Ok. Just a tiny little word made up of two letters. Seems simple, right? It’s not. Not if you’re an American living in Poland. Ok – the adjective meaning “good”, not “ok” as in agreement – has a different meaning in English than you think it might. Let’s discuss.
So let’s take a situation I had recently. Our neighbor came over to babysit our kids. She’s 12 and she speaks English at home with her parents, so we speak English together. Anyway, when we got back in the evening and I asked her how it went she said “it was ok”. Hm… and that’s where the confusion started for me. Does she mean the Polish “ok” or the English “ok”? So I asked multiple times and each time got the same answer. In that case, I really wasn’t sure what she meant and here’s why.
In Polish, “ok” means “good”, “fine” – something positive. It is a positive adjective. So if Polish people use their word you know that it was truly ok 🙂
In English, “ok” means “not great”, “not very good”. So if I ask you “how was the movie?” and you say “it was ok”, I know it wasn’t that good, just so-so. This is because English-speaking people actually tend to use other, more expressive adjectives if something was “good”. So they’ll say “the movie was amazing”, for instance, to express that it was a positive experience. Words like “good”, “fine,” or “ok” can sometimes tell us that it wasn’t actually as good as we had hoped, but certainly this depends on the delivery.
So, based on this, you can imagine what it’s like in a Polish-American household when you ask questions like “so, how did you like the dinner I cooked?” or “how do you think I look in this?” and the answer is “ok” and then everything goes to shit 🙂
“Well, thanks a lot.”
-“I don’t understand…”
I think that now, finally, my husband understands what “ok” means after many similar tiffs. And typically I’ll just ask “English ok or Polish ok?” and then it’s all clear 🙂
Going back to our first example with the babysitter, I found out later from talking to her mom that it was overall good, but that she was really tired after, so I guess she meant the English “ok” 🙂 Smart girl.
So, the lesson is, if you’re not sure what to use, use a different adjective!