Crimean Words.

I’m getting close to the end of Orlando Figes’s The Crimean War: A History (see this post), and I was thinking of posting about the words for items of clothing related to the war; fortunately Sashura, aka Alexander Anichkin, saved me the trouble with Crimean words in English at his blog Tetradki. Besides the trio of balaclava, raglan, and cardigan that I had planned to write about, he also briefly discusses some other words and phrases. A couple of clarifications: the reason Lord Raglan would have wanted “a type of clothing that has sleeves without seams on the shoulders” is that he had had an arm amputated after Waterloo (he was well past his prime by the time of the Crimean War), and Russell did not actually write the phrase “thin red line” — he wrote “[The Russians] dash on towards that thin red streak topped with a line of steel,” and vox populi compressed it into the more memorable wording that has become a cliche.

Addendum. I might as well add this here, since it’s related to the Crimean War and isn’t worth a post on its own: before the Allied troops were shipped to the Crimea, they were pushing the Russians out of Wallachia (part of modern Romania and then under Ottoman sovereignty); the main camp was at the port of Varna, but it was overcrowded and unhealthy and there was a cholera epidemic, so many troops were moved out of town, some to a place variously called (in English-language sources) Alladyn, Aladyn, Aladdin, Aledyn, and probably other forms as well. I, of course, wanted to know where this was. Poring over maps suggested to me that it had to be what is now the Bulgarian town of Strashimirovo (Страшимирово); that Bulgarian Wikipedia article gives its old name as Голям Алъдан (Golyam Alъdan), which was suggestive, and I finally googled up a Bulgarian webpage which confirmed it: “Aladyn – Голям Аладън (дн. с. Страшимирово, Област Варна, Община Белослав).” So I’m leaving the information here to save other curious readers of history some trouble: Alladyn is modern Strashimirovo. As to whether Wikipedia’s Алъдан is a mistake for Аладън or just a variant form, I leave it to Bulgarian readers to figure out.

Comments

  1. marie-lucie says:

    balaclava

    I was surprised when I learned this exotic-sounding word for what is called in French un passe-montagne, literally a ‘mountain-crosser’, something you wear instead of a hat to avoid freezing your face when crossing mountains (or similar activities) in winter.

  2. After reading both Anichkin’s post, and yours, I became curious as the origins of the very word, “Crimea” (Крым) and found this interesting article:

    http://crimean-titles.org/appearance/appearance_09_02.htm

  3. In the above article, the very word, “Crimea” seems like a line drawn on a map.

  4. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    I think that when I were a lad it was called a “Balaclava helmet” rather than just a “balaclava”, but I’m not sure that either were used all that much: the usual term then, as now, was “woolly hat”.

  5. Athol: I think that must be “woolly hat with face mask attached” to be a balaclava ?

  6. Alma — is a river in Crimea, site of the first major battle between the coalition and the Russians, won by the invading army. Alma became a popular name in Britain after the battle. Crimean Alma is of Turkic origin. In Crimean Tartar it means ‘apple.’

    Before Sashura told me this, I’d thought that the only translation of my daughter’s name was ‘soul’, from Latin and Spanish. I think that Balaclava, Sebasterpol and Inkerman are more common street names in Britain than Alma, which shows up a lot in French (see the Seine Bridge & the tunnel where Princess Di met her end), so I’m thinking it must have been more a French battle than British. The place where I normally looked up Crimean War stuff before Wikipedia was The Reason Why, Cecil Woodham-Smith’s book about the charge of the Light Brigade, but I can’t find where I’ve put it. Alan Bennett wrote about her, in the LRB,

    Cecil was a frail woman with a tiny bird-like skull, looking more like Elizabeth I (in later life) than Edith Sitwell ever did (and minus her sheet metal earrings). Irish, she had a Firbankian wit and a lovely turn of phrase. ‘Do you know the Atlantic at all?’ she once asked me and I put the line into Habeas Corpus and got a big laugh on it. From a grand Irish family she was quite snobbish; talking of someone she said: ‘Then he married a Mitford … but that’s a stage everybody goes through.’ Even the most ordinary remark would be given her own particular twist and she could be quite camp. Conversation had once turned, as conversations will, to fork-lift trucks. Feeling that industrial machinery might be remote from Cecil’s sphere of interest I said: ‘Do you know what a fork-lift truck is?’ She looked at me in her best Annie Walker manner. ‘I do. To my cost.’

    (In the 60s & 70s, Annie Walker was the publican at the Rover’s Return pub, in Manchester, on Coronation Street on ITV.)

  7. I still use “Balaclave helmet”, which I picked up from my grandmother who knitted me one, although it’s called a Finlandshette here. As a child I used to think of it as being made from chain-mail.

  8. marie-lucie says:

    The passe-montagne (and I think the current balaclava too) does not have a separate face mask, it is all knitted in the round like other woolen hats, but with holes made in the part that will cover the face (the holes are made while knitting, they are not cut out afterwards). But the original balaclava helmet would have had a separate, soft face piece attached to the hard helmet.

  9. Cecil Woodham-Smith was a woman?! The things I learn around here!

  10. Before Sashura told me this, I’d thought that the only translation of my daughter’s name was ‘soul’, from Latin and Spanish
    One of Budapest’s prime tango dance venues (which we visited last summer) is called Milonga Tango y Alma, and its banner features juicy green apples, a pun largely lost on non-native speakers :) The word is a Turkic borrowing in Hungarian.

  11. That’s great!

  12. Siganus Sutor says:

    AJP: I think that Balaclava, Sebasterpol and Inkerman are more common street names in Britain than Alma

    But, thank God, elsewhere in the Empire: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=623621577679139&l=75a1a01e7b

  13. whether Wikipedia’s Алъдан is a mistake for Аладън or just a variant form

    if it is a variant, then it must be a rare one. Bulgarian sources almost universally use “Аладън”

    Голям или Малък Аладън (с. Страшимирово и с. Езерово)
    Also in the index of obsolete toponyms; and in village’s websites, e.g. До 1899г. Голям Аладън след това прекръстено на Страшимирово and scores more, including historical photos and engravings of Аладън which do not specify the Big / Small (Голям / Малък) part

    For comparison, Малък Алъдан is not found in Google searches at all, and “Голям Алъдан” (in quotes) hits few pages, most of them being Russian.

  14. Good researching! I don’t dare edit the Bulgarian Wikipedia, but perhaps someone will change it.

  15. But, thank God, elsewhere in the Empire:

    Sig, I’d assumed that was a French suggestion, that sign. Last week, I walked passed a row of Victorian houses in Alma’s street in Chiswick, in London that have old battle names and one is ‘Alma’, so maybe I’m wrong.

    The word is a Turkic borrowing in Hungarian

    Dmitry, I thought you’d told me that on Facebook, but now I can’t find it. Anyway, it impressed my wife, and now enough time has passed that she’s repeating it to me.

    I don’t dare edit the Bulgarian Wikipedia

    Don’t be a wimp. All they can do is delete it (but they won’t) and editing Bulgarian wiki is a recherché accomplishment that most of us could only dream of.

    Cecil Woodham-Smith was a woman?! The things I learn around here!

    This is really a British thing, isn’t it? Evelyn Waugh, George Eliot, Carol Reed (well, sort of).

  16. J. W. Brewer says:

    “Sebastopol” gets paired with “Adrianapolis” in the (admittedly oblique/surreal) lyrics to John Cale’s “A Child’s Christmas in Wales,” although I can’t quite figure out a connection other than loose geographical proximity. Wikipedia reports numerous battles at/of Adrianapolis/Adrianople/Edirne from A.D. 313 through A.D. 1913 but nothing in the 1850′s. Cale may have been just going through a wacky-toponym phase, since the same LP has another song with the line “Welcome back to Chipping and Sodbury.” (See also the songs “Half Past France” and “Antarctica Starts Here.”)

  17. I thought you’d told me that on Facebook

    I couldn’t remember it either :) New is old but forgotten, right?

    BTW isn’t anima Latin for “soul”? Also, the Russian feminine name Альма is very popular, only not for the humans. It’s for the dogs, especially German Shepherds, and it’s usually explained by Latin alma “kind, nourishing” … but I doubt if the explanation has merit, and why the name is so popular. Was it originally a name from a movie or a popular book?

  18. J. W. Brewer says:

    Tom Lehrer: “Last December 13th [presumably 1964], there appeared in the newspapers the juiciest, spiciest, raciest obituary that has ever been my pleasure to read. It was that of a lady named Alma Mahler Gropius Werfel who had, in her lifetime, managed to acquire as lovers practically all of the top creative men in central Europe, and, among these lovers, who were listed in the obituary, by the way, which was what made it so interesting, there were three whom she went so far as to marry.” I’m assuming that it wasn’t the Crimean connection that had gotten “Alma” into the stock of potential girls’ names current in Vienna circa 1880.

  19. marie-lucie says:

    Spanish alma is descended from Latin anima ‘soul’. Latin alma is the feminine form of the adjective almus/alma/almum meaning ‘(psychologically) sweet, kind’, the meaning if has in Alma Mater ‘Sweet/Kind Mother’. Latin alma anima would mean ‘sweet/kind soul’.

    The Pont de l’Alma in Paris commemorates the battle of the Alma River. It is famous for being decorated by four statues of French soldiers involved in the battle. One is the Zouave, one from a regiment of North Africans (then under French administration) whose uniforms were similar to traditional male clothing of the area, with baggy pants reaching to mid-calf and exposing the feet, unlike the trousers of the other soldiers. How much of the Zouave’s feet and legs were exposed (or not) relative to the level of the river (below street level) was used by Parisians as a rough measure of the depth of the water when the river was swollen, indicating whether or not flooding was likely to occur. After the bridge was remodeled, those statues were raised so that they are normally well above the flood level.

    The tunnel does not have a specific name but it runs besides the river and under the bridge. A sharp turn in the tunnel creates a traffic hazard which was a major contributing factor to the accident in which Princess Diana lost her life.

  20. The Pont de l’Alma in Paris commemorates the battle of the Alma River. It is famous for being decorated by four statues of French soldiers involved in the battle. One is the Zouave

    Can’t resist pointing to Rio Wang blog’s free-flowing story about floods and Zouaves and more floods. A must-see!

  21. Latin alma is the feminine form of the adjective almus/alma/almum meaning ‘(psychologically) sweet, kind’, the meaning if has in Alma Mater ‘Sweet/Kind Mother’.

    Latin almus also means nourishing, which brings us to dinnertime: alimentation and alimentary.

  22. alimentation and alimentary
    as well as alumni, alimony, altitude, exaltation, & not to forget (per Pokorny) English old

  23. marie-lucie says:

    Dmitry: altitude and exaltation too? I think these are from Latin altus, etc ‘high’ (and also ‘deep’). There must be two homophonous PIE roots *al (or *el).

  24. This article turned up recently and is not unconnected:
    http://www.salon.com/2014/03/23/talkin%E2%80%99_siege_of_sebastopol_blues_how_the_first_crimean_war_helped_create_rock_n_roll/

    The origin of Sebastopol, California would be interesting, but unfortunately it is shrouded in mystery. Wikipedia says “rumored to have something to do with a bar fight in the late 1850s which was likened to the long British siege of the seaport of Sevastopol during the Crimean War.” I remember seeing a comic song from the 1850s some years ago about something that went on for a long time being likened to the siege of Sebastopol, so evidently this was a common quip at the time.

  25. Latin altus, etc ‘high’

    AHD, taking its cue from Pokorny (2. al- 26), says the sense here is ‘growing tall,’ a typical outcome of good nourishment. Pokorny also connected ‘old’ to this root.

  26. oh! I didn’t know about Alma street in London. French army in Crimea was roughly twice as big as the British. I wonder why there are fewer place names in Britain referring to Crimea than in France. Paris has most of Crimean war episodes on its map, boulevard de Sebastopol and avenue de Malakoff, Inkerman and Balaclava too. One exception is the Black River, perhaps of its difficult spelling, Tchernaïa.

  27. This article turned up recently and is not unconnected

    Thanks for that; very interesting indeed!

    As for Sebastopol, California, Wikipedia basically repeats what the standard reference, California Place Names by Erwin Gudde (pronounced “Goody”), says: “According to tradition, the name was changed at the time of the Crimean War because of a local fight in which one party found its ‘Sebastopol’ in the general store.”

  28. marie-lucie says:

    PO: Latin altus, etc ‘high’

    AHD, taking its cue from Pokorny (2. al- 26), says the sense here is ‘growing tall,’ a typical outcome of good nourishment. Pokorny also connected ‘old’ to this root.

    I am not an IE specialist, but I am used to dealing with semantic domains, shifts and mergers, and I also understand that Pokorny is no longer considered a reliable source.
    I am not at all convinced about “height” (which can apply to trees and mountains as well as to people) and “nourishment”.

  29. “avenue de Malakoff,”

    Aha, another California place name I could never understand. The Malakoff Diggings were a huge gaping wound in the earth caused by hydraulic mining. Thankfully they are almost completely grown over and effaced now. As a kid I always wondered who Malakoff was and now I know. It’s just one more trace of the extensive French presence in Califonia in that era.

    As you can imagine, Sebastapol is pronounced “Sebastapool.” It used to be famous for apples.

  30. For a reason that is totally unclear to me, inserts (or spacers) used to support corrugated iron sheets are called “malakoffs” on Mars. I don’t know what the technical term is in English, but I doubt this roofing element is called malakoff in this language.

    I’d assumed that was a French suggestion, that sign
    Well, AJP, you know that we were part of the British Empire at that time, but there might indeed have been some sort of French influence there: wasn’t it during the Crimean War of the 19th century that the French fought alongside the British for the first time in centuries, if not ever?

  31. I am not an IE specialist, but I am used to dealing with semantic domains, shifts and mergers, and I also understand that Pokorny is no longer considered a reliable source.
    I am not at all convinced about “height” (which can apply to trees and mountains as well as to people) and “nourishment”.

    I’m barely an IE neophyte and was unaware that Pokorny is no longer considered a reliable source. Perhaps a Hatterite with access can inform the uninformed on whether the OED has updated its entries for ‘old’ and ‘altitude’ and if so in what way.

  32. Both have been updated. The OED s.v. old says:

    Cognate with Old Frisian ald, Middle Dutch out, oud, regional olt , alt (Dutch oud), Old Saxon ald, old (Middle Low German ōlt , olt, German regional (Low German) oll , old , olt , oold), Old High German alt (Middle High German alt, German alt), Crimean Gothic alt, and further (< the same base with j-suffixation) with Gothic alþeis < a derivative (apparently originally a participial formation corresponding to ancient Greek forms in -τός , classical Latin -tus: compare cold adj.) of the Germanic base of Old English alan to nourish, Old Icelandic ala to nourish, bring up, Gothic alan to feed oneself, to grow up < the same Indo-European base as classical Latin alere to nourish (see aliment n.: the Germanic word thus apparently originally meant ‘grown up, adult’, corresponding in form to classical Latin altus high, deep (see alti- comb. form); compare classical Latinadultus adult adj., also a participial formation on the same Indo-European base).

    In Scandinavian this adjective was replaced by a different word in the positive degree (compare Old Icelandic gamall), with forms < the same Germanic base retained for the comparative and superlative (compare Old Icelandic ellri older and ellztr oldest: see elder adj., eldest adj.).

    The entry for altitude doesn’t go past French and Latin.

  33. John Emerson says:

    Balaclava, baklava, balalaika. Tomayto, tomahto.

    In Tolstoy’s “Sebastopol Sketches” there’s a nobleman broken to the ranks by scandal. Unlike Pechorin he is a craven, weaselly, snivelling con man and moocher.

  34. marie-lucie says:

    About Pokorny’s reputation, I don’t have firsthand information but this is the impression I get from various reviews and citations. For instance, a review by the Indo-Europeanist Josha Watmough written shortly after the publication of the dictionary criticized P for not taking into account the then recent “laryngal theory” which solved some problems in reconstruction.

  35. LH, what do you think of Figes’s book? Long time ago I read Evgeny Tarle‘s book “Крымская война” (in full on Militera.ru) and am now slowly plowing through it again. There is also a long good film about the war on YouTube.

  36. John Emerson: that character must be a prototype of Dolokhov in War and Peace.

  37. Pokorny and Watmough: Given how much work had gone into it and that he was over 70 when it was published, it may have been impossible for Pokorny to incorporate the implications of the laryngeal theory into his opus, which, if you’ve ever seen it, is certainly magnus. I can’t assess how much that lack degrades his dictionary. The DNGHU site says, “The work is now slightly outdated, especially as it was conservative even at the time Pokorny wrote it, ignoring the laryngeal theory, and hardly including any Tocharian or Anatolian material. But there exists no more modern and updated etymological dictionary of the Indo-European languages, so it is still of interest to scholars.”

    I’m told on good authority that Brown-Driver-Biggs, published in 1906, remains the go-to dictionary for Old Testament terminology, despite it not including knowledge gleaned from the discovery of Ugaritic in 1929. There’s a revision underway. Perhaps someone’s working on an update to Pokorny.

  38. Sig, “malakoff” was discussed recently in a very long thread. The only theory came from SFReader:

    I don’t know about “malakoffs” used in roofing, but they are probably related to the fortification innovations made during the siege (Russian engineer general Totleben gained European fame for his skilfull fortification of Malakoff hill and Sebastopol defenses in general)

    Apparently it’s not only a Martian usage. There’s a Singapore mention (it’s behind a paywall):

    LYALL AND EVAIT’S REPORT.
    Page 11
    Singapore. May 18. Tin. £150 ss. Od. ‘$75%. 85 tons sold. Kubbers. Are offering freely, very few buyeri m evidence. Kuala Sidims $1.65, Kedaha $1.50, Katoyangs 87%, Baasetta Tl: 1 Lunas $5. Ayer Pana> $5, Malakoffs $2. Rfalaka Find..- 80, United Malaccas 75. Minus. Malayan… (126 words)

  39. On Pokorny’s IEW – yes, the dictionary was compiled 60-70 years ago and mostly doesn’t account for the laryngeal theory, which still was a newfangled minority theory at Pokorny’s time – I mean, when I studied IE linguistics in the late 80s, the laryngeal theory still had the air of a revolutionary idea that only just had won the fight against the reactionary old guard. Even tthough, Pokorny mentioned it in a few entries where he included it, like he inimitablyputs it, “as a favour to Oswald Szemérenyi”.
    Despite that, it’s still the most comprehensive collection of the material and you’ll still find that much of the current literature uses the Pokorny entries as quick reference shorthand. Its biggest drawback is the shortage of Anatolian and Tocharian material, where most progress was made after the IEW was published.
    Concerning the link of Latin altus “high” and English old to PIE *al- (or *h2el- in contemporary notation) “nourish, raise”, yes, that’s still the generally accepted theory in IE lingiuistics, with the assumptions that both meanings are derived from an original meaning “nourished, raised” > “grown up” (> “tall” > “high” in Latin and “old” in Germanic).

  40. AJP, I had completely forgotten that discussion. Thanks for pointing me back to SFReader’s comment.

    That extract from a Singaporean paper of 1922 is interesting. One cannot be really sure what these $2.65 Malakoffs really are, though. They don’t really look like roofing elements to me.

    So far, the only clear link between ‘malakoff’ and roofing that I have been able to find on the internet was on the website of a Mauritian company selling purlins and sheeting:

    Our offer includes the self drilling screws for application of your sheets on metallic structures and coach screws (tirefonds) for application on wooden structures to the plastic ‘malakoffs’ through the sealing washers.

    http://www.grewals.mu/iron.html

    Incidentally, they also have an image of a ‘malakoff’ with the label Malakoff: http://www.grewals.mu/images/iron/fixture.gif
    Do you know how this thing is called in proper British English?

  41. Siganus Sutor says:
    March 29, 2014 at 7:09 am
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Oh, probably Russia does not want too many things said about Crimea over the internet…

  42. LH, what do you think of Figes’s book?

    It’s superb; I can’t recommend it highly enough. It starts with several chapters on the religious and historical background to events (in the preface, Figes says that the reader impatient to get to the fighting can skip to chapter 4 or whatever) and uses Russian sources as fully as Western ones, taking the Russian and French sides of things as seriously as the British one (which is usually all you get in English-language histories). He also takes nothing for granted, pointing out that the war should have been over before anybody went to Crimea (Russia had withdrawn from Wallachia and Moldavia, which was ostensibly what the allies were trying to force it to do) but the Brits felt that wasn’t enough to justify the money and lives already spent and the Russian Empire had to be destroyed, and that the Charge of the Light Brigade, insane as it was, actually accomplished a fair amount and wasn’t nearly as disastrous as it’s usually portrayed. It’s very well written (Figes, for all his faults, is a superb storyteller) and makes you rethink events you were under the impression you understood. Two thumbs up!

  43. The other problem with Pokorny, from what I can make out, is that he includes almost anything (from the traditional IE families) that he thinks might help, whether its connections with the headword can be rigorously established or not. So you have to use his more extended etymologies with caution.

  44. marie-lucie says:

    Yes, JC, that’s more the impression I had, until I looked up reviews in order to find opinions from Indo-Europeanists.

  45. I feel pulled in two directions.

    A bit higher in the thread, I cited DNGHU:The work . . . was conservative even at the time Pokorny wrote it.

    Then JC comes in with: The other problem with Pokorny . . . is that he includes almost anything (from the traditional IE families) that he thinks might help, whether its connections with the headword can be rigorously established or not.

    Am I missing something?

  46. Paul: Conservative in the sense that it doesn’t reflect recent theory. Liberal in the sense that it is less cautious about plausible but not well-supported etymologies than recent scholarship.

  47. Sig, I’m not clear whether a Malakoff is an extrusion or a bracket, but in any case to my eyes it looks more like a piece of patent installation hardware than something that would be required to install any corrugated metal roofing. That kind of thing often doesn’t get its own name in English-language architecture. But I’m no expert on roofing, and for all I know it’s a Neoprene Purlin Meshuganah.

  48. @JC: Thanks for the clarification.

    I see that a replacement for Pokorny is underway, some 10 volumes of IE ‘branches’ having been published to date. It’s called the Indo-European Etymological Dictionary. Amazon offers the Old Frisian volume for the low, low, low (this is the Netherlands, after all) price of $245.77. The volume on the Slavic branch is a few rubles cheaper.

    Wiki says these volumes are “etymological databases for the individual branches of Indo-European, containing all the words that can be traced back to Proto-Indo-European,” and subsequently published in Brill’s Leiden Indo-European Etymological Dictionary series.

  49. marie-lucie says:

    Brill is extremely expensive. I understand that academic libraries in Germany and the Netherlands are very well funded.

  50. Information at the Wiki link above says one of the aims of the project is to publish the databases free of charge electronically on the Internet. There’s also a link to the project’s official website, but it seems to be down. http://www.indo-european.nl

  51. Russell did not actually write the phrase “thin red line” — he wrote “[The Russians] dash on towards that thin red streak topped with a line of steel,”

    He wrote both: it was a “thin red streak tipped with a line of steel” in his dispatches for the Times, but by the time he wrote it up in book form as “The British Expedition to the Crimea” it had become a thin red line.

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