Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Oh, K!

The truth is that many people set rules to keep from making decisions ~Mike Krzyzewski

Mike Krzyzewski, also known as Coach K, has been on my mind lately. He and I have a love/hate relationship. Even though he led the Duke Blue Devils to the NCAA championship on Monday night and made me cry (I rooted for my Butler Bulldogs!), Coach K still has a place in my heart.

I say this as someone with two-syllable Polish surname that, mercifully, caused almost no tongue-tied pronunciation issues for my elementary school teachers--Mrs. Williams, Mrs. Bradley, Mr. Johnson. I felt grateful for the short last name, especially after seeing what Billy Szczepanikowki and Katy Wyszczakowicz endured at the beginning of each school year. I still cringe in sympathy for them.

But . . . KRZYZEWSKI? Roll call must have been tough for young Mike. I like that Mike never changed his name and kept things intact -- preserving the 10 letters in their original, Slavic, unpronounceable and misspellable order. Polish is my first language, and even I have to resist the urge to throw in an extra vowel. Good one, Mike!

KRZYZEWSKI is the perfect crossword word, not only because it looks like an alphabet in crisis. There's more: the root, KRZYZ, is Polish for "cross." And the Polish word for crossword is KRZYZOWKA.

And so, if I were to make a Polish crossword for Mike, it would be a KRZYZEWSKI KRZYZOWKA. Very cost effective: no need to buy a vowel.

So how do you pronounce KRZYZEWSKI?  The way Coach K tells you to pronounce it . . .


Orange said...

I had no idea your first language was Polish!

My grandma and great-grandma were born here, but they spoke both English and Polish.

Elizabeth said...

Ah, perhaps that's why you're an excellent speller -- maybe the exposure to Polish makes English seem easy, by comparison.

I was born here, shortly after my parents arrived in the States; we spoke Polish at home; English came later in school. I'm glad the languages came in that order.

I envy you -- Chicago bakeries make the best Pączki in the world! Yum!!!! :)

Joon said...

english is my second and only language. i have some regrets on that front, so i'm jealous that you've retained your polish!

for me, the best part about reliving that commercial is imagining grant hill and jason kidd, who are now among the oldest players in the NBA, in their college days circa 1994. and "big dog" glenn robinson! he was picked ahead of both of them in the 1994 draft, and while he wasn't a bad player, he had a much shorter and less successful career than those two hall-of-famers-to-be.

too bad about butler; i was pulling for them, too. so close!

Elizabeth said...

Hee-hee, Joon, I love your "second and only language" line . . . very funny!

I believe that your language skills are firing on all cylinders. There's the "third" language (crosswords). Your puzzle construction and speed solving stars have risen very quickly.

Gosh, the final seconds of the NCAA final are on constant "edited" replay in my head -- Hayward makes the basket and Bulter wins. If only!

Joe Krozel said...

Even names with fewer consonant than KRZYZEWSKI can still be mispronounced. If you put a dot over the o and the z in my name you'll see that it doesn't rhyme with puzzle at all ... but I still like when Ryan and Brian claim it does!

Elizabeth said...

So . . . Joe rhymes with "KRO" . . . as in, "Ryan rhymes with Brian." Nice symmetry (if my pronunciation is correct).


Joe Krozel said...

Yes, Elizabeth, you've got that right ... but I suppose it's arbitrary since over 100 years ago there was a mark over the o that indicated a sound like "foot" and a mark over the z that indicated a sound like the J in Jacques.

Gareth Bain said...

Wish I had written down or copied that guide in James Michener's epic "Poland" entitled "Polish is easy, remember:" it was a classic! Written (fictionally) by an American who marries a Polish noble.

Scrabble boards must look crazy in Polish! Did check out the tile set: Z-TILEs are 1 point!!

Elizabeth said...

Gareth, how funny: I didn't realize the Z-Tiles were 1 Point each . . . that's hilarious!

Thanks for mentioning Michener's "Poland," which I'll re-read, especially in light of this weekend's events. For weeks I've had Andrej Wajda's film "Katyn" in my film queue . . . the whole thing is so eerie and sad.

Joe Krozel said...

70 years after the Katyn massacre, and we still have never seen KATYN in a crossword. Maybe it's too controversial a topic for a crossword ... but it also happens to be historically significant event that most of the world has never learned about.

WAJDA also needs to appear in a puzzle. And -- are you slipping Elizabeth? -- shouldn't that be ANDRZEJ with a Z? ;-)

Elizabeth said...

Joe, I'm intrigued by the KATYN absence in puzzles. Depending on the market, I would use it in a carefully-worded clue; the massacre is a significant 20th century event.

For puzzle markets that avoid controversy, it can be clued it as a Wajda film. "Katyn" won quite a few awards in 2007, and an Oscar nomination.

You have a good eye -- thanks for the ANDRZEJ clarification. I forgot one of those one-point Z's! :)

Joon said...

i didn't know about KATYN until just now, but if BABI YAR can make it in crosswords, why not KATYN? i've always thought the best crosswords should educate as well as entertain.

Elizabeth said...

Joon, thanks for mentioning BABI YAR; I agree that it's appropriate in crosswords, when presented in a respectful way. There are solid cluing angles fof BABI YAR (the Yevtushenko poem and the Shostakovich symphony). This might introduce solvers to new poems and symphonies . . . always a good thing.