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A blog for English learners and their teachers everywhere, initiated in 2010 with the contribution of students from the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. More about me on the On-line Profile below. Welcome!

Eastern Puzzle _ 1

Around this time of year

in the beautiful city of Krakow

I sometimes come across this wish:

Happy Eastern!

It is a Happy Easter wish gone East. Or Eastern. Still, I heard South Americans and Europeans alike saying “Happy Eastern!,” so I doubt geography has much to do with the origin of this phrase. Maybe it is all part of a pro-Eastern campaign meant to counterpart the “Go West” policies… The hypotheses never end.

What is your opinion? Does Easter really have to go Eastern? Why?

And, better still, can you add other pieces to this Eastern puzzle in which

people say one thing and mean something they understand as completely different?

PS If you are curious about how Romanians celebrate Easter, follow this link. Here’s a fragment from the article written by Margaret Campbell for The Independent Europe:

“Easter Sunday – and the next two mornings – began with wine-soaked bread, the wine and bread having been distributed at the previous night’s service, and the ceremonial cracking and eating of the decorated eggs.”

Painting eggs, in Sfantu Gheorghe (Romania), my sister & Raducu, our friend’s cute little boy.

Thanks for the photo, sis’! Very sweet!


Filed under: ■ They say... & what they mean is...

14 Responses

  1. alexandra says:

    Hristos a-nviat! (Christ is risen!)

  2. karol says:

    I think that the word “Easter” isn’t connected with geography. As the 21th-century oracle, Wikipedia, says,
    it’s connected with the Germanic name of a month.

    • Alina Alens says:

      Old English Ēostre (also Ēastre) and Old High German Ôstarâ are the names of a putative Germanic goddess whose Anglo-Saxon month, Ēostur-monath, has given its name to the festival of Easter.

      You’ve hit the nail on the head!!!
      That’s it!!!
      Easter – painted eggs & chocolate bunnies!
      Eastern (similar to Western, Southern, Northern) – Geography (points of the compass/ Cardinal points, and so on)…

  3. swistak says:

    The Polish phrase “Wielkanoc” is also atypical and, from a grammatical point of view, incorrect. There are two words combined in this phrase: “wielka” – great, which is an adjective, and “noc” – night, which is a noun. It is unusual in modern Polish to set an adjective and a noun into one word. The term “Wielkanoc” comes from the Old Polish language. I can’t find in my mind any other example for that principle of word formation, maybe someone else will help me?

    • Szymon H. says:

      I’m not an expert, but for me “Rzeczpospolita” seems to be formed in a similar manner. Of course, here the adjective (“pospolita”, public, in Old Polish) is after the noun (“rzecz”, thing) but in Polish there is generally no difference in meaning between an adjective placed before and after a noun. Maybe linguists can find deeper reasons why there is neither “Nocwielka” nor “Pospolitarzecz”?

      • Pawel D says:

        Rzecz” in Old Polish had a much more general meaning; the proper translation in this case would be “issue”, and the whole statement (“Rzeczpospolita“) is a direct translation from a Latin term “res publica” – public issue. This is also the reason for the arrangement of words: in Latin the adjective always comes after the noun (if they are next to each other). Since Polish “borrowed” intensively from Latin over the course of time, we too had at some point this Latin rule for adjectives, which in connection with the “ordinary” rule of placing adjectives in front of nouns led to the situation where we could actually place adjectives wherever we liked. Of course nowadays it is commonly accepted that the Latin placement is considered obsolete in everyday speech (although if used, it can be understood, and sounds a bit poetic), but in the same time it is still used, especially in official names of institutions, proper names etc. (e.g. High School -> “Szkoła Średnia“, Foreign Office -> “Ministerstwo Spraw Zagranicznych“, Customs House -> “Urząd Celny“, Jagiellonian University -> “Uniwersytet Jagielloński” but also Identity Card -> “Dowód osobisty” or Internet page -> “Strona internetowa“).

        And as for “Rzeczpospolita” itself, apart from being in our country’s name, the word is also obsolete and was replaced with “Republika” – a direct borrowing of the Latin term.

      • Szymon H. says:

        You provoked me to think more about this. An adjective after a noun occurs quite often in modern Polish, not only in proper names: though the examples you have given (maybe I’m not right, but consider “dowód osobisty” as not a proper name in Polish). There is “mysz komputerowa” (computer mouse), “sieć bezprzewodowa” (wireless network), or “mechanika kwantowa” (quantum mechanics). The difference is that when an adjective is placed after a noun, it becomes not only an attribute, but an integral part of the name. Two words together name a subclass of objects: wireless networks are a subclass of networks. Conversely: one doesn’t think about black cats (“czarny kot” in singular) as a subclass of cats. Why? The given examples show that the object belonging to a subclass differs much from the one not belonging: knowledge in quantum mechanics doesn’t help you to repair a bike and computer mouse can’t bite its own cable. But black cats are as stupid and stinking as other cats.

      • Pawel D says:

        First of all I made a mistake, as, indeed, the examples I gave, like “identity card”, are not proper names, and I don’t know the actual English term for them (something like “common nouns” as opposed to “proper nouns”, but “common name” is already attributed to something different in English). But the rule I wrote about also refers to them.
        Now, what you mentioned are classifying and qualifying adjectives. In most cases the classifying ones are placed after the noun, and qualifying in front of the noun, as you explained, but it is not always so. For example we have “błędny rycerz” (Knight-errant) or “słomiany wdowiec” (temporary widower) for classifying adjectives, and we might as well say “kot czarny” even though it will sound weird. There are many counterexamples just because for a long time there were two different rules existing simultaneously and so now none of the new rules can be absolutely strictly applied.

        As for implying that cats are stinking and stupid… well I am not even going to comment on that 🙂

      • Szymon H. says:

        One representative of this species was trying to destroy my “Innovations” book a while ago. Unsuccessfully.

    • Pawel D says:

      The principle at work here is “zrost” which in English I think is a subtype of a compound.

      Other examples include:
      Zmartwychwstanie – “Z+martwych+wstanie” translated word by word means “From the dead rising” and is equivalent to Resurrection, or to the Polish word “Rezurekcja“.
      Dobranoc” – “Dobra+noc“, which simply means “Good Night“, but at the same time we have “Dzień Dobry” which is “Day Good” for the English Good Day.
      wiarygodny” – “Wiary+godny” / “Faith+worthy” – faithworthy
      Krasnystaw” – the Polish city “Krasny+Staw” – “Beautiful Pond“. The word “krasny” is nowadays completely obsolete, and even though in this name it meant “beautiful”, its primary meaning was “red”, hence the Polish word “krasnoludek”: “krasn+o+ludek“, “o” serving just as glue (a different type of compound in Polish language) – “Red folk” – the Polish name for dwarfs, connected with their supposed red caps.

  4. Magdalena G. says:

    For me, Easter is associated with spring, and so does the eastern direction (for example, in Chinese tradition, both East and spring are connected to the wood element). So the mix-up of words can be because of more than just their coincidental similarity.

  5. Łukasz G. says:

    My memories tell me that Easter always is a sign of the coming spring. No puzzle will make me think differently 😉

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