Common sense?


Musing on the Polish election results

At the end of the 4.50 from Paddington (the 1987 BBC TV adaptation of Agatha Christie’s novel with Joan Hickson), just after the final dénouement, there is an interesting exchange between the rakish Cedric Crackenthorpe and Miss Marple regarding the super-efficient Lucy Eyelesbarrow and his rival for her affections, Bryan Eastley.

Miss Marple. She’s not in love with him yet, of course. I rather think that she’s more attracted to you. But she’ll marry him, and make him what she wants, and then she’ll fall in love with him… probably when she’s expecting their third child.

Cedric. I never realised before that common sense is as powerful an instinct as love, hatred or patriotism.

Miss Marple. How very common sensible of you to realise it.

4.50 from Paddington (BBC TV 1987)

Note how the positive connotation of ‚common’ in common sense, common law and common land can turn to the neutral in a phrase like common sense clothes and can turn to the negative as in: that’s rather common.

So what’s common sense in Polish? Zdrowy rozsądek, perhaps?


One Response to “Common sense?”

  1. Equally interesting is the extent to which different people will assess the positivity. Your positive connotations are neutral to me, with ‚common sense’ being so obvious a standard feature that in the negative (lack of…) it is completely negative, not neutral as comes from the lack of a positive attribute. ‚Common sense clothes’ are usually a positive thing – appropriate for practical situations eg going for a walk in the country, unlike fashion clothing. I agree with the ‚rather common’, but how would you weight ‚It’s very common’ without context? Put on a snobby voice and it’s negative. A doctor saying it, can be reassuring and the meaning positive to someone who fears they’ve got some strange illness.

    I think you are right about the translation from my dictionaries, but zdrowy rozsądek is also used for ‚good sense’ which is closer to ‚zdrowy’. Common sense being about sensible judgements, whilst good sense being about intelligent judgements (Oxford Wordpower). An alternative might be ‚chłopski rozum’ from another source. This sounds insulting, although usage may make it not so, but its inclusion in only my best P/E dictionary suggests that it isn’t routinely used. This makes me suspect that ‚common sense’ isn’t a characteristic that is routinely considered in Poland. Why have a phrase for something so unexceptional.


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