I say Krakow and you say Cracow but they say Kraków

Did we raise this one before?

What is the right way to spell / name the city lies sprawled below Wawel hill? I see it spelled these three different ways all the time and it must be jolly confusing for anyone not familiar with Poland.

Obviously, the omission of the accent on the O is simple laziness…..or is it? Is there widespread use of the K version bez the accent? The C version has no accent, at least not when I see it used.

So, which is correct and which are not and more importantly, why are the incorrect versions still widely used?

This wouldn’t be so fascinating if it wasn’t for the fact that I don’t think I’ve ever seen any other place in Poland being spelt in more than one way, the official Polish way (ignoring the German names of course). Also, this ‘abuse’ is being done not by obcy people but by Poles themselves.

If one or the other is an attempt to make a Polish town more pronounceable or understandable to foreigners then I could think of far better examples – Łódż for example.

Why does the city allow this to continue? Hell, why doesn’t the editor of the Krakow Post do something about it! ;-)

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15 thoughts on “I say Krakow and you say Cracow but they say Kraków

  1. Google.co.uk currently gives 69 million results for ‘Krakow’ and 7 million for ‘Cracow’. So let’s knock the latter on the head shall we?

    The ‘o’ and ‘ó’ is the result of not all keyboards having the ‘ó’, so let’s leave that one optional.

    I have heard of letters from the UK sent to ‘Cracow, Poland’ being returned to sender because the Poczta Polska was too lazy or bloody-minded to deliver it to the intended recipient.

    But to us Anglo-Poles, it’s simply Kraks (or Krax if you’re a Yank).

  2. I happen to know that the editor of the Krakow Post is less than happy at the lack of an accent on the ‘o’ but is stuck with it as a legacy of a weird decision taken in the distant past by persons unknown.

    ‘Cracow’ will not die so easily, especially since it is recognised and used (near enough) by locals (Cracovia Football Club being the most obvious example)

  3. Actually every Polish town has several names, they’re just not used that much today. Examples might be Poznań/Posen or Leszno/Lissa, and of course Gdańsk/Danzig. They don’t necessarily come from German or Yiddish. Very often Latin is the source, and even more often those were Polish speakers who made up the Latin names. Latin was an official language of Poland until the 18th century (along Polish). Łódź was founded in the 19th century.

    However, names of smaller towns are easy to polonize. If you guys never heard about Lissa you won’t mind hearing about Leszno. So we just keep saying Gdańsk, Poznań, Wrocław and you learn it this way. With Kraków it’s a bit different because it’s the only town that is popular enough to have its appearance in various old tourist guides.

  4. For future reference: the diacritic mark in “ó” is “acute accent”, and the letter is known as “o acute”. The nine special characters used in Polish: ąćęłńóśćźż are known as: “a ogonek”, “c acute”, “e ogonek”, “l stroke”, “n acute”, “o acute”, “s acute”, “c acute”, “z acute”, and finally “z dot”.

  5. Cracovia sad Cracow don’t really have much in common. One is latin, one is an anglicised spelling of the Germanic word Krakau, hence craCOW not craCOV.
    Dropping the Ó-z-kreską comes probably from the fact that Internet version of English is the language of now and the future and not many people have access (or the will to access) to Polish typefaces.
    The funniest one I’ve ever heard was in a conversation with a Scotsman who visited Poland and said he really loved Roklor. Took us a while to work out he was referring to Wrocław.
    Not delivering letters to Cracow seems a bit extreme, but then again I wonder what would happen to letters sent to Kolonia, Bruksela or Czikago.

  6. @GLS
    It’s such a basic information about Poland (something you should have learnt in your primary school) I’m sure you can just google it. Should be in any history book.

  7. Dear Flegmatycy,
    How to spell any foreign word in any given language depends on grammar of that language.Here, we try to compare english and polski. English grammar has very limited variety of tools, therefore it influence the way of thinking in English language. Every outlandish name has to be converted to English no matter how stupid it sounds or spells. For them (Flegmatycy) Kraków does not exist, the english way or no way.

  8. What has happened to Polandian that we are arguing about semantics?
    We should be arguing about more important things, like which supermarket sells the worst beer? (REAL, by the way)

  9. Polish letters don’t show up on some websites (depending on encoding and fonts available), so some people “castrate” such letters to nearest standard latin alphabet equivalent. When people use wrong encoding, results sometimes look like “Krak%12314w” or “%$41%51d%123″(Łódź :) ). I made up the numbers, but they look similiar.

    The same with SMS – sending polish letters uses up a few characters, when sending “standard” letter only uses up one character per letter. So people often write SMS without polish letters. Everybody assumes these tails and accents were “implicit”. So Krakow is just Kraków, when you’re not sure software will handle the awesomness of Polish letters.

    As for using Cracow etc – when writing in English some Poles use English names for Polish cities, like we use Polish names for foreign cities when writing in Polish. See Nowy Jork, or Edynburg, or Lwów (ok, that one is sentimental also).

    Btw – cracovia is from latin, and most of Polish cities have latin names – it was important language in Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

  10. We have more fun here in Wrocław. I’ve heard all manner of strange prononciation, none of them close to the correct one. At least “Cracow” is fairly close.

    I hear (the story possible originates from conspiracy-minded Polish people, which doesn’t narrow it down) that there is talk of calling Wrocław “Breslau”, as it’s easier to pronounce and more likely to raise the profile of the city.

    In any case, I’m a great believe in trying to pronounce words in the way of the language of the country. I’ve heard enough English people not bothering to pronounce town names in Wales.

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