„Put your hat on!”
Pol. “Czapkę załóż!”
If you think of going outside, and the weather is so-so, those would be the parting words you'd hear from a Polish grandma. And all in all, it’s generally a good piece of advice. It will prevent the heat from escaping from your head – although the scale of this phenomenon might not be as grand as we were led to believe. Back in the day, my grandma claimed that as much as 40% of body heat was lost through the head.
Nowadays, we know this percentage to be something of a modern myth. Its origins can be traced back to the US Army survival manual from the 1970s. It has been since debunked by scientists, who pointed out that if that were to be true, you would be just as cold if you went outside without a hat as if you went without pants!
Final verdict: 50% Truth / 50% Myth. Or perhaps: 100% true.*
Even though the head heat loss percentage is significantly lower than suspected, it’s still sound advice to wear a hat when it’s cold outside.
*The validity of this particular wisdom depends on how you look at, really. After all, if your Grandma never really specified why you should put on a hat – then perhaps she just thought that you would look cute in it. In this case, it’s 100% true.
"Don't sit on the concrete, or you'll get a wolf."
Pol .„Nie siedź na betonie, bo wilka dostaniesz”
With a literal translation of this Grandma’s wisdom, you might be thinking: “Neat! I got to get a wolf? Like a wolf plushie or perhaps a real one, just like Jon Snow in Game of Thrones?”
Well, not quite. This phrase is a Polish equivalent to the old wives’ tale that sitting on cold surfaces gives you piles, aka hemorrhoids.
The good news is that there is little evidence that sitting on cold surfaces could contribute to this condition. The bad news? Hemorrhoids are a pretty common condition – some data estimates that as many as 50% of us will suffer from this disease at some point in our lives.
It seems that half of us will end up “getting a wolf”, but unfortunately, it won’t be half as fun as we might have imagined. And you thought that “The Game of Thrones” couldn’t possibly disappoint you more.
Final verdict: 100% Myth*
* Sure, so cold doesn’t give you piles, but there are high odds of you getting it anyway. And if you do, you can bet the first words out of your grandma’s mouth will be: “I told you so!”
"Sit quietly, or the licho will come..."
Pol. „Siedź cicho, bo przyjdzie licho…”
In Poland, you would hear this particular wisdom if your grandma was, well, let’s say, tired, of your antics, and wanted to pacify you. As we know from history, a pacification process, despite its name, rarely goes peacefully. So it’s little wonder that sometimes Polish grandmas feel obligated to scare some sense into their grandkids.
It can be achieved by several means, most commonly by evoking some mythical eagerness to carry away the disobedient descendants.
Such is in this case: in the Slavic culture, the aforementioned licho is a mysterious, demonic creature personifying misfortune and disease. It was said to rarely appear to humans, but when it did, it was in the form of a skeleton-like, one-eyed crone. If you were looking for a clearer graphic concept, googling this term will give you a creature not unlike a lovechild between a LOTR’s Nazgul and a Demogorgon from “The Stanger Things”.
Suffice to say – not exactly a fun perspective for a prospective kidnappee, is it?
Interestingly, alternative abductors a Polish grandma is likely to threaten one with aren’t much better.
They are usually invoked in the context of: “Be good, or …… will come and take you away!” and include:
- Baba Yaga – in Slavic culture, she appears as an old, hideous witch, living deep in the woods in a hut on a chicken foot. As you might have noticed, it’s only a second phrase and yet another one that terrifies children with elderly women. Perhaps there is some hidden truth in this on how society’s unjust view of female aging. But more practically, it can be unintentionally ironic: when your grandma, a woman of a certain age, uses other elderly women to make you obedient. So when you hear the usual: “Be good, or Baba Yaga will come and take you away!”, you could be tempted to answer: “Well, looks who is speaking. The pot calling the kettle black!”. And perhaps even: “Good! I hope she comes! At least she won't be able to threaten me with Baba Yaga! At this point, this is just getting old!”
- A man – very vague, and yet, very scary.
- A policeman – an upgrade from the above, just attach “police” at the beginning.
Final verdict: 100% Myth
The odds of Licho or of a policeman appearing to snatch the unruly kids are pretty low – I can attest to it from the experience of thirty-something years on this Earth, and I have yet to encounter a Baba Yaga. Though, if understand society’s fear of aging correctly, it’s just a matter of time before I see one looking back at me in the mirror.
All in all, as much as the above mystical kidnappings belong to a myth, using them as a scare tactic against troublemaking children has a 100% success rate.
“It must be from hunger…”
Pol. “To pewnie z głodu”
If you were a Polish kid and complained to your grandma that you have a headache, odds are you would hear: “It must be from hunger” in response. Your mum would likely say it too. Frankly, when to Polish women, food seems to be the panacea to all ailments. Whether it’s a physical stomachache or an emotional heartbreak you’re experiencing, it’s nothing that can be solved with a healthy dose of Grandma Stefania’s Secret Stew*(patent would be pending, but then she would have to reveal her recipe, and that’s classified information).
Final verdict: 100% True
It’s well known that hunger can cause a myriad of symptoms, so the claim: “It must be from hunger…” can be quite on point. Of course, it’s equally possible that the aches you are experiencing have nothing to do with low blood sugar, but if your mouth is busy eating, it can’t continue complaining, so it’s a win-win situation, in a Polish grandma’s book.
"It's probably the (atmospheric) pressure."
Pol. „To pewnie ciśnienie…”
If you feel sleepy or unfocused, there it’s another diagnosis that seems to be shared by many a Polish Grandma: "It's probably the atmospheric pressure."
Final verdict: 100% True
There is research that indicates that indeed, atmospheric pressure can impact our mood and even health.
It is just perhaps not as omnipotent as we think it to be.
So if you have a headache, as a Polish Grandma would tell you, it's either the weight of the very air you breathe squashing you against the surface of the Earth, or… it must be from hunger, right?
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