Last edited by birdeen's call; 01-Dec-2011 at 19:53. Reason: thanks, 5jj
Prompted by your remark I looked in Wikipedia and learned the same. My uneducated guess is that English could have been his fourth or even fifth since at his day Poland was being occupied by Austro-Hungary (enforcing German as official language) and in this part of the country Russian or Ukrainian has always been spoken hand in hand with Polish (which gave rise to a mixed dialect still in use, called "Chachłacki").
I suppose your current place of residence serves as a fitting backdrop to Condrad's narratives
You are absolutely right and I only realized it after reading your post! I searched both "Polish Language Phraseology Dictionary" and "Polish Language Dictionary published by PWN" and found no prhase containing "counterfeit farthing or zły szeląg" which could possibly be used to convey what Conrad meant.
When originally posting this thread I indeed erroneously thought that Conrad could have borrowed (perhaps instinctively) from "Nie dałbym za to złamanego grosza" little thinking that "broken farthing / złamany grosz or szeląg" is neither here nor there in front of "counterfeit farthing".
This leads me to put forward these options:
1. Conrad intended to say "Nie dałbym za to złamanego grosza" (I would not have given a broken farthing) but mixed up the "zły szeląg" (counterfeit farthing) with the "złamany szeląg" (broken farthing)
2. Wrote what he wrote without any intention to borrow anything but rather spontaneously or off the top of his head
By the way, which English idiom (through and through and tired as it might be ) could Conrad have used to convey what he meant?
You'll often find novelists intentionally writing novel phrases. It's partly what their readers pay them for.