14 December 2010

Polish Grandfather: Dziadek, Dziadziu, Dzidzi, Jaja, Dziadzi, etc.

Polish can be confusing sometimes.  It seems there are 15 different ways to say one word.  Well, actually, not really.  I'm going to discuss certain words in the Polish language which seem to fall in that "15 different ways to not say it" catagory. 

Today, I want to focus on the word for Grandfather in the Polish language.  The way to say Grandfather is "Dziadek" (pronounced gah-Dek, with the "dz" sounding like the "g" in "genes").  That is how every Pole in Poland says it.  Every single one of them.

That is not to say that the word "Dziadziu" (pronounced gah-Goo, with the "dz" sounding like the "g" in "genes") is incorrect.  It is merely an endearing way to say it to your Grandfather, if you are close to him and speaking to him directly.  You can also say "Dziadzius" (pronounced gah-Goosh) to your Grandfather.  If asking a question of your Grandfather, you can say "Dziadziusu" (pronounced gah-GOO-shoo). 

"Dziadek", in the meantime, is always used when speaking about a Grandfather.  But for all intends and purposes, because it is actually and very subtly more complicated than that, if you don't know the different subtleties between all of them, you should just stick with "Dziadek".

So, why all the other versions?  And, why in the Polish language, are they not all correct?  Well, each one has a different reason, but in the end, first I want to sincerely applaud you for speaking Polish, any Polish. 

Dzidzi (pronounced "gee-gee") actually is a way of saying baby or Mali Dziedzko (pronounced mah-Wih ged-SKoh, again with the "dz" sounding like the "g" in "genes"), and is used when you are cuddling your baby and speaking to them.  Probably, this was a mispronounciation that has carried in a family for a few generations, morphing with age.

Dziadzi (pronounced "gah-Gee"), in fact, may be where Dzidzi (when used for Grandfather) may have morphed from.  It is believed that this is an old way of saying "Dziadek" from a particular region, most definitely pre World War era.  If your family uses this version to say "Grandfather", I am sure your Polish ancestors came over prior to WWII.

Jaja, I have no idea, and nor does any other Pole that I know.  In fact, there is an old Polish phrase, "Ale Jaja!" which means "That's crazy!" and it is very rude.  The only thing I and other Poles can come up with regarding the word "Jaja" is that "Jajka" (pronounced yahee-Kah) means Eggs, and "Jaja" does as well, but it is a very rude word (and is used as slang for Men's testicles), so it is not used.  I suspect it is because little babies might call their grandfather "Dziadzia" until they learn Dziadek.  And maybe in some families the child said "Dziadzia", left Poland young and grew up not being corrected because they were not around other fluent Polish speakers, and thus, over time it slurred into "Jaja".

The only other word that sounds the same is "Ya Ya", which is the familiar version of "Grandmother" in Greek. 
So, to recap.
  • To say "Grandfather" in Polish, you say "Dziadek" (pronounced gah-Dek, with the "dz" pronounced like the "g" in "genes")
  • If you are not completely familiar with the exact way to use "Dziadzus", "Dziadzusiu" or "Dziadziu", it is better to just say "Dziadek"
  • The "dz" sound in Polish is always like the "g" in "genes"
  • Other ways of saying "Grandfather" either mean a rude word, a Greek Grandmother, or are from centuries ago, perhaps even from other countries, so are not used.

You might also be interested in the following posts:

http://polishmamaontheprairie.blogspot.com/2010/12/polish-grandmother-babcia-busia-buzia.html I discuss the Polish word for Grandmother and the other versions used.

I offer a traditional recipe, and at the end I briefly explain the usage of "Busia" in the name of the recipe.


Anonymous said...

the g in genes is a bad example to tell people how to pronounce it. it makes them think it;s Ga Goo. like lady ga-ga like get over the gate. like

instead you should edit this post and tell people that dz sounds like J as in Jeep.

Anonymous said...

It's not precise to say that 'jaja' is not used as a word as it's very rude.
It really does mean 'eggs' and the version 'jajka' derivates from 'jaja' and produces a diminutive.
'Jaja' is normally used to call the eggs you buy at the grocery, as well as those that are laid by birds and reptiles.
Its rude and obsce significate is not to be confused with the original meaning.
The situation is the same with the word 'bitch' - you still call a dog female 'bitch', even if it's offensive if used to speak about a lady.

K Kowal said...

Yes... I have to agree. Too many people still might say the G as it is in game, go. It is best to describe it with J. JaJu. I really miss my Dziadziu, and Babci.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post. I grew up calling my Polish grandfather Dziadziu, because that is what we were told to call him. As we got older, he began to request that we start calling him Dziadek, but it was so hart to remember!
I think that you did a fine job to compare to the g in genes since it is the same pronunciation as the J in Jeep.

Barbara said...

Your post was interesting,
but it would be much better
with "małe dziecko" instead of "mali dziedzko".

Greetings: Barbara