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Dziewczyny vs. Dziewczynki

Discussion in 'Polski (Polish)' started by CO Polish, Jun 12, 2014.

  1. CO Polish New Member

    English-United States
    Hi,

    I was very excited to find this forum. I am very new to teaching myself Polish using some language learning software and an online translator.
    I have not been able to determine the difference between these two words (if any)

    Thank you!
     
  2. wolfbm1 Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    Here is how I understand those words:
    dziewczyna - a girl (usually a teenager but also a young woman)
    dziewczynka - a little girl or a girlie,

    Be careful. Both words can have a pejorative meaning, e.g. dziewczyna uliczna (a prostitute), on lubi chodzić na dziewczynki - he likes visiting prostitutes.
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2014
  3. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Norway
    Polish
    Basic meaning
    Dziewczynka: from 0 to 13 years (may be extended sometimes up to 16 yrs, if she doesn't appear to be mature)
    Dziewczyna: from 13 to 25 years

    Girls under 7 years of age will often be called "mała dziewczynka".

    The distinction between dziewczyna (actually a young woman) and and an adult woman is very tricky, and the transition is very blurred.
    Some people will call their friends of the same age dziewczyny even in their sixties, people remain young inside, even if their bodies are aging.

    Besides the basic meaning you have idiomatic meanings, like that quoted by wolfbm1.
     
  4. zeedee New Member

    Polish
    Also "dziewczynki" is a diminutive form of "dziewczyny" and that's way we're using it regarding little girls.
     
  5. Agiii

    Agiii Senior Member

    Polish
    dziewczyna - girl
    dziewczynka - little girl

    It's true that both words can have pejorative meaning, but actually I hardly ever come across the expression "dziewczyna uliczna" and there're fewer contexts where "dziewczyna" sounds offensive (it would if it was referred to an adult woman for example, especially in professional contexts). The diminutive "Dziewczynka" is much more risky here.

    @CO Polish: In case you're referring to girls, like teenagers or young women, it's much safer to use "dziewczyna", because "dziewczynka" frequently has this prostitute connotation or sounds awfully patronizing and sexist (unless you're actually referring to a little, about kindergarten-age, girl of course).
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2014
  6. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Norway
    Polish
    So what do you call females above the kindergarten age and under puberty?
     
  7. jasio Senior Member

    It very much depends on who is actually the caller, and who is the callee.

    When my wife refers to girls until or about puberty (though she's not very strict about the calendar and tends to treat all of them as children), she usually says "dziewczynka", while when she says about an almost grown-up teenager or a young lady, she would use "dziewczyna". I personally use "dziewczynka" referring to someone who is apparently a child (not necessarily pre-school), while "dziewczyna" for someone who begins to be of some interest as a woman. So there is a class of female persons (depending on body constitution and perhaps behaviour), who would still be called "dziewczynka" by my wife, and already "dziewczyna" by me.

    On the other hand, the girls themselves tend to play grownups, so they indeed use "dziewczynki" (plural) when talking about their colleagues in pre-school, but they begin to use "dziewczyny" (pl.) referring to each other, quite early, some time in the primary school (~6-13 years of age), when they are still "dziewczynki" both for me and for my wife. However it also happens that some of my female collaborators use "dziewczynki" to call their subordinates regardless of age (they are all adult, of course), which is not considered offending in this particular context, although they might protest if *I* called them this way. Relationships within a female group has always been a kind of mystery for me, so I can't tell if it's patronizing, although indeed the managers are significantly older than their subordinates.
     
  8. dreamlike

    dreamlike Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    "Dziewczynka" lends itself readily to being used in patronizing and potentially offensive contexts, so it's best avoided as far as non-native speakers of English are concerned. (unless you bear in mind and carefully abide by what others have written about it).
     
  9. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Norway
    Polish
    You have just gone to extremes, quite unnecessarily. The word is perfectly appropriate and safe when you talk about children. It becomes tricky only when you speak to/about persons that can be treated as adults.
     
  10. dreamlike

    dreamlike Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    That is quite correct, but in this day and age I'd be careful not to sound "abusive" even when using "dziewczynka" in reference to a female children.
     
  11. sonorous Senior Member

    Warsaw
    English
    That's absurd. You will not sound abusive whatsoever. The term is just fine.
     
  12. dreamlike

    dreamlike Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    You're of course entitled to your opinion. :) Given the staggering number of children sexual abuse cases and the mass-hysteria surrounding the issue, is not uncommon for some folk to read too much into others using the very word "dziewczynka". I know that's ridiculous, but I've witnessed things like that first-hand.
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2014
  13. Agiii

    Agiii Senior Member

    Polish
    I know what you mean. It's not about the meaning of the word of course (its denomination), but about its connotation now in the mouth of an adult man in the context of all the recent pedophilia affairs. The association doesn't exist when the word is used by women or old men in the age of dziewczynka's grandfather, for example. I don't think the connotation is as strong as to avoid the word altogether but I can imagine it exists in some contexts. "Dziewczynka" is a term referring to a gender and given all the scandals the public wants to imagine children just as children, sexless (genderless) beings.
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2014
  14. jasio Senior Member

    It's not the word itself that is inapropriate or sick, but a hysteric part of a public opinion. If I see a 7-10 year old girl crying (if she were older, she would not probably cry loud in such situation :) ) it would be quite appropriate for me to turn to her "Co się stało dziewczynko, zgubiłaś się? Gdzie są twoi rodzice?" (or "chłopczyku", if it were a boy of the same age).
     
  15. Agiii

    Agiii Senior Member

    Polish
    Tja. We talk here about the usus, not about the imaginary meaning of words or what they should mean. And the meaning of every term is embedded in a specific social context. You can't make a distinction between "the word itself" and "its understanding by a part of public opinion" - it doesn't work like this. So, dreamlike was quite right about this one aspect of the meaning of "dziewczynka" among contemporary Polish speakers.
     
  16. sonorous Senior Member

    Warsaw
    English
    No, he was not. I still cannot see the point being made here. You can't understand that this word is not "embedded" in the above mentioned social context. You're simply oversensitive to the news about pedophilia; yes, such things happen, many shocking things happen all around the world every day which you should understand and get used to it. Don't claim that a word acquires some connotations just because in recent months a few of priests' sins have come to light, no, it doesn't. And what is more, your assumptionss are completely unscientifical, please show some proof, look for it in corpora maybe. It afflicted your fragile psyche but not the language.
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2014
  17. jasio Senior Member

    So do I.

    It's obvious that a meaning of the word is defined by it's understanding by the speaker and the listner, but I still can make such distinction. To give you an example: it's not the word "pedał" itself, which is nasty, or inaproriate, it's a specific context and a meaning related to this context. The word itself is neutral, in fact technical, meaning something operated by foot. The fact that it may refer to a homosexual male and is also used as an insult does not change that. On the other hand, there are words "nasty or abusive by themselves" (or by a common understanding, if you prefer). I won't quote them not to violate the forum rules, but I am sure that you are able to list a dosen or so of them pretty easily by yourself.

    "Dziewczynka" is a neutral word meaning a young girl, and you can hear it or safely use it pretty in this context. The fact, than when referring to an adult woman it may mean a prostitute or that some people use it in pervert contexts does not (yet, perhaps) change that either.

    BTW - "a part of a public opinion" refers also to a social group or a group bound by common opinions. Are you denying that well established, common words may be understood and used by such groups in a special way?
     
  18. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Norway
    Polish
    Let's not be hysterically afraid! An adult Polish speaker with normal intelligence does know how to use the word "dziewczynka" without making any grave error (if he is sober). Strangely enough so few see it inappropriate to use words beginning with "k", "ch", "p" and "j" in public.
     
  19. jasio Senior Member

    Since the original question has been posted by a foreigner, I would rather say that an adult Polish speaker with normal intelligence would not take even an inappropriate use of the word by a foreigner as a deliberate insult. :)

    Both "dziewczynka" and "dziewczyna" are correct within certain loosely defined age limits, and the grey area between them very much depends on the speaker's and the person's referred to personal perceptions. Almost everything else written here is a practical demonstration of a proverb that where are two Poles, there are three opinions.
     
  20. dreamlike

    dreamlike Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    Look, I'm not one to split hairs over such matters. I've only shared my experience regarding the word "dziewczynka", perhaps there's something amiss with people I socialize with, might be. My experience is that the word "dziewczynka" even when used in neutral contexts by people who have clean intentions may cause the reaction I've mentioned.
     
  21. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Norway
    Polish
    Let us see at this as a local linguistic deviation, without any importance for the Polish language as a whole.

    I have, for instance, heard that in some circles the word "dobroduszny" is regarded as an insult.
     
  22. dreamlike

    dreamlike Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    Let us not. It's not a "local" deviation because the same thing could happen anywhere in Poland or outside of Poland among native speakers of Polish.
     

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