Friday, 10 December 2010

What's the Polish for 'pattern'?

A linguistic gap that catches me out, grappling to find a good Polish word or words for one commonly used in English.

Consider the following sentence. 'The police are looking for a pattern in the criminal's behaviour'. Here the word 'pattern' means not 'repeating ornamentation' but rather 'a series of events or numbers happening in a predictable manner'. Patterns recur (powtarzają się).

'Pattern' as in 'that's a nice pattern on the wallpaper' is of course wzór. In military terminology, a 1937-pattern field cap is czapka polowa wz. 1937. Allied to this meaning are the words deseń, wykrój, szablon... but evidently none fit the sentence considered above.

In maths, the term wzorzec is close in meaning to 'pattern' as in 'mathematical model'. Całokształt is another suggestion, we're getting closer now, but still not there. Getionary offers us this example: 'Overall pattern of laws and principles' = Całokształt praw i zasad. (Now, how would you say in English całokształt pracy autora? 'The entire body/corpus of the author's works?' It's long-winded an fails to capture the sense of the Polish.)

Returning to the usage of 'pattern' that launched this question. Consider now the sentence 'Patterns of consumer spending are changing'. You'd be forced into something like typowe sposoby wydawanie pieniędzy przez konsumentów zmieniają się, rather clumsy and missing the point some.

Can anyone come up with a decent translation for the word 'pattern' that could be used in the sentences below?

  • Weather patterns in May are fairly stable.
  • There is a pattern to his lateness.
  • My sleep patterns have become somewhat disturbed.
  • Things started to fall into a regular pattern.
  • We're looking for a pattern in the sales figures.
  • A recurring pattern began to emerge.


Decoy said...

My take on the word pattern is that it actually is something that does not meet the exact requirements of what you are trying to say here, but that over time it has evolved in the English language as an acceptable substitute. I would say that this is then why it is so difficult to translate into Polish.

If I were to offer an alternative (in English at least), I would suggest 'trend'. This ties in closer to the mathematical connotations mentioned by yourself earlier, while for me a pattern is more design, artistic and graphical based.

(Although having suggested trend, I would say that the majority of people would associate that in terms of fashion and clothing. It may just be my technical/mathematical background that means that a 'trend' for me is numerical based.)

Wojtek Wysocki said...

A recurring pattern began to emerge

Zaczęła wyłaniać się pewna [powtarzająca się] prawidłowość.

In this context, I think "prawidłowość" is the closest translation to "pattern".

All the best,


Anonymous said...

Michael - being the 'Polskeptic' that I am. I would say from experience and observation that even if a word does fit with the concepts you raise - the concept of pattern recognition is bereft in Poland and the wheel is always being reinvented as a result wasting time, money and missing opportunities to move forward. Examples abound: the court system, the snow removal parodies that occur each year, the lack of action on drunken driving, driving fines etc, etc.


Stefan Kubiak said...

Wojtek Wysocki is the closest to the original word. "Prawidłowość" is something you are looking for. Another good Polish word may be "model", for example: "modele zachowań". On the other hand, your example of "patterns of consumer spanding" is still evasive...