Rhododendron threat raised in Dáil” is a brief but piquant news story well summed up in the first sentence: “Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae has claimed that the spread of rhododendron in Killarney National Park is so bad that the army may have to be called in to sort it out.” I bring it here solely for the accompanying video clip, less than half a minute long, which presents, as Trevor, who sent it to me (thanks, Trevor!), says, “a reminder of what a strong Kerry accent sounds like.” It’s truly a thing of wonder; as I said in response, I love the way he says the word rhododendrons.


I’m on the home stretch of Rieber’s The Struggle for the Eurasian Borderlands (see this post), and in the course of reading up on the Great Eastern Crisis of 1875 and its consequences (which ultimately included the First World War and the entire last century’s worth of awfulness) I’ve run across items that satisfy my addiction to both long-forgotten, short-lived territorial entities (in this case the Republic of Tamrash, which seceded from the almost equally obscure Eastern Rumelia) and splendidly sonorous aristocratic monikers (see, for instance, this 2014 post, with Louis Phélypeaux de Saint-Florentin; le duc de Fitz-James; and la princesse de Salm-Salm, duchesse de l’Infantado, among others, and this 2003 one, with Astrid Pouppez de Ketteris de Hollaeken, la baronne Laetitia de Villenfagne de Vogelsanck, and Gioia Sardagna von Neuberg e Hohenstein Ferrari). I give you the family Khevenhüller:

Khevenhüller is the name of a Carinthian noble family, documented there since 1356, with its ancestral seat at Landskron Castle. In the 16th century, the family split into the two branches of Khevenhüller-Frankenburg, Imperial Counts (i.e. immediate counts of the Holy Roman Empire) from 1593, and Khevenhüller-Hochosterwitz, raised to Imperial Counts in 1725 and, as Khevenhüller-Metsch, to princely rank (Fürsten) in 1763. […]

Johann IV von Khevenhüller zu Aichelberg (born ca 1420-1462) was the first to hold the family title “of Aichelberg”, yet Johann V Khevenhüller (died 1462), son of Wilhelm II Khevenhüller and Margareta von Auersperg, was Burgrave of Federaun, whereas his son, Augustin Khevenhüller, who died 1516, is referred to as Herr (i.e. Lord) of Hardegg. His mother was one “Miss” von Lindegg, who together with her grandson Sigismund III, Herr Khevenhüller in Hohen-Osterwitz (1507–1558) appears among the ancestors of Prince Charles. Her youngest grandson, Bernard von Khevenhüller (1511–1548) was “Herr auf Sternberg and Hohenwart”; her eldest grandson, Christoph Khevenhüller (1503–1557) was Lord of Aichelberg.

Khevenhüller-Hochosterwitz! Burgrave of Federaun! Herr of Hardegg! “Miss” von Lindegg! Further down is Bartlmä Khevenhüller, but the real gems come in the Spanish branch: Don Camilo Ruspoli y Khevenhüller-Metsch, Marescotti-Capizucchi y Liechtenstein, dei Principi Ruspoli! Don Luigi Ruspoli y Godoy, de Khevenhüller-Metsch y Borbón, dei Principi Ruspoli, 3rd Marquis of Boadilla del Monte! Don Adolfo Ruspoli y Godoy di Bassano, de Khevenhüller-Metsch y Borbón, dei Principi Ruspoli, 2nd Duke of Alcudia! The last-named was a Grandee of Spain First Class, as well he might be.


In his Фрегат “Паллада” [The Frigate Pallada], Goncharov uses Ликейские острова for what are now called острова Рюкю, the Ryukyu Islands. I found the old name curious, and when Goncharov goes on to say “Что это такое Ликейские острова, или, как писали у нас в старых географиях, Лиеу-Киеу, или, как иностранцы называют их, Лю-чу (Loo-Choo), а по выговору жителей ‘Ду-чу”‘?” [What are these Likei Islands, or as the old geographers wrote, Lieu-Kieu, or as foreigners call them, Loo-Choo, or in the local accent Du-chu?] I turned to Wikipedia, where I found this section on “Historical usage”:

Ryūkyū” is an exonym and is not a self-designation. The word first appeared in the Book of Sui (636). Its obscure description of Liuqiu (流求) is the source of a never-ending scholarly debate over what was referred to by the name, Taiwan, Okinawa or both. Nevertheless, the Book of Sui shaped perceptions of Ryūkyū for a long time. Ryūkyū was considered a land of cannibals and aroused a feeling of dread among surrounding people, from Buddhist monk Enchin who traveled to Tang China in 858 to an informant of the Hyōtō Ryūkyū-koku ki who traveled to Song China in 1243. Later, some Chinese sources used “Great Ryukyu” (Chinese: 大琉球; pinyin: Dà Liúqiú) for Okinawa and “Lesser Ryukyu” (Chinese: 小琉球; pinyin: Xiǎo Liúqiú) for Taiwan. Okinawan forms of “Ryūkyū” are Ruuchuu (ルーチュー?) or Duuchuu (ドゥーチュー?) in Okinawan and Ruuchuu (ルーチュー?) in the Kunigami language.[13][14] An Okinawan man was recorded as having referred to himself as a “Doo Choo man” during Commodore Matthew C. Perry’s visit to the Ryūkyū Kingdom in 1852.[15]

From about 1829 until the mid-20th century, the islands’ English name was spelled Luchu, Loochoo, or Lewchew. These spellings were based on the Chinese pronunciation of the characters “琉球”, which in Mandarin is Liúqiú, as well as the Okinawan language’s form Ruuchuu (ルーチュー?).

All of which is complicated enough, but none of it explains the Russian term Ликейские острова [Likei Islands] (and the Russian Wikipedia article doesn’t address the issue). Any thoughts?

Bill of Goods.

My wife and I were out walking when one of us mentioned somebody being “sold a bill of goods” and we looked at each other in that this-is-a-case-for-Languagehat way and said “How did that expression arise?” We surmised, correctly, that a bill of goods is literally a consignment of merchandise (in the words of Merriam-Webster), but how did it come to mean (to quote their second definition) “something intentionally misrepresented : something passed off in a deception or fraud”? Anybody know the history of this?

Two Japanese Questions.

1) In Jangfeldt’s Mayakovsky bio, he says “After his return from Berlin in May 1924, Mayakovsky met with the Japanese author Tamisi Naito, who was visiting Moscow.” (In the original: “Efter hemkomsten från Berlin i maj 1924 träffade Majakovskij den japanske författaren Tamisi Naito, som var på besök i Moskva.”) I can find no reference to such an author elsewhere, and I suspect the name may have gotten garbled; anybody know who this might be?

2) In Goncharov’s Фрегат “Паллада” [The Frigate Pallada] (see this post), he repeatedly refers to a cry of Japanese oarsmen, “оссильян” [ossil’yan], which Goetze renders “ossilian.” The -l- makes this impossible Japanese, of course, and I suspect there are other distortions; anybody know what the original word or phrase is?

(The hapless Goetze transliterates Хагивари, the name of one of the Japanese officers [the Russian word for ‘officer’ here, баниос, is borrowed from Dutch banjoost, but I have no idea what that’s from], three different ways: Kagivari, Chagivary, and best of all Charivari. He also omits large chunks of text — several pages on what Goncharov perceives as similarities between Chinese and Japanese, half a dozen pages on the need for Japan to open itself to the outside world, and every passage in which a fellow member of the expedition, Goshkevich, makes an anti-Semitic remark. For shame!)

Dictionaries Are Hot Again.

Katherine Rosman has a piece for the New York Times on the current popularity of dictionaries:

At a time when many are questioning the definition of common words they thought they understood, after years of the English language being degraded by text messages and hashtags, dictionaries have made a surprising comeback in the United States.

On dictionary apps and websites, “lookups” (which, according to Merriam-Webster, is one word) of words or phrases related to news events have precipitously increased. Bibliophiles are becoming social media stars. Sales of print dictionaries remain brisk and are a profit center for some publishers.

“Dictionaries are not regarded as sexy or interesting, but what dictionaries are known for is telling the truth,” said Jesse Sheidlower, a lexicographer and past president of the American Dialect Society. “Right now there are a lot of questions about what is true. We want clear statements about what things are, and dictionaries provide that.”

The most commonly used dictionaries, whether in print or digital, reflect what is known as “descriptive lexicography,” meaning that editors study the way people use words and determine their meaning based on that evidence.

Social media has been revolutionary in changing the access lexicographers have to the evolution of how words are used. Yet the process of evaluating evidence and writing definitions in a clear and unbiased manner remains the objective, said Katherine Connor Martin, head of American dictionaries at Oxford University Press.

And there’s a great quote from Sheidlower at the end: “In times of stress, people will go to things that will provide answers. The Bible, the dictionary or alcohol.”

Triplex Confinium.

I’m in the middle of reading The Struggle for the Eurasian Borderlands: From the Rise of Early Modern Empires to the End of the First World War, by Alfred J. Rieber; it’s very dense and very informative, and I’m learning all sorts of things I didn’t know. Herewith a few of LH interest:

1) Triplex Confinium is one of the best toponyms I’ve ever seen; it’s an early modern term for the region where Romania, Hungary and Serbia come together [actually the Venetian Republic, the Ottoman Empire, and the Habsburg Monarchy, as J.W. Brewer points out in the comments], and it means ‘triple border’ in Latin.

2) We all know about the Vlachs (I posted about them in the very early days of LH), but I did not know that the Venetians called them Morlacchi (per Wikipedia, Morlachs) and that “the Catholic Vlachs were called Bunjevichi” (p. 304).

3) I knew the Ionian Islands were not part of independent Greece until 1864, but I did not know that from 1800 to 1807 they were under joint Russian and Ottoman rule as the Septinsular Republic! (Rieber calls it the Republic of the Seven Islands, perhaps for poetic effect.) The idea of the Romanov and Ottoman empires, which fought wars every couple of decades for centuries, joining in even so short-lived a venture is astonishing to me. And from a footnote in that part of the book I learned about Avgusta Stanislavskaya’s Русско-английские отношения и проблемы Средиземноморья (1798-1807), which Rieber thinks very highly of and which it turns out is available as a pdf download here, in case anyone else is interested.

Norwottuck II.

A decade ago I posted about the local place name Norwottuck (“Or something like that”); now I’ve come across what seems to be a knowledgeable discussion in Alice Nash’s “Quanquan’s Mortgage of 1663” in Marla R. Miller (ed.), Cultivating a Past: Essays on the History of Hadley, Massachusetts. On p. 29 Nash says it’s properly Nolwottog, with the accent on the second syllable, and on p. 31 she writes:

Nolwottog is also known in the literature as Norwottock and Nonotuck, with orthographic variations on the three names. The 1653 deed calls the place Nonotuck. This is not a misspelling. The Algonkian languages spoken by indigenous peoples in New England have three major forms, or reflexes. The most obvious difference to the nonspecialist is that one uses n where the others use l or r. John Eliot, the Protestant missionary, wrote, “We in [eastern] Massachusetts pronounce the N; the Nipmuck Indians pronounce L; and the Northern Indians pronounce R.” Similarly, the endings –ogg or –og, –ock, and –uck are all variants of a locative ending, indicating the word refers to a place. When documents were written by Englishmen who knew the land and its people well, such as John Pynchon and the fur traders who worked for him, they wrote Nolwottogg, because that was what they heard. Nonotuck, the n form used in the 1653 deed, is an historical remnant, reflecting a kind of internal colonialism. When Englishmen such as John Pynchon and his father, William, first began to buy inland tracts in the Connecticut River Valley, they often hired the services of Native men from eastern Massachusetts as interpreters and to aid in the negotiations. The earliest interpreter, a Wampanoag man named William Ahhaton, understood the dialect spoken by the people of Nolwottog, but he pronounced their name as Nonotuck. The name was written as Ahhaton pronounced it. Although John Pynchon later recorded the name as Nolwottog, the alternate spelling persists to this day. Ironically, the Nolwottog have been better known by what others called them than by what they called themselves.

We discussed “Wampanoag” in 2005.

Russian Neologisms.

Since I’m in the middle of reading Bengt Jangfeldt’s Mayakovsky bio (and, of course, Mayakovsky’s poetry to go with it), it seemed like a good time to haul out my copy of Assya Humesky’s 1964 Majakovskij and His Neologisms, and I thought this passage from the introduction was interesting enough to share:

In the history of Russian literature certain periods are marked by intensive word-coining activity. One such literary epoch when neologisms were fashionable was the time of the so-called “Second South Slavic Influence” (Fourteenth — Fifteenth centuries). The literary men of the Slavic East, imitating their southern brethren, created neologisms for the sake of stylistic ornamentation. Word compounds (or composita) became an especially popular type of neologism under the influence of the Trnov school. Cf. Epifanij Premudrejšij: Skytat’sja po goram, goroplennym i volkoxiščnym byti;*[Footnote: Neologisms within quotations are given in roman letters, single neologisms are italicized.] nevestokrasitelju moj i pesnokrasitelju.

The ornamental style (“pletenie sloves”) appeared again in the Seventeenth century, strengthened by a new influence, that of the Baroque. Literature of this period was also rich in composita, cf. Simeon Polockij: volkoubijstvennyj, vodorodnye oblaka (i.e. “water-producing”), mjagkopostel’niki, mnogokonniki.

Two centuries later it was the Romantics of the Golden Age of Russian poetry who picked up this fascinating tradition. Thus we find in Boratynskij lelejatel’, naxod, burnopogodnyj, bratstvovat’; in Jazykov — bezdiplomnyj (cf. the recent sovietizm svobodnodiplomnik), prixvostnica (fem. of prixvosten′), delano-zanjatoj, in Tjutčev — vsedrobjaščeju strueju, dymno-legko, mglisto-lilejno, po tëmno-bryzžuščim kovram. Neologisms were scattered throughout the poems of Benediktov, Vjazemskij, and others.

Following this Golden Age, a long period of sometimes unintentional, sometimes deliberate neglect of poetic form had set in (the few “formalists” of that period were an exception rather than a rule). Only at the end of the Nineteenth century is there a renewal of interest in matters connected with literary style and form. Such writers as Remizov and the Symbolists Bal’mont, Andrej Belyj, and others interspersed their works with neologisms. Especially prominent among words coined by the Symbolists were abstract nouns (feminine gender with the suffix –ost’), plural forms of words which ordinarily are used only in the singular, and multi-rooted composite adjectives. Here, for example, are a few of Bal’mont’s neologisms: zmejnost’, voskresnost’, ručjistost’, rascvety, sgoran’ja, vozdušno-laskovyj, vozvyšenno-košmarnyj, mnogo-lavinnyj. […]

What compels authors to create new words? Sometimes it is the desire to designate a new cultural concept — such are many of Karamzin’s neologisms and those of the “philosophical poets” of the Nineteenth century. Or it may be part of a puristic fight against foreign borrowings — many of the neologisms created by Eighteenth century writers were of this nature (cf. Tred’jakovskij’s debr’ smesi for “chaos,” členovoe sostavlenie for “organization,” vsenarodnyj for “epidemic,” razvrat for “party”), as were also the neologisms created by the “archaists” at the beginning of the Nineteenth century. Finally, the cause may be of a psychological or aesthetic nature.

Incidentally, the book appeared under the imprint of Rausen Publishers, an occasional variant of Rausen Bros., a printing house run by two brothers that published a lot of Russian books between around 1949 (the earliest I’ve found) and the mid-1960s; it made a brief appearance in wider literary history when it prepared the reproductions of Doctor Zhivago for the CIA (see The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle Over a Forbidden Book, p. 134). You can get a bunch of their publications by putting “Rausen Bros.” into the Google Books search box; they also published my nice little 1966 edition of Abram Tertz’s Mysli vrasplokh.


CoCoON (COllections de COrpus Oraux Numériques) is a platform for oral resources; it’s got Atlas Linguistique des Côtes de l’Atlantique et de la Manche, Atlas linguistique d’Haïti, AuCo: corpus audio de langues du Vietnam et des pays voisins, lots of good stuff. I got the link through the good offices of the ever-alert bulbul, who says “I discovered it only yesterday and got a total kick out of the collection of texts in Slavomolisano (e.g. Bonifacio en Amérique, NB the final sentence).” Slavomolisano, to someone who knows a different Slavic language, sounds both weird and familiar. Enjoy!