Myth: 30,000 new words have been added to Polish since 1945

From the most recent issue of the International Journal of Lexicography:

one can find highly interesting cases of the 'Eskimo hoax' type in accounts of the history of Polish vocabulary, the one most often found being the statement that there are 30,000 'new words' (and one million technical terms) in Polish that appeared after 1945. This claim is not based on adequate empirical data. Piotr Wierzchon discusses the hoax on pages 178-183 of the book under review [Depozytorium leksykalne jezyka polskiego. Nowe fotomaterialy z lat 1901-2010.]

Unfortunately I don't have access to the book being reviewed. Nor do I know Polish, so I couldn't read it even if I did. So that's all I can find out about this Polish vocabulary hoax. (Though it sounds more like an urban legend than a hoax.) Googling '30,000 new words in Polish since 1945' doesn't turn up anything helpful either.

However, a January 2013 article in The Independent notes that Polish is now the second most widely spoken language in England and Wales, after English itself. And that this Polish-English contact is having a large influence on the Polish language, especially Polish business speak, which is adopting numerous English terms:

Polish translator Anna Lycett, 25, from Leeds said that English office terminology is being adopted. "Mostly English is incorporated into Polish in business speak, so terminology used in the office would be English rather than Polish: for example you would go to a 'briefing' rather than use the Polish word for it," she told the Huffington Post.

She added: "Marketing is often referred to as 'marketing' and you would also say 'IT' rather than the 'technologia informacyjna' or 'TI' either. People tend to use these English words whether they fully understand what they mean in English or not. PR is also Polonised so it is pronounced like the English 'PR' but spelt in Polish to reflect the pronunciation 'piar'.

Based on this, I would imagine that it must be true that there have been many new words added to Polish since 1945. But apparently not 30,000 new words (and 1 million technical terms).


Posted on Tue Nov 05, 2013


Obviously, people will always have mixed feelings about immigration. The city I live in allegedly boasts the biggest Polish community outside Poland. I work with Polish people often. They're good folk, and have revitalized our local economy. It's nice to know we've had an impact on their language. A cultural cross-fertilization, as it were. I might try to learn a little Polish.
Posted by Pete Byrdie  on  Wed Nov 06, 2013  at  12:29 AM
Yeah, it always amuses me when an Englishman rails against immigrants. Ask a Pict what he thinks about that...
And the same thing is true here in the Netherlands, most of us came surfing down the Rhine at some point or other. Except my own ancestors, who probably came walking across the Eems from Nether Saxony.
Posted by Richard Bos  on  Thu Nov 07, 2013  at  05:39 AM
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