transliterating Polish proper nouns, ie. personal names
Thread poster: SilentQ
Mar 12, 2013

I have a couple of questions relating to transliterating Polish proper nouns, ie. personal names.


First, I notice that some names spelled with 'K' in Polish but whose foreign equivalents are spelled with 'C' are used by Poles. For example, I have met a few Casimirs. Is this common in Poland? Does it confuse people, ie. do some try to pronounce it as /tsazimir/? Or is this only used by people named Kazimierz in foreign environments?

And are there other names where this happens? I have seen 'Jakub' spelled as 'Jacub', but I haven't run into any others where the 'c' is pronounced as 'k' in a Polish spelling. I just wondered if it was common with other names.


Next, in the US we sometimes see Polish names get converted into Anglicized spellings, especially for immigrants who came to the country generations ago. For example, KOWALCZYK might change its spelling to KOVALCHYK (W --> V, CZ --> CH). Or maybe the CZ will get changed to CH in spelling but the W will remain and come to be pronounced like an English 'W'.


In some cases, a revised spelling really is necessary in order to make it possible for non-Poles to pronounce a name. For example, KRZYSZTOF or PRZIBLISKI. Is there a common way of re-spelling RZ in foreign contexts to make it easier for foreigners to pronounce? Maybe just as 'R' or maybe as 'ZH'?


Thanks in advance for your responses.

David


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M.A.B.
Netherlands
Local time: 06:23
English to Polish
+ ...
No transliterating Mar 13, 2013

Basically you do not transliterate Polish names as they are in Latin alphabet - perhaps with the exception of Polish diacritics that you may want to remove to avoid confusion (for instance "ł" is commonly mistaken for "t").

A different story is when Poles want to get their names _pronounced_ correctly - then perhaps you can adopt them in a proper way. But certainly you don't do that for other purposes than very unofficial. Your name is what you have in your passport. This is not Cyrillic or some other non-Latin alphabet that you need to transliterate.

Many Polish first names do have English equivalents and then a Pole may perhaps prefer to use the English version (e.g. Nicolas instead of Mikołaj or Jacob instead of Jakub). However the English-speaking people don't do the other way round when they come to Poland, so why should we when abroad?

I hope I understood your point.

PS. There are perhaps some more complicated names than what you mention - e.g. Grzegorz Brzęczyszczykiewicz from the famous movie


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Ewa Dabrowska  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:23
English to Polish
+ ...
transliteration is the matter perception Mar 13, 2013

"Is this common in Poland? Does it confuse people, ie. do some try to pronounce it as /tsazimir/? Or is this only used by people named Kazimierz in foreign environments?

The Polish spelling is very regular and there is little flexibility here (unlike in English, people spell their names in any way they like). I'm not sure what you mean asking whether it's common in Poland as noone would use "Casimir" neither in writing or in pronunciation. Although you call it transliteration, well, it's kind of not the same as our pronunciation of "Kazimierz" (when I saw "Casimir" I had doubts if you are asking about the correct language - I've not seen it in the UK).
In Polish letter "c" referes to a different sound (sort of /tz/) and is never used to as /k/ sound (unless in foregin words) so there is no confusion. If people change letters it is for ease of pronunciation for others - I'm a case in point as I now spell my name as Eva rather than Ewa as English people kept mispronuncing it. But I don't change the "w" into "v" in my surname as I feel it would be taking it too far.

I don't know about any rules about transliterating/simplyfying the names. It is the matter of perception so speakers of English (or other languages) hear those names filtered through perception of their own sounds. So, as you don't have /c/ sound you will probably hear it as something like /tz/. In Krzysztof, as you've noticed, people would drop letters "z" and it becomes easier.
It is very much up to individuals whether they want to simplify their names and to what degree. You can have a "working" name used by your friends and colleagues (and you can use arbitrary spelling) and you can use your original name in formal documents (not transliterating).


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Andrzej Mierzejewski  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 06:23
Polish to English
+ ...
Kazimierz - Casimir Mar 13, 2013

David,

For pronunciation of Casimir please go to http://pl.forvo.com/search/casimir/.

You will find three examples, all of them spoken by (to my ear) French nationals.
In all cases there is "k" in the beginning: [kasimir, kazimir], which I can only confirm. Example: Casimir Pulaski (Battle of Savannah). I've never heard this surname pronunced [sasimir] or [sazimir].

You'll find examples of correct pronunciation for Kazimierz on http://pl.forvo.com/search/kazimierz/.

A dozen or two of Polish surnames beginning with "C" exist, e.g. Celina and Cecylia for women, Cezary and Czesław for men to name just a few. Polish pronunciation is never with "k', which you may check up on the same site.

By the way I can not imagine Czesław transliterated to English, a complete change of surname is more probable.


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PAS  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:23
English to Polish
+ ...
Transliteration Mar 13, 2013

You haven't really told us the reasons for your question. If translating documents, I hope it's obvious you don't touch a thing. But then, if writing literary text, I also really see no reason for transliteration.
As someone here mentioned - why is it OK to write "Gabriel Fauré" (instead of e.g. "Fauray"), but not "Kazimierz"?


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SilentQ
TOPIC STARTER
transliterating Polish proper nouns, ie. personal names Mar 13, 2013

In answer to PAS's question about my reasons for asking these questions, I am conducting an informal study of how these issues are typically handled. I'm not actually going to be transliterating/re-formatting any names myself. I just want to know how Poles typically do it when they live abroad or visit foreign countries. (My interest actually extends beyond Polish to other languages using Roman script but with added characters which often aren't available due to an English or other-language keyboard or for whatever reasons. There are varied and interesting ways different people have of dealing with this issue. And this includes also Arabs who, when writing phonetically in Roman script, add numeric characters to represent certain sounds not easy to represent in Roman script otherwise.)

'Eva Dabrowska' is a perfect example of the type of information I am looking for. Eva: If your name were Katarzyna, would you be more likely to drop the 'Z' (--> Kataryna) or simply use an English spelling like Katherine? The problem I see with dropping the 'Z' is that the resulting pronunciation will be 'R' instead of 'ZH'. But maybe that isn't viewed as such a bad thing if it contributes to making the name more recognizable to non-Poles who have their own versions of the name, wf. Katherine, Catherine, Katrina.

Incidentally, I've also read that there is a convention to use a tilde (~) in contexts where accents aren't available, eg. 'Jo~zef' for Józef, 'Bl~az*ej' for Błażej. Although I should stress that I realize that this is probably not used specifically for names but rather for prose in general, although I assume it would apply to any names which came up in the prose.

As for Casimir, I suppose what happens is that Poles adopt that spelling in foreign contexts just as Eva describes in her post. (Did you consider using 'Eve' in the UK, Ewa?) From the responses I've seen, it would seem that no Pole would use that name inside Poland. Thanks for that info.

M.A.B: How would you re-format the name 'Grzegorz Brzęczyszczykiewicz' to make it easier to pronounce in a foreign environment? Or would you object to changing the spelling for this purpose? Other opinions on this?

Thanks again for your useful responses,

David


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PAS  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:23
English to Polish
+ ...
Kataryna Mar 13, 2013

means "barrel organ", just so you know, so I don't think she'd want a transliteration like that
My mother insists on keeping the original spelling of her name in Canada - Ewa. What;s more, she insists on keeping the feminine form of her last name (ending in SKA, as opposed to my father ending in SKI), which sometimes leads to humorous situations. But they both drop the sole Polish diacritic in the name.

I think that people who want to assimilate quickly will go to greater lengths to make their names user friendly to locals.


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Crannmer
Local time: 06:23
German to Polish
+ ...
Grzegorz Brzęczyszczykiewicz Mar 13, 2013

SilentQ wrote:
How would you re-format the name 'Grzegorz Brzęczyszczykiewicz' to make it easier to pronounce in a foreign environment?

Forget it :->
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ftrqO-jkMpE


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Barbara Gadomska  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:23
English to Polish
+ ...
Brzezinski Mar 13, 2013

When in office, Zbigniew Brzeziński (President Carter's National Security Adviser) was asked several times to change his name and surname into something more palatable to Americans, and he always flatly refused. He only agreed to drop the diacritic in his surname. But they shortened him to Zbig anyway. (At least this is what I read in his biography.)

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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:23
Russian to English
+ ...
You don't transliterate any Polish names -- in documents at least. Mar 14, 2013

You are not allowed to transliterate Polish names for any legal purposes -- only the diacritics are skipped. (I mean of course if the target language is a language using the Latin alphabet).

You can only replace the names with equivalents in the target language in literary translation. You can even change the name altogether sometimes, in literary translation. Other than that, no. No Casimirs in any legal papers. Unless this were their name in the Birth Certificate.


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Grzegorz Gryc  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:23
French to Polish
+ ...
Tilde or similar... Mar 14, 2013

SilentQ wrote:

Incidentally, I've also read that there is a convention to use a tilde (~) in contexts where accents aren't available, eg. 'Jo~zef' for Józef, 'Bl~az*ej' for Błażej. Although I should stress that I realize that this is probably not used specifically for names but rather for prose in general, although I assume it would apply to any names which came up in the prose.

In the past, this convention was used quite often on computers when the Polish chars were unavailable but when some accuracy was needed/expected.
Now, as the Unicode use became almost general, this usage is obsolete, AFAIK.

BTW, it's really hard to read for larger portions of text.

Cheers
GG

[Edited at 2013-03-14 12:28 GMT]


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Grzegorz Gryc  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:23
French to Polish
+ ...
Older generations... Mar 14, 2013

SilentQ wrote:

Next, in the US we sometimes see Polish names get converted into Anglicized spellings, especially for immigrants who came to the country generations ago. For example, KOWALCZYK might change its spelling to KOVALCHYK (W --> V, CZ --> CH). Or maybe the CZ will get changed to CH in spelling but the W will remain and come to be pronounced like an English 'W'.

Indeed, it's a big difference between the older immigrants and the new ones.
The people who came to the US in the late XIX or in the early XX were very often (semi)analphabets from poor rural regions (no pun intended, it's just a typical profile for immigrants at this time...), they simply didn't care, were unable to correct the error or simply tried to make their new life easier.
In fact, many names like that were created by immigration officers at Ellis Island or similar, these guys made a lot of mistakes while reading hand written documents or trying to write the names the people pronounced.
The new immigrants are somehow better educated and tend to maintain the original spelling, the document control is also more strict.

BTW, a bro of my grandpa changed his name in a very special way
As nobody knew how to pronounce Gryc (in fact, even in Poland my name is often written incorrectly if I don't spell it), he had enough of it, so finally he decided to change his name.
But instead of something "easy" like "Gretz" which was "too much German" (he was a IIWW soldier...), he wanted absolutely a "Polish" name (obviously, a "-ski" one).
As a "simple solution" as Grytzski or Gretzsky (or similar) was also too difficult to pronounce and, additionally, the Polish meaning would be "Greek", he died as Gryckowski.
But he used an English first name, at least sometimes.

Cheers
GG

[Edited at 2013-03-14 20:57 GMT]


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SilentQ
TOPIC STARTER
some specific examples to illustrate possible "transliterations" for specific sounds Mar 18, 2013

I thank all of you for a very informative thread.

To recap briefly, I am aware that spelling changes like 'Ewa' to 'Eva' and simplifications like 'Krzysztof' to 'Krysztof'/'Krystof' are informal and do not conform to any official or unofficial system of conversion. And I'm not particularly interested in prescriptions, anyway, but rather what actually happens in the real world when Poles interact with people who have no knowledge of Polish language and spelling conventions.

A few other things that seem to be true are 1- that surnames are less likely to be re-spelled than given names (which seems intuitive somehow), 2- that given names can sometimes be replaced with an English version, eg. 'Catherine' or 'Kathy' for 'Katarzyna' (or, I suppose, for an other-language version in a non-Anglophone country) and 3- that re-spelling is less likely in this day and age both because of more stringent standards of accuracy in passport control and because today's immigrants tend to be better educated than those of previous eras.

Focusing on some specific phonemes, I'd like to ask if you, as native Polish speakers, find any of my suggestions for re-spellings below to be unreasonable, if some are preferable to others, and if you have other suggestions:

ż --> 'zh' or 'j' or plain 'z', eg. Żaklina --> Zhaklina?, Jaklina?, Zaklina?; Żaneta --> Zhaneta?, Janeta?, Zaneta?; Ambroży --> Ambrozhy?, Ambrojy?, Ambrozy?
ł --> plain 'l' or 'u' or 'w' or 'ou', eg. Gaweł --> Gawel?, Gavel?, Gaveu?; Błażej --> Bwazhej?, Buazhej?, Bouazhej?
cz --> 'ch', eg. Czesław --> Cheslaw?, Cheslav? or maybe even Chesuav?
sz --> 'sh', eg. Tomasz --> Tomash? Tomas?, Janusz --> Janus? Janush?
rz --> 'r' or 'zh' eg. Andrej?, Andzhej? (or 'sh' in the case of Krzysztof --> Kshyshtof)
j --> 'y', eg. Jadwiga --> Yadwiga?, Janusz --> Yanush?, Jerzy --> Yerzy*
ę --> en; You do see this in the English form of 'Więcesław' which is 'Wenceslas' as in the Christmas carol 'Good King Wenceslas'. And 'Walęsa' as 'Valensa' has been mentioned. Any other examples or comments about this one?
ą --> an (I can't think of any names which contain this letter.)
ó --> 'u' or 'ou': Józef --> Youzif?

*A note about the name 'Jerzy': I remember a really dumb skit on Saturday Night Live from the 70s or early 80s in which Jerzy Kosiński, the author of _Being There_ appeared. In it, some guy is making fun of JK's name, pronouncing it as 'Jersey'. An angry Jerzy Kosiński corrects him several times, explaining that it is pronounced Yairtsee /'jɛrʦi/. This confused me when I later learned that it's actually pronounced ''jɛʒi', but I suppose it was more about the humor than it was about accuracy.

Note: I'm intentionally leaving out palatalized sounds/spellings because, with English and other non-Slavic speakers not making that distinction, it doesn't seem like much could be done there.

Thanks again for everyone's very useful contributions above.

[Edited at 2013-03-19 16:20 GMT]

[Edited at 2013-03-27 18:54 GMT]


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Grzegorz Gryc  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:23
French to Polish
+ ...
Shitomir Jun 25, 2013

SilentQ wrote:

I thank all of you for a very informative thread. (...)


Sorry for this long delay... I missed this thread but I'll get back shortly.

I could not resist.
I just spotted a beautiful German transliteration on Arte.
Shitomir is... http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schytomyr

Cheers
GG


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