If there’s any silver lining to this post, it’s that I’d find no trouble doing the laundry in Poland.
Even though I doubt finding an English-speaker in Warsaw or Krakow would prove difficult, as a perpetual student of languages what better place is there to practice my three words of Polish than Poland? (If you said “the UK,” “Chicago” or “the Greenpoint neighborhood in Brooklyn,” you get half a point.)
By the way, just what are those three words that, until today, were merely two words?
The first, learned long ago, is szmata (shma-ta). It means “rag.” Don’t say that to any woman’s face.
Then, we have dziękuję (jen-koo-ya), or “thank you.” Use only as directed.
Finally, we have today’s addition to the phrasebook:
As a non-speaker of Polish, I naturally expected that “Samoobslugowa” was the name of this Greenpoint laundromat. (I also thought it was Somali, but then I realized that I wasn’t in Minneapolis anymore.) Maybe it is. Regardless, I wanted to know A) whether it was a word or just a name and B) the meaning of it.
Google informed me that I was simply another philistine unaware that the spelling on the sign is phonetic; it was written that way so non-Polish folks with dirty clothes could pronounce it. Samoobsługa is defined as “self-service,” and the letter ł is pronounced – or mispronounced – like the w in “water.”
How’s your Polish?