Was Polka Really Invented in Poland?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about music and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the music urban legends featured so far.

MUSIC URBAN LEGEND: Polka was created in Poland.

For almost two centuries now, the dance and the music style known as the Polka have been associated with Poland.

But did either the dance or the music style actually originate in Poland?

Nope! Both actually originated in the nearby country now known as the Czech Republic.

The term polka derived from the original Czech name, which was “pulka,” which is Czech for “little half,” a reference to the short half-steps used in the Polka dance. Here, then, is most likely where the confusion comes in. The Czech word for a Polish person was “polka.”

So just how the Pennsylvania Deutsch soon became the Pennslyvania Dutch, so, too, did the Pulka become the Polka, and become forever associated with originating in Poland.

Now, don’t get me wrong, the Polka dance and music style hit Warsaw in Poland only a few years after originating in the Czech lands, and it was in Poland that the genre really was formalized and took off.

In fact, the word “polka” traces to the French in 1844, and so by then, they likely had already begun attributing the origins of the Polka TO Poland, but, as noted, it’s a miscredit.

So while they have done wonders for the popularity of the dance and music, Poland can’t claim the origins of the Polka.

The legend is…

STATUS: False

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future urban legends columns! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com

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