I am inclined to see Warsaw, if we’re talking orthography, much like the Polish language itself. Difficult to spell. Even more difficult to pronounce. When I say that the Polish language is the most difficult I have encountered, more difficult than Mandarin, Hungarian, or Arabic, I kid you not. Its orthography alone is enough to drive you up the wall. Think Gaelic fused with Swahili and you’re almost there. It is a devious concoction of letters and symbols, hooks and accents, stress and silence. At times when confronted with clusters of consonants half a mile long one wonders if Poles have ever heard of vowels. Polish words seem to suffer from the same lack of ‘town-planning’ that the city does. It is, if you will excuse my forthrightness, a mess. Take one of my students’ names, Martyna Skrzypczynska, for example, or the inimitable Square of the Three Crosses in Warsaw, Plac Trzech Krzyzy. Or words like WŁĄCZAĆ (to include) or PRZYCISZYĆ (to supress) which my all too clever spellchecker insists in changing to ‘sissy’ (probably because that’s what it thinks of me).

This is not an uncommon event in Polish, encountering words whose orthography is so oblique that you simply do not know where to start. The city itself is a little like this.

To respond to this (and to compensate for Martyna's almost completely disemvowelled surname), there is a definite ‘logopoeia’ going on here, that is, a dance of the intellect among words.

The Scots ‘philosopher’ Ivor Cutler once remarked on vowels that they were the lubrication that stopped consonants from sticking together like boiled sweeties in a paper bag. The prospect of a bag of sticky humbugs is not a wholly unpleasant one though.

I suppose, as a native English speaker, it’s a bit like the pot calling the kettle black. Just look at the ‘ough’ combo in English and all the myriad ways of pronouncing it. The ‘szcz’ combination in Polish has but one sound.

When I wander through Warsaw there is always something of an orthographic complexity to the city that bowls me over. But the city it would appear, from travelling through its great spaces, is full of vowels. The syntax of the city, if not its orthography, continues to call forth the attention, and choreograph the intellect into some wild primal dance. There's something uniquely special about the city that I just can't put my finger on. It's as if as I wander its various ways I am looking at the covers of a thousand books whose names are unpronounceably fascinating. There is no linearity any longer, no centre. I have been released into the realm of 'metropoeia'.

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