Even if I were a real linguist I would still abhor fine-tuning X-Bar grammar or Optimality Theory or any other highly formalised framework relying instead on gut feeling and common sense. And I sure wouldn’t focus on written language (you see, even today there’s a written language bias in academic linguistics), as a lot of things which interest me a great deal are only rarely committed to paper.
You’ve probably noticed my fixation with profanity. After all, if I get any traffic, it’s mostly people who want to know what “kurwa mać” means in English. But there’s a couple more things some people forget about when thinking about languages and cultures.
One of them is the language and culture of playgrounds, kindergardens and elementary schools. Children play a lot, and what they play quite often involves a sort of language game. You know, nursery rhymes, counting out games and the like. If you look at them more closely there’s quite a lot of interesting stuff – first everyone knows them, second they’re transmitted almost exclusively orally, not formally learnt, yet they don’t change much from generation to generation, third – the Polish ones (and I infer that the others as well) contain a lot of ‘nonsense’ vocabulary which may not be that nonsense at all, but a corrupted borrowing from old-fashioned slang, cant, or language of itinerant people like Romani. To wit: “Ene due like fake torba borba ósme smake deus deus kosmateus i morele baks”
The reason I’m writing this longish piece is that I want to share a kind of silly childish language game with you. See, when I was in kindergarden or elementary school we had this way of answering questions we thought annoying or boring with rude (sometimes vulgar) rhyming replies. I think these are quite stable across Poland, but I may be wrong.
Kogo? “whom?” is answered with – Misia Gogo “Gogo the Bear”
Actually the trick was to ask somebody Znasz go? “Do you know him?” or Widziałeś go? “Have you seen him?” in hope that he or she wouldn’t know whom do you mean and ask back Kogo? “whom?” which would give you opportunity to say Misia Gogo
Co? “what?” – pstro “spottedly/colourfully” or jajco/jajeczko “egg/small egg (or testicle)” or just gówno “shit”
Czego? “what (do you want)? – gówna psiego “(a bit of) dog shit”
Czemu? “why?” – Bo nie ma dżemu “because there’s no jam”
Która godzina? “what’s the time?” – Wpół do komina “half to chimney”