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Most English speakers anglicise the city’s name to something akin to “Lodge;” we hate to break it to you, but this is way off the mark. While some Polish cities have widely accepted anglicised names (Warsaw, Krakow) Łódź is not one of them. While you can get away with de-diacriticising the name in written form ie “Lodz,” pronouncing it is another thing altogether. If you tell someone in the Krakow train station you’re trying to get to “Lodge,” they may think you mean a mountain lodge and put you on a train to the Tatras. The key to cracking Łódź’s nutty name is obviously figuring out how to pronounce these alien-looking Polish letters. There’s only four of them, so here we go: The Polish ‘Ł’ is pronounced like an English ‘W,’ the ‘ó’ is pronounced like an English ‘oo,’ and (to simplify a bit) the Polish ‘dz’ letter combination is pronounced like an English ‘j’ or ‘dge’ as in ‘ledge.’ So let’s hear it – stand up straight, take a deep breath and bellow it out: Woodge, Woodge, WOODGE!
The origins of the city’s name have never really been conclusively established, and as such a number of theories exist. Local legend has it that a chap called Janusz used to navigate the marshlands, small rivers and streams of the area in his little boat. One day his vessel got stuck in the shallow waters and he sat down to consider what to do next. During his period of contemplation, ably assisted by a small religious icon which he always carried with him, the skies opened and a torrential downpour engulfed the land. He took this as a sign and in order to find shelter he dragged his boat to higher ground and upturned it onto some short tree trunks to act as a roof and so the first ‘house’ appeared in the area. In Polish ‘Łódź’ means ‘a small boat’ and some think that the city’s coat of arms is a reference to Janusz’s little punt. Many believe the name simply derives from the name of the noble Łodzic family, with their crest becoming the symbol of the city, while others think it comes from the old Polish word for willow tree – ‘łozy.’ One theory which holds no water, unlike the ground the city is built on, is that the name stems from the river Łódka when in fact the opposite is true; the river was previously known as the ‘Starowiejska’ and was changed after the city had already become known as Łódź. Personally, we’ll stick with old Janusz, at least his is a nice story.