I remember when I heard this word for the first time from a Polish person – it must have been 2007. Who on earth came up with that? I was told that it was a common adjective to describe a Pakistani person or a person with a similar skin colour. Two questions came to my mind: isn’t it offensive? How did it come about?
I thought it must have something to do with chapatti – Indian flatbread (recipe) and the Polish word ‘ciapaty’ (transl: spotted, flecked). So the two words were merged to create this ‘commonly used’ word. I have done a bit of online research. After all, I need to know how to translate it when it comes up during my interpreting sessions, and believe you me – it does come up!
I would like to point out that I do not want to offend anyone and I do apologise in advance if you find this content offensive. But as a Polish interpreter and a translator, I need to relay the message the same way it was put to me, without omitting or adding anything (IOL’s Code of Professional Conduct [5.7] and ITI’s Code of Professional Conduct [4.1.2]).
I have found several articles online which may help me to translate this weird ‘name’ into English. First of all, a confirmation of my definition of the word ‘ciapaty’: a contemptuous term describing a Pakistani, Indian or another dark skin-coloured person (but not a black person!) introduced to the Polish language by Polish people living in the UK. This term is typical for Polish immigrants and probably originates from the name of an Indian bread. It usually expresses envy or a conviction about poor intellectual abilities of the people described by this word.
Example: ‘Ciapaci mnie z roboty wygryźli…’ – I have been ousted from my job by Pakis…(http://www.miejski.pl/slowo-Ciapaty).
Interesting tags have been attached to the above link: ‘emigration’, ‘racism’.
There is an interesting article in a Polish magazine which defends Asian people (http://londynek.net/czytelnia/article?jdnews_id=2891747&cat_id=69).
But I keep searching further and I find another article which is so offensive that I am not going to give away the web link. It talks about the hygiene of Asian people, their prices of Polish beer, intellect, their relationships with Polish women etc.
I believe the adjective ‘ciapaty’ is unjust towards Asians and I really do not want to repeat the same ‘stereotypes’. It is worth mentioning that not all Poles think this way. Maybe it is not my place to defend Polish people but I can say from my interpreting experience that some Poles, who find it hard to articulate themselves well, simply do now know the correct Polish word to use when talking about an Asian, Pakistani or Indian person. The word ‘ciapaty’ quickly springs to their mind and does not require thinking hard, therefore saving time and money when paying for interpreting services (LOL). Perhaps, for Polish people, I should suggest an alternative from the world of the Polish language, like ‘Hindus’ (mieszkaniec Indii, obywatel tego kraju), ‘Pakistanczyk’ (mieszkaniec Pakistanu, obywatel tego państwa).
But, as I said before, my role is simple – to translate the word into English. Therefore my suggestions are:
Ciapaty – ‘a chapatti man’ (a bit milder), ‘Paki’ (considered offensive).
And to finish on a positive note – a motivating story ‘I’m a Paki and proud’.