This has been posted on the Slavic academic listserv SEELANGS, and I thought it was intriguing enough to repost here:
A few weeks ago I received a draft of a paper from a student who is a native speaker of Mandarin. The first line read: “Anton kowolski vicki Chekhov, as one of the most famous Russian short stories writer in the late nineteenth century Russian society, is valued highly and respectfully by lots of critics, scholars and historians.”
When I googled the phrase “Anton kowolski vicki Chekhov,” I found a Chinese edition that refers to him by this name.
Does anyone have any ideas about why the Chinese might call him by this name? One of my colleagues suggested that “vicki” might be some form of the patronymic ending “-ovich,” but that still leaves “kowolski” unaccounted for. (If I’m not mistaken, “Kowalski” is essentially the Polish equivalent of “Smith” (which in Russian would be Kuznetsov, I guess), but that doesn’t seem to answer my question.)
I also briefly considered the possibility that this was a matronymic of some sort, but I rejected that interpretation when I realized that Chekhov’s mother’s name was Evgeniia Iakovlevna Chekhova (nee Morozova), and not Vicky Kowalski (although I’m pretty sure that I went to high school with a Vicky Kowalski).
I join the poster in asking: Any thoughts? (Thanks, Caroline!)