Polish culture through language: KOMBINOWAĆ

Meet Franek Dolas, master at kombinować
Meet Franek Dolas, master at kombinować

Most, if not all, of the times, languages have special concepts in which you have to look through history to understand their logic and how and when to use them. Kombinować is one of those concepts. It is hard to translate (but not impossible) as you really need to know the context of when it was said and of course, who said it as you can use it in a myriad of ways.

„No, będę kombinować”.

This sentence can be interpreted in so many ways. From something similar to “God will provide” (popular saying in the Chilean countryside), “I will figure it out”,  “I will make it” or… “I will involve myself in something shady, but it’ll be okay because it’s for own sake”. The last meaning will evoke several feelings with Poles. Yes, it will remind them the hard times from the PRL (or Polish People’s Republic… as the time frame between 1944 and 1989 is known). Getting a new flat, switch cars or any durable good were hard to get, so people had to come out with different ways in order to provide for their families: that relative living abroad who could send money, that bureaucrat friend working at a government office that could ease any red tape, or the relative of a friend of a good neighbour of your parents who can needs a special favour from you and you need something from him. I can relate to some of those situations (sure, we had Coca Cola from way before… but I still remember when someone would travel to a duty free zone or abroad -as in neighbouring countries- and would get me clothes that have yet to come here, a nice toy or chocolate bars you wouldn’t find in the supermarket), but Poles have something with that word. Sure, there were hard times, but you often appreciated things that you now take for granted.

This post is dedicated to Waldek and Asia who taught me all about kombinować through a Polish movie from the 60’s called Jak rozpętałem drugą wojnę światową (How I unleashed World War II) in which its main character, Franciszek Dolas,  thinks he started WWII and tries to fix it in most ways possible, and of course that leads him into getting into awkward situations. He could be an example how to kombinować (despite his results). I would recommend the 3-part movie, anyways 🙂 And this song from the film is a classic among Poles, too:

So, what about special words in your language or dialect? Or have you got a similar word to kombinować?