It’s been a rough day, people. Oh, nothing serious, just the usual detritus of life. I woke up to find we couldn’t get onto the internet; that sometimes happens, but usually it goes away in an hour or two. This time it didn’t. I could edit my Word files, but I was going to have to e-mail them on deadline. I called Time Warner and went through the usual round of menus and getting passed from one helpful but helpless human to another. They said they’d send somebody. Meanwhile, my mother-in-law was anxious, my wife was having a difficult time at work, and the World Cup games weren’t going well. By the time a genial fellow showed up and got us back online (it was a router problem), hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of spam comments had accumulated on my poor blog—I’ve never had such a heavy attack. I think perhaps “tamilu” hit every single thread that hadn’t been closed; I’m still deleting them by the score, but I’m taking time out to post, because I’ve got to get back to work and god knows how long it will take me to clear out all the kudzu. Oh, and while I was waiting for each batch of spam to be dealt with I read the New Yorker “Life During Wartime” double issue that’s been sitting around for a few weeks now (you can get an idea of the contents from MoorishGirl) and got more and more depressed. (Here are two quotes that pretty much put war in a nutshell. From “Ivory Coast, 2000″ by Tony D’Souza: “Donatien said, ‘This is where the Dioula used to live.’ The Dioula were Muslim people from the north whom I’d soon be sent to serve. ‘What happened to them?’ I asked. Donatien stared at the foundations as though he were searching his memory. Then he said ‘The price of cocoa fell, times became hard. We told the Dioula to go, but they refused.’ ‘What did you do?’ ‘We came in the night and killed them.’” And from the journal of Second Lieutenant Brian Humphreys, with the U.S. army in Iraq: “We are fighting a rival gang for the same turf, while the neighborhood residents cower and wait to see whose side they should come out on.”) I have a couple of books to tell you about, but I haven’t got time or energy at the moment. Instead I’ll leave you with a couple of tidbits I’ve happened on recently:
1) While trying to discover the origin of the name Lunacharsky (which isn’t in Unbegaun, annoyingly), I saw that the name Lundyshev is derived from an obsolete Russian word lundysh ‘cloth’ which comes (via Polish and German) from London. Etymology is such fun!
2) While distracting myself with one of my few rare books, Jacob Rodde’s Russische Sprachlehre (Riga: Johann Friedrich Hartknoch, 1778, 4th ed. 1789—a “teach yourself Russian” book for the use of Baltic Germans in the time of Catherine the Great), I discovered that one of the домашные разговоры/Gespräche von Haussachen ‘household conversations’ included the sentence:
Господинъ Розе прислалъ сказать, что онъ будетъ и съ женою своею.
Herr Rose hat sagen lassen, dass er mit seiner Liebsten kommen wird.
‘Mr. Rose sent word that he would be coming with his wife[?].’
Now, жена means ‘wife,’ but in modern German that would be Frau, while Liebste means ‘sweetheart.’ You’d have to know a lot more than I do about 18th-century usage and customs to know who Herr Rose is going to show up with.
Oh, and sorry about the mess I made of yesterday’s post; I did too much research and then was tired and hasty when I tried to put the post together, and ran out of steam halfway through. I forgot to mention she was closely involved with the famous religious philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev, and I didn’t even make clear that she’s known to the secular world as Elizaveta Kuzmina-Karavaeva (under which name you will find her in Russian biographical dictionaries). I think I left out a lot of other interesting stuff as well. But it can’t be helped, and I’ve got to go earn my daily crust now. I hope it’s not as muggy where you are as it is here.