Gdyby kózka

My French great-mother only spoke 4 words in Polish and had no opportunity to learn more since my great father Leon Książyk had no Polish fellows where he was living. Until the end of her life, she reminded this Polish proverb and liked to tell it po polsku: “Przyszła koza do woza”. Of course, she never translated but explained that it was about “une chèvre qui retourne faire des bétises au même endroit” (“a goat who returns to make mistakes in the same place”). Obviously, this was a clear warning to my intention.

In fact, my great-mother was right with the words but wrong with the meaning. “Przyszła koza do woza” means literally: „the goat came to the cart”. This expression pictures someone who earlier refused to accept your help or advice and now asks for it. Well, if we can get the idea, the picture of a goat in a car is rather obscure, prawda?

goatSeveral Polish proverbs are about goats. Here are the most usual:

Gdyby kózka nie skakała, to by nóżki nie złamała

If the goat didn’t jump, she wouldn’t have broken her leg

– Gdyby kózka nie skakała, to by smutne życie miała

If the goat didn’t jump, she’d have a miserable life

Now, we get even more confused because these two proverbs are obviously conflicting over the intentions and the results. The first explains that the goat was in trouble because she jumped. The second explains that the goat avoided troubles because she jumped. The expression “Gdyby kózka” has been widely used to coin funny colloquial expressions. “Gdyby kózka” is also a vehicle for the proliferation of memes on social media. I did my best to understand what they are about but Polish logic and humour are far beyond me.

Marie-Jeanne, Paris



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