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Polish Proverb: Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys

April 08, 2019

Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys

What Does Not My Circus Not My Monkeys Really Mean?

Although the Polish proverb ‘’Nie mój cyrk, nie moje małpy translates as Not my circus, not my monkeys’’, it is difficult to find its English equivalent. The phrase itself has been used in such translation in the English language too, which supposes that it was borrowed from the Polish language. In short, it could be translated as having the same meaning of “I mind my own business” or ‘’it’s none of my business’’, but in a broader sense, it’s usually used to enhance the fact that you are not the one to judge someone else’s actions, even when you don’t necessarily agree with them. As if the mess someone else has found himself in, is not your mess to worry about, and the people taking part in that mess are not the ones you can control. What’s interesting is the fact that this proverb can be also used to conclude something you are saying about someone else, like if you were retelling a story.

The research shows that this proverb is not actually an old one. This is interesting because most used usually have a long history and a meaning behind them. It is noted by Henryk Markiewicz and Andrzej Romanowski in Skrzydlate słowa: wielki słownik cytatów polskich i obcych from 2005, that the proverb has been first used in 1993, when Ireneusz Sekula commented the governing of Hanna Suchocka.

Here are some examples that will bring this proverb closer to your understanding.

Imagine you are having dinner with your close, Polish friend. He goes on and on how his brother’s family is behaving not up to his standards, how his niece has decided to quit school and maybe how his nephew is not earning enough money and how all that doesn’t seem to worry his brother at all. He could conclude this talk with a ‘’Oh well, but it’s not my circus and not my monkeys’’ proverb. Or imagine that you were gossiping about a colleague at work, how she is leading her team wrongly. This too could be concluded with ‘’Oh well, it’s not my circus.’’ - as you can cut the proverb short and still it would be recognized among the Polish speakers. You could also stop the gossiping that someone else has started by saying: ‘’Oh, not my circus, I don’t want to know about it.’’

Recently, you could also hear the no-negation version of the proverb, saying: ‘’My circus, my monkeys’’, meaning that you are the only one who has to worry about it, or that you should take the responsibility for certain actions.

Other Famous Polish Proverbs to Know

If you are interested in proverbs, here are some of the most used ones for you to get to know, a combination of older and more modern ones, as there are hundreds to choose from!

  •  Kto pod kim dołki kopie, ten sam w nie wpada.

‘’Who digs holes underneath someone else, will fall into them himself’’. Now this is a sorry translation but it means to refrain from wishing anyone else wrong.

  • Gdzie człowiek się śpieszy, tam diabeł się cieszy.

‘’Where a man is in a hurry, the devil is happy’’. This one is to remind you to take things slowly and carefully.

  • Nie ma dymu bez ognia.

This translates nicely to the English equivalent of ‘’Where there is smoke, there is fire.’’ Or that nothing happens on its own.

  • Lepszy wróbel w garści niż gołąb na dachu.

‘’It’s better to hold a sparrow in the hand than to have a pigeon on the roof.’’ This would mean that it’s better to hold on to something safe (something you can obtain easily), than just to wish for something uncertain.

  • Nie wywołuj wilka z lasu.

This means not to tempt fate, and it translates as: ‘’Don’t tempt the wolf from the woods.’’

  • Nabić kogoś w butelkę.

This translates literally as in ‘’to push someone into a bottle’’, but its English equivalent is ‘’to pull someone’s leg.’’

  • Każdy kij ma dwa końce.

This one translates as ‘’every sticks has two ends’’, but it means that ‘’there are two sides to every story.’’

  • Zrobili mnie w konia.

Now ‘’I was made into a horse’’ sounds hilarious, but it means that someone has made a fool out of you.

  • Raz na wozie, raz pod wozem.

You know that ‘’What goes up must come down’’, or that ‘’You win some, you lose some.’’ From Polish, this translates as you’re once riding a cart, and once riding underneath a cart.

 




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