In modern language, slang expressions are abundant.
Slang can enhance the sense of belonging to a group, while at the same time it makes the language more vivid.
Its use rarely causes problems, except in some particular cases, as has lately become evident to Polish gravediggers.
The language used by Polish cemetery workers leaves much to be desired, according to research carried out by Monika Mroz, a young lawyer.
In her master’s thesis, she studied the use of expressions concerning death and the dead by this professional group.
Her findings are alarming to the undertakers and cemetery owners.
Given the data collected by the young researcher, one can no longer be surprised at the large number of complaints issued by bereaved family members about gravediggers’ language.
Loosely translated, a “pendant” means the corpse of a hanged man, a “buoy” the body of a drowned one.
“Oak overcoat,” “box” and “pencil case” all denote a coffin. Colorful as it is, the gravedigger’s tongue can be extremely offensive to the friends and relations of the deceased.
“When I heard my cousin being referred to as a ?stiff biscuit,’ I just couldn’t help bursting into tears,” Teresa Janik, a shop assistant from Poznan, told the newspaper Dziennik Lodzki.
She, like many other offended families, complained to the owner of the funeral parlor. The numerous complaints resulted in the undertakers’ decision to provide gravediggers with special training on the proper use of language while at work. The task has been entrusted to the care of a renowned linguist, professor Jerzy Bralczyk.
“The problem is that although words such as ?corpse’ are so common to the people in our business, they sound demeaning to the families who suffer the loss of a beloved husband or mother,” said Tomasz Salski, chairman of the Polish Cremation Association of Cemetery Administrators and Funeral Directors. “We therefore should do our best to be most considerate and tactful.”
Professor Bralczykis faces a challenge. Polish language does not abound in expressions concerning eternal matters. Still, he is enthusiastic about the undertakers’ endeavor.
“It is admirable that they want to improve,” the linguist said. “In the situations they have to face on a daily basis, even neutral words acquire a trace of cruelty. The most vital thing is to refer to the dead as ?people,’ thus stressing their humanity.”
The training for cemetery workers will be in the form of lectures and workshops. Professor Bralczykis will visit several cities, teaching a total of 3,000 to 5,000 people.