Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Misiu by any other name…

…would be just as cuddly, wouldn't he? This is not going to be a post about my Misiu, but rather about the word misiu and other terms of endearment. If you are Polish, you already know that my husband’s given name can’t possibly be Misiu. If you are American, you might be surprised to find out that in Poland you cannot just name your child 09292009whatever you want. The name you choose has to be an actual name, not something you just made up, not a city, state or country, and definitely not anything embarrassing, offensive or vulgar. That’s why you’ll find 5 Agnieszka’s in one class and not any Misiu’s. Why? Because Misiu is not a name. It means teddy bear. It comes from the word bear- miś -and can also appear as misiaczek , the diminutive of miś, which means little bear.

Perhaps it is good that you cannot name your child whatever you want in Poland. This regulation means that no kids have to defend themselves from attacks of other kids about their stupid name. However, stupid is subjective and what is one person’s idea of a beautiful name can be another person’s idea of sheer stupidity. If you are Polish and your name is Esmeralda, then you know what I am talking about. (Leticia Calderon as Esmeralda, pictured below) I think givLeticia Calderon Esmeraldaing your Polish child an English name (or foreign name) is ok but then please go all the way and spell it in English not in Polish, for example- Brajan Nowak, Majkel Kowalski. I understand that the parents have chosen that spelling in order to ensure that it will be pronounced as they want. Brajan is the Polish phonetic spelling of Brian.

I have found that many Polish people make assumptions about children with foreign names (especially foreign names spelled po polsku) and those assumptions are usually negative. That’s one reason my kids have traditional Polish names. Lizzie and Rosie are just their nicknames. We thought long and hard about naming our children. We had a short list for both boys and girls and we tested them out on my parents and on my parents-in-law. We decided to choose traditional Polish names because now we live in Poland and also because in the US it is more acceptable to have an unusual name. We threw out names such as Katarzyna-too difficult to spell in the US, Agnieszka-extremely popular in Poland, a nice name in Polish but the English equivalent Agnes isn’t as nice in our opinion, Magda is quite universal, the same spelling in both languages but the English pronunciation is not as nice as the Polish pronunciation. We also decided against the name Daria, supposing that our daughter could have the unfortunate nickname of diarrhea her whole life. Obvious choices for boys were Adam or Robert which are the same in Polish and in English. We also liked Aleksander and Maksym. We thought a son could have a nice nickname of Alex or Max. We decided that names like Zdzisław or Zbigniew were definitely out as they are practically unpronounceable for typical English-speaking people. In the end, we didn’t have to choose from the boys short list.

I remember the first day of one of my university classes. Our professor asked us to go around the room, introduce ourselves and tell something interesting about ourselves. I was 18 years old and there wasn’t anything really interesting about me at that time and I don’t remember what I said. What I do remember is that one of my classmates introduction went like this: Hi. My name is Sunshine and yes, my parents are hippies. Sunshine is a really unusual name. I’ve met a Sunny or two over the years but only one Sunshine. However unusual the nam09292009(009)e was, the girl was quite ordinary and after a week or two I totally forgot that her name was unusual and called her Sunshine without a smile on my face. I heard that in Poland there is a man named Solidariusz (a combination of the name Dariusz and the word Solidarity) in honor of the Solidarity movement. I wonder how he feels about his unusual name. I’d similarly like to ask all those Anna’s and Agnieszka’s of Poland how they feel being the next Anna or the next Agnieszka in the group.

In America, my life as a teacher was a hard one. My students had names which originated only in the minds of their parents or on the pages of hot new baby name books. There were no Mary’s, no Robert’s, no John’s only Alexia, Alicia, Alisha, Aleesha, Lexi, LaToya, LaToyer, and so on. I really am all for freedom to name your child what you want and while these names were troublesome for me the teacher, they we actually no big deal. It’s not like the family I read about who named their poor little child Adolph Hilter and caused a big stink when the local bakery would not write Happy Birthday Hitler on the kid’s birthday cake. (Yes, ‘cause we are free like that in the great US of A.) And one more thing, why do all of those F-ed up people have to come from Pennsylvania?

Do I know how to digress or what? I wanted to write about terms of endearment and I ended up on a kid named Hitler. (not any relation to a boy named Sue – that’s for the Jonny Cash fans) What are some Polish terms of endearment? My personal favorite is misiu. I find that is more often used by women for their men and also for kids. If you want to get the attention of a lot of men, I recommend saying Miiisiiuuu (meeeeshoooo) in a crowded IKEA on a Saturday afternoon. I guarantee every guy within earshot will turn their attention to you. I had a male acquaintance from New Zealand who took great offense when one of his students called him misiu. He exclaimed, “What? I’m not fat!” There is the suggestion that when using the term misiu, the recipient should be a little misiowaty, I mean kind of soft and squishy and huggable like a teddy bear. My Misiu fits the bill but I would qualify him as a pół-misiu, a half teddy. He’s not as squishy as he could be.

I also like that you can easily make the diminutive even of people’s given names. The diminutive is sometimes longer than the original but sounds sweet and little. Anna changes to Ania or Anka. Katarzyna changes to Kaśka. Zbigniew changes to Zbyszek. Marek changes to Mareczek. Hitler changes to Hitlerek which is Rosie’s current nickname. She’s a real tyrant. Lizzie’s current nickname is monsterek, our version of potworek or little monster.

Here are some more popular terms of endearment:

kochanie –love, sweetheart

żabka – froggy

słoneczko – sunshine

kotek, kicia, kiciuś – kitten

myszka – little mouse

kwiatuszek – little flower

ślicznotka – my pretty

żoneczka – wifey

mężulek – little husband, hubby - This one will also get all the guys at IKEA to give you a look. They will give a sad look at your whipped husband as well.

So I have shared with you my nickname for my husband which is misiu. Are you wondering what his nickname for me is? He can’t make up his mind but his top 3 names for me are:

mordka/mordziak - little mug, not coffee mug but mug-shot mug

gruba - fatty, which I am not

stara - the old lady, which I definitely am not

Romantic, isn’t he?

What are your favorite terms of endearment?

11 comments:

donna said...

We used to call each other "ryba", that is "fish" in English. Just plain fish, no diminutives :-). "Stara" (the old one) is my favourite term of endearment as far as my best (girl) friend is concerned. I call my youngest child (daughter) "żaba" - don't ask me why ...

PS. I was sure your children's names are REALLY Lizzie and Rosie. You got me on that one :-).

Ewa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ewa said...

I really, really love how my grandmother calls her daughters "lalka", or "laleczka". I think it's so sweet and old- fashioned.
My mum often calls me"skarbeczku", which I like a lot.
"Zaba" is so cute ( and strange at the same time, where did that come from?). My older cousin used to call me that when I was little.

Chris said...

Donna and Ewa- What do you think about Panienka? I have been called that on 2 occassions and I still don't know what to think.

Ania said...

I just wanted to weigh in on the Anna thing. I'm actually 100% Polish (my mom sent me a link to your blog!) and I grew up in the US. I've never been one of many Anna's in the US but in Poland, I was one of a thousand Anias. That's why my parents started called me Andzia. So even though there's a ton, Polish does give those of us with common names a ton of chances to change it up.

PS. They also had the same debate you had when choosing my name only they were in the US. They went with Anna because it's so easy to switch between.

Chris said...

So where are you living now? Anna is a very elegant name especially in English maybe because it is traditional and simple in the era of made-up names in the US. Well, in Polish it is the same traditional and simple but just very, very popular.

My girls have a first name and middle name that can function in both languages and are more grown up than their nicknames, as well. I wanted to give them some choices for the future. I hope that they appreciate it because I cannot imagine a President Lizzie or a President Rosie.

Anonymous said...

I really liked the article, and the very cool blog

Christine said...

I knew a sunshine, too :)

Chris said...

Were her parents hippies? :)

Ag said...

Hello, Agnieszka here! It is true that since primary school there always have been some other Agnieszkas around me and there were even 4 of us in the same close neightbourgood but there are very few little Agnieszkas now, so unfortunately it's one of those names that live one generation. My friends shorten it to "Ag" instead of most popular version "Aga".

P.S. I love your mixing Polish words into text written in English, the phrase "should be a little misiowaty" made me giggle :).

Chris said...

Thanks Ag for the compliment. We mix languages so much in our family, it's like we have created a new family language only we can understand. I see that the names I have chosen for my girls are becoming popular, but as with Agnieszka they'll reach their peak soon and return again another day.

Thanks for visiting Kielbasa Stories:)