck’ now perfectly acceptable here?
Before I continue, I’d like to add I’m not some manic traditionalist who is offended by swearing (hence the lack of censorship above). However what I do find interesting are situations where English swearing is tolerated while were Polish swear-words are arguably not.
For example, last winter I saw one or two people wearing hats with “Fuck Winter” emblazoned on them. Although I echo their sentiments and find the hats humurous, it is worth pondering whether people would be equally at ease with a hat that says ‘Jebać Zimę’.
Presumably most people would not, as there would be plenty of others ready to take issue with the ‘foul language’. You would assume that few people would appreciate the negative attention they could get from such a hat.
However when the same ‘offensive’ slogan is in English, it generally goes unnoticed. Older conservatives with poor understanding of English simply don’t understand, so won’t complain. At the same time, Poles that do recognise the swear-word simply don’t ‘feel it’ in the same way as a native English speaker does.
Having asked many Polish people about this phenomenon, it seems that the gravity of English swear-words just don’t compare to the ones they use in their own mother-tongue.
Perhaps this is why there are numerous shops offering t-shirts and other clothing with English curse-words at the forefront.
Of course, you could argue that a few edgy clothing lines worn by a minority of young people hardly represents the Polish mainstream. There are a number of other examples I have nonetheless come across.
For instance, let’s take a look at this menu from a restaurant that until recently had been operating on Wrocław Rynek. The fourth option down is the ‘#fuckingburger’.
Perhaps the restaurant (which was also a multi-tap) was trying to be edgy and cool with the title. This is perfectly understandable.
However let’s not forget that many tourists, including families, would have dined there. I can imagine parents being shocked if one of their young children had asked “Can I have the fucking burger please?”. Would the same venue have considered a name like ‘Kurwa Burger’? I doubt it.
Another example I spotted recently was an advert for a student union that is currently hung on a fence by the Economics University.
I must say I did not expect such an institution to use the slogan “You can’t do epic shit with basic people”. Again, it’s worth pondering whether the equivalent slogan in Polish would have been acceptable.
That said, even after looking at all these examples, you could say that these ads are all aimed at a young, edgy audience.
This is not exclusively the case though. Take for example the now iconic, ‘cute and cuddly’ Allegro commercial – the one featuring the granddad learning English to speak to his granddaughter in England. The advert appeals to people of many ages, but contains a scene in which the man recites a sweary line from a classic Robert De Niro film. The ad was broadcasted on national tv at hours well before the watershed.
Given all these examples, it does appear that English-swear words have become perfectly acceptable in Poland. Will the trend continue and become even more widespread? It will be interesting to observe if we see even more advertisers ’embracing’ this phenomenon.