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I am a non-native speaker of English (Polish) and I teach English as a Foreign Language in Poland. A few months ago I came across this phrase / sentence printed on the student's notebook and got baffled because I didn't know how to translate it into Polish.

Can anyone please provide me with enough defintion-rich explanations or other contexts and situations in which this sentence may be used. Generally I have a problem with the word "freak" as I rarely use it. I simply avoid as much as I can the momorization and the internalization of it. I've done some research on the Internet, however it doesn't help me to arrive at a good Polish translation. Can you at least explain in which culture-bound situations it is used?

UPDATE: Well, I found that this phrase is often used along with the Monster High doll franchise, web series, book series and a movie. I know that there is a cartoon series that was also aired in Polish TV channels, so I will look in there too. It may be a unique phrase, not used elsewhere but if you happen to know what it means and what it refers to, I will be grateful

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I can't say for sure, but, based on some searches I did, I think this catch-phrase may be associated with the Monster High book series for teens. "Freak" has several meanings, but it sometimes means outside the norm and on the fringe. For teenagers hoping to fit in or being accepted, this can cause a lot of angst. The author is making the counter-culture fashionable and hip, which I think describes the phrase's meaning. –  J.R. Mar 13 '13 at 22:58
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4 Answers

Just a guess here, but it looks like it means that they’re saying they made being weird into something that’s “cool”.

Also, I guess the phrase should rhyme.

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Thanks, tchrist. Can you rephrase "they made being weird into something cool" Who was made? I don't get it. Somebody was forced into something? I don't get the part with "made". What does make / made mean here? –  ynglisz Mar 13 '13 at 22:49
    
@ynglisz Whoever the “I” is in that sentence. My guess is that they are merely doing the typical teenager thing of thinking they are all weird and unlike other people, and then turning around and saying that that’s ok and even great. This is not really an English thing, just a kid thing. –  tchrist Mar 13 '13 at 22:58
    
OK, thank you very much. –  ynglisz Mar 13 '13 at 23:04
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As tchrist points out, the phrase rhymes. It's a fairly common form of wordplay in English to say "Put the X in XY". That is, to use a part of a word (orthographically, not semantically) and make a clarifying, ironic, or otherwise non-literal statement about the larger word. For example, speaking of someone who was weird and didn't bathe regularly, you might say "He puts the reek in freak", which is even a little better as wordplay than the original since it does more than just rhyme.

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I like to say that I put the Nick in persnickety. :) –  enjayem Mar 14 '13 at 1:38
    
So Andrew Lazarus, can you confirm my way of thinking? Am I on the right track? If I do some descriprive way of explaining this to my students, would it be correct if i said that someone who is aware or over aware of fashion (chic=fashion?), likes what's in and is generally up-to-date with the latest in fashion pays too much attention to it and does it in a weird, and eccentric way? –  ynglisz Mar 14 '13 at 4:32
    
Well, J.R.'s comment is worth paying attention to. In this case (in contrast to reek), the inserted word of chic has a generally positive connotation. So in this case there's an attempt to alter the overtones of freak. Hope this helps. –  Andrew Lazarus Mar 14 '13 at 5:00
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You could certainly translate the words into a non-English language but you would lose the underlying intention of using two words that sound (a little) alike but have meanings that apparently contrast (or even clash).

Although there is nothing particularly poetic about what is apparently a marketing slogan, the translation issues are those as those faced in dealing with poetry. A successful translation needs to identify the intended meaning and the connotation of the sound as separate entities and then recreate both in the target language (probably using words that are not a direct transliteration of the original).

I suggest that set your students the challenge of writing a Polish sentence (of not more than 10 words?) that conveys the idea making something that is regarded as avante garde appear to be stylish and to ensure the sentence is memorable by including a (near) rhyme. Then the pressure is off you and back onto them!

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It is almost certainly a pop-culture reference to this song. Also see here. As such, it probably doesn't really 'translate' at all - it doesn't mean anything independent of that context!

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