1. The WordReference Forums have moved to new forum software. (Details)

77 the two black scythe-men

Discussion in 'Polski (Polish)' started by franknagy, Sep 6, 2013.

  1. franknagy Senior Member

    Gentle List Members,
    Let me continue the the topic of expression of age with another question.
    The old age of greater than equal 77 years in Hungarian is expressed with the
    "two black scythe-men".
    I think its a gereral association of the Christian culture.
    Steps:
    1. The digit 7 used to be crossed in old-fashioned fonts.
    2. Its typeface reminds the scythe.
    3. The scythe is the Death's attribute.
    4. The duplication is a proven tool of emphasis.
    5. Age 77 is an advanced age.

    Is this simile known in the Polish language?

    TIA,
    Regards
    Frank
     
  2. dreamlike

    dreamlike Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    Hi Frank,

    there's no such expression in Polish, at least not that I know of. As a side note, regarding special age expressions, in English there exists a word 'nonagenarian' which means 'of the age of 90 years, or between 90 and 100 years old'.
     
  3. Thomas1

    Thomas1 Senior Member

    polszczyzna warszawska
    I'm unaware of this concept in Polish.

    It's interesting that Hungarian should pay attention to this particular age. In Christianity the number '7' is very often considered a symbol of completeness and perfection. A quick search reveals that the number '77' appears twice in the Bible:

    If Cain is avenged seven times,
    then Lamech seventy-seven times.

    Genesis 4:24

    New International Version (NIV)



    www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+4:24&version=NIV



    22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.[a]

    Footnotes:

    1. Matthew 18:22 Or seventy times seven

    Matthew 18:22


    New International Version (NIV)

    www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+18:22&version=NIV

    However, Hungarian uses "two black scythe-men", which I intepret as the image of the Grim Reaper -- a symbol of death, representing the number '77'. Why and where does it stem from?
     
  4. BezierCurve Senior Member

    Actually, I came across a similar expression used by a Polish poet and playwright on someone's 77th birthday (last year on a FB page): "dwie siekierki" - "two axes".

    I'm not sure if this was just his own idea or if he followed someone else.

    EDIT: Google indeed gives back a few results for that phrase (dwie siekierki 77).
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2013
  5. marco_2 Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    I heard this expression (77 - dwie siekierki) very often from people without any intelectual background or theological explanations - for them the numeral 7 resembled an axe and they considered such an advanced age (77) to be closer to death.
     
  6. franknagy Senior Member

    Thomas, the Grim Reaper is an overall Christian - ¿or more general? - symbol of Death.
    Grim Reaper.jpg
    Here you can see the scythe looking like a digit 7.
    As you have supported by citation from the Bible, 7 is a holy number.

    Regards
    Frank
     
  7. franknagy Senior Member

    Bingo!
    Thank you for the answer, Bezier and Marco.
    Regards
    Frank
     
  8. dreamlike

    dreamlike Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    Is the Hungarian word recognized by dictionaries? In other words, is it an official word or not really? Well, it doesn't even appear to be a word. Rather, it seems to be an expression.
     
  9. dn88 Senior Member

    pl
    I've only ever heard "dwie kosy" and "dwie siekierki" wouldn't make much sense to me (death is usually depicted as a figure wielding a scythe, not an axe or a hatchet), but maybe some people would say that.

    "77 lat dwie kosy" (28 results on Google)
    "77 lat dwie siekierki" (4 results on Google)

    However, I can only imagine the expression being used humorously or in a form of superstition, for example:

    Jak ktoś przeżyje "dwie kosy", będzie żył do setki. = If someone lives past the "two scythes" (= the age of 77), they will live to a hundred.
    Jak ktoś przeżyje "dwie kosy", będzie żył, i żył, i żył.... = If someone lives past the "two scythes", they will live, and live, and live...

    Jak ktoś przeżyje "dwie kosy", będzie żył aż do śmierci. = If someone lives past the "two scythes", they will live until they die.
    (tongue-in-cheek)

    I guess quite a few people would get what was meant.
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2013
  10. franknagy Senior Member

    The original Hungarian expression is rather tragic.
    Frank

    Respected Dreamlike:
    Thank you fir the inquiry.
    The original Hungarian proverb is the "két fekete kaszás".
    You can find it in collections of proverbs like that of Gábor O. Nagy. A famous Hungarian drama-write died before completing 77 years.
    Here is a memorial article: "És elvivé* őt is a két kaszás…" i. e. the "Two scythe-man have taken him away, too."
    ----
    * Elvivé is a ancient past tense = elvitte.
    ----
    The word "kasza"= "scythe" means a tool used now, too. There are people who cannot afford a lawn-mower and there are grounds where you can cut the grass with a scythe only.

    If you are a small dictionary the you cannot find the word "kaszás" which is made by the formative "-s" generally used to form adjectives or other nouns from nouns.

    ....
    Let me resolve the morbid topic with another proverb including the scythe.
    "Kasza-kapa kerülő" = man "avoiding scythe and hoe" means
    1. Work-shirker.
    2. Member of intelligence does not making manual work in the agriculture expressing the farmers' dislike against them.
      E.g. "Megérkeztek az ügyvédek és más kasza-kapa kerülők." =

      "The lawyers and other work-shirkers have arrived."

    Regards
    Frank
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2013
  11. BezierCurve Senior Member

    That, among a few dozen other words, corresponds well to the Polish "kosa" and "kosiarz".
     
  12. Thomas1

    Thomas1 Senior Member

    polszczyzna warszawska
    My knowledge of Polish has been enhanced, thank you. :)

    A quick Google search shows that Tadeusz Różewicz has written a poem entitled Dwie siekierki:
    Dwie siekierki

    kiedy Ojciec skończył
    77 lat
    powiedział do mnie
    "dwie siekierki, Tadziu,
    jak człowiek przejdzie
    przez nie, to dalej
    wszystko pójdzie gładko
    jak po maśle"

    http://wielodzietni.org/discussion/2499/dwie-siekierki/p1
    I think this thread is a good proof that the concept of expressing the number 77 through 'tools' is not absent in the Polish culture.

    Interestingly, there is a well-known Polish song Siekiera, motyka, which was widely sung during German occupation of Poland. There lyrics were very often changed; though, the part 'siekiera, motyka' was always there. The song's content also mainly focuses on the end of the occupation (the song was progibited during that time). I suppose the choice of 'tools' was most likely haphazard.
     
  13. franknagy Senior Member

    Congratulations, Thomas:
    You have cited very interesting examples of "sekierki".
    [QUOTE Thomas1]Tadeusz Różewicz has written a poem entitled Dwie siekierki:
    Dwie siekierki

    kiedy Ojciec skończył
    77 lat
    powiedział do mnie
    "dwie siekierki, Tadziu,
    jak człowiek przejdzie
    przez nie, to dalej
    wszystko pójdzie gładko
    jak po maśle"

    http://wielodzietni.org/discussion/2...e-siekierki/p1
    I think this thread is a good proof that the concept of expressing the number 77 through 'tools' is not absent in the Polish culture.

    Interestingly, there is a well-known Polish song Siekiera(*), motyka, which was widely sung during German occupation of Poland.[/QUOTE]

    The topic of Różewicz's poem if closer to my original topic and I understand it better that the folk song. I need much more effort to look after its words. My quick idea is that the Polish people still has Siekiera, motyka and other tools in order to withstand the occuping "Prusy (+)" [not "Niemci" (**)].

    Your quotes prove that I can learn much easier from vivid poems and folk songs than from dry lecture books.

    Regards
    Frank


    Footnotes: Matching Hungarian and Polish words mentioned in this letter
    (*) sekierka = szekerce.
    (+) Prusak = burkus in folk's tales | porosz in official texts.
    (**) niemy -> Nemiec = néma -> német.

    F.
     
  14. dreamlike

    dreamlike Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    Let me just say it's still an obscure reference for most of us, so it wouldn't make much sense to use it in a, say, conversation with a regular Pole without some further explanation. I suppose the same is the case with my Hungarian peers, or Hungarian people in general.
     
  15. Thomas1

    Thomas1 Senior Member

    polszczyzna warszawska
    Hello, Frank,

    You may have a look at this website:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siekiera,_motyka
    In its middle you will find the translation of the lyrics into English.

    It is German occupation. The Second World War is the time frame (you can guess it by some references in the text itself of the song). Prusy is just another reference which doesn't have much to do with the actual time when the song was sung.
    Glad to hear that. If you're interested in practicing your listening skills through the poem by Różewicz or the song, let me know via a PM, I'll send links to you (which cannot be posted here).
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2013

Share This Page