Excellence in Swearing in 2019.

Ben Zimmer of Strong Language (“a sweary blog about swearing”) has his annual Tucker Award post:

With the calendar turning on another year (and another decade), it’s time once again for the annual Strong Language honors for excellence in swearing. For the past half-decade, Strong Language has been on the scene, tracking all the highlights in low language. (Check out our previous roundups from 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018.) As always, the awards are named in honor of the patron saint of Strong Language, Malcolm Tucker, the endlessly quotable antihero played by Peter Capaldi in the BBC political satire The Thick of It and the film followup In the Loop.

The top Tucker honors for 2019 go to John Oliver, and it’s a very well deserved win; whenever I watch his show I am in awe at his brilliant use of bad language. A couple more highlights:

Best Fucking Swearing in Academia

In October, Bryant Ashley Hudson of IÉSEG School of Management published an article in the journal M@n@gement with the excellent title, “Fuck, fuck, fuck: Reflexivity and fidelity in reporting swearwords in management research.”

Best Fucking Feminist Swearing

Last but not least, special Tucker recognition must go to Mona Eltahawy, the Egyptian-American social commentator who has elevated swearing into a patriarchy-smashing tool of feminist empowerment. As she introduces herself in a piece published by LitHub in November, “My name is Mona Eltahawy and this is my declaration of faith: Fuck the patriarchy. Whenever I stand at a podium to give a lecture, I begin with that declaration of faith.”

You tell ’em, Mona! Zimmer’s post is full of many more fine examples; go there forthwith and enjoy.

And now for something entirely different: Nina Glibetić has found a rare early Glagolitic manuscript at St. Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai. It’s great news, but as Slavomír Čéplö (aka bulbul) says at the FB post where I found the link:

Wonderful, but why make the jump to the “Serbian people”? The article does not mention any other connection to Serbia which would be quite unlikely anyway, most extant Glagolitic manuscripts are either from Croatia or from Bulgaria/Macedonia.

Yes, that reference to “Glagolitic texts of the Serbian people” stuck out like a sore thumb. Fuck nationalism as well as the patriarchy!

Comments

  1. AJP Crown says:

    Rewatching Local Hero the other day, I saw that Malcolm Tucker is in it; or rather a young Peter Capaldi completely out of Tucker and Dr Who character. You can see him for a second in the trailer at 1:17.

  2. From the article on the Glagolitic manuscript:

    And the bigger question is, what is the identity of this monastic center that had all these Christian communities living there simultaneously?

    This is one of the most burning questions that were raised during the conference on the palimpsests from the library of the St. Catherine monastery (which took place in April 2018 at the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna, see the programme), largely because the library preserves manuscripts/palimpsests in so many languages, including Caucasian Albanian and even Gothic (some slides from the conference). The tentative conclusion the experts gathered in Vienna arrived at was that the monastery was not so much a place where various communities lived together, but more a place where all kinds of people stopped on their way somewhere else, sometimes even for months at a time.

  3. J.W. Brewer says:

    Re the Glagolitic horologion fragment. The standard account (although maybe it’s only accurate after a specific point in time?) is that the medieval Croats rather uniquely used for liturgical purposes a Slavonic translation (in Glagolitic script) from Latin of the Roman Rite rather than a translation from Greek of the Byzantine Rite. So assuming the basic text of the fragment is recognizably of the Byzantine form of services, that may exclude the Croats — unless of course one is retrojecting a distinction that hardened later on back to a time period where it wasn’t yet so clear.

    Much of what is now the territory of Serbia was under Bulgarian rule at various medieval points when the Bulgarian empires were in an expansionist mode (and the “Serbian” church doesn’t really begin to be administratively separate from the “Bulgarian” church until c. 1200), which I would think would make it harder to draw a distinction between a “Serbian” manuscript and a “Bulgarian” one, unless there is evidence that the scribes in the what-is-now-Serbian territory off to the northwest had some distinctive uses even in copying common Slavonic liturgical texts. And indeed there is said to be a “Serbian” recension of Church Slavonic which has different features than the earlier “Ohrid” recension reflecting the more westerly dialects of “Bulgarian.” But I’m again not sure if that distinction had emerged by the time of the manuscript in question.

  4. J.W. Brewer says:

    FWIW, anything newly turned up is of course of interest, but the rediscovery of 11th-century Glagolitic manuscripts at St. Catherine’s supposedly goes back to at least 1850, when a visiting Russian archimandrite noticed the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psalterium_Sinaiticum.

  5. David Marjanović says:

    Gothic! I had no idea!

    “Fuck, fuck, fuck: Reflexivity and fidelity in reporting swearwords in management research.”

    Somebody nominate this for an IgNobel Prize.

  6. Prof. Glibetic works at Notre Dame and and her research is in liturgical studies – with that kind of resume it would be surprising to encounter anything other than nationalist politics. Still utterly depressing to see.

    Bulbul’s response in my view does not address the main problem with Glibetic’s statement : “actually Glagolitic is from Croatia” flips the valence but is equally wrong in the opposite direction. A better response would reject the faulty premise and explain the applicability (i.e. the lack thereof) of Romantic Era ethnonational constructs to the early medieval period – the earliest writings from South Slavic authors don’t even reliably distinguish Slav and Slovene, or they use terms like Ilyrian, Croatian, and Slav interchangeably. In this mental map the question of whether Glagolitic is Serb or Croat is about as meaningful as asking what color is the wind.

    TL; DR: Glagolitic is the common patrimony of the shared cultural space of the various South Slav peoples and not some kind of nationalist family heirloom belonging to just one of them.

  7. Serbian appears once in the article, outside quotes, and when quoted, Glibetic talks about the Slavic presence. While she’s at a Catholic institution, all her work focuses on the Byzantine church

    I think we should at least consider that this could have been a reporter’s mistake.

  8. Probably should be corrected from Serbian to Slavic.

    Glagolitic was used by all branches of Slav languages, not just in the south, as implied by nemanja. Agree that glagolitic is neither a Serb nor a Croat alphabet. It was primarily used for the old Slavic language (OCS) in ecclesiastic use, but could also be used for the vernacular.

    The style of the alphabet in the picture accompanying the article is the round glagolitic, also known as the Bulgarian, from its use in Bulgaria. This style was also used more widely in Rus, Bohemia, Croatia etc.

    The square or Croatian style of glagolitic was used exclusively in Croatian lands, where glagolitic survived the longest.

  9. I think we should at least consider that this could have been a reporter’s mistake.

    You’re right, of course, although it doesn’t seem like a very likely reporter’s mistake unless the reporter for some reason had Serbia on the brain.

  10. JW,

    assuming the basic text of the fragment is recognizably of the Byzantine form of services, that may exclude the Croats
    That is a fair assumption, but not-Croat does not automatically mean Serbian.

    there is said to be a “Serbian” recension of Church Slavonic
    Of course there is, just like there is a Bulgarian, Russian and Ukrainian one. But again, no evidence is provided for any connection to Serbia, whether linguistic, geographical or any other kind.

    nemanja,
    A better response would reject the faulty premise and explain the applicability (i.e. the lack thereof) of Romantic Era ethnonational constructs to the early medieval period
    Precisely. Which is why it pisses me off when someone describes, say, the Freising manuscripts as the oldest text in Slovene and their language as Old Slovene. I am equally unhappy with the practice of some (most?) Bulgarian scholars of referring to texts written in the Bulgarian recension of Church Slavic as being composed in “Old Bulgarian”, although there at least an argument can be made.

  11. Music to my ears!

  12. John Cowan says:

    I know nothing about the Freising manuscripts and precious little about OCS (topos of modesty, or “hrmph”). But it seems to me that the Ohrid and Preslav recensions stand on the direct sound-change path from Exceedingly Late Common Slavic to Modern Bulgarian/Macedonian with a minimum of interference from elsewhere, and that all other recensions come from the same source but do reveal adstrate effects from forms of ELCS that would become other modern Slavic languages. As such, I do suppose that Bulgarian OCS was as close as a purely written form with a Greek superstrate could be to the spoken language of the Bulgarians of the day, and that calling it “(Written) Old Bulgarian” is basically fair.

  13. PlasticPaddy says:

    @jc
    I think you are missing something here. Suppose for the sake of argument that the Romance nations had not developed as a dialect continuum evolving in to separate languages with separate nations and suppose that the whole area was a mixture with Italian villages in France and French villages in Spain and Spanish villages in Italy and that someone else divided the area into arbitrary nations that large minorities did not identify with. Then an Italian calling a particular medieval text Italian instead of Romance would be making primarily a political statement and not a linguistic one.

  14. Yes, you (JC) might choose to use the term “Old Bulgarian” for good reasons, but a Bulgarian scholar will be using it for very different reasons, and it’s pointless to pretend such things are irrelevant.

  15. January First-of-May says:

    In this mental map the question of whether Glagolitic is Serb or Croat is about as meaningful as asking what color is the wind.

    Light blue, obviously. /s

     
    As for Glagolitic… well, it was developed by Cyril and Methodius, who worked first in the Theme of Thessalonica (roughly modern South Macedonia, which had a significant Slavic population at the time), later in Great Moravia (roughly modern Czechoslovakia – I wasn’t able to figure it out any more precisely), and possibly for a while also in the Balaton Principality (overrun by Magyars within decades of their visit, and today mostly part of Hungary).

    As you can hopefully see, none of those places are particularly Serbian or Croatian. (Though Serbia probably has a slightly better claim than Croatia.)

     
    It so happened that Thessalonica didn’t show much interest in the new script in the first place (I suspect that even back then the locals considered themselves to be Greek just as much, or more than, Slavic), Great Moravia expelled the followers of Cyril and Methodius in 886 AD, and the Balaton Principality, well, I’ve already mentioned what happened to it.
    So by the end of the 9th century, none of those three initial regions still used (much) Glagolitic.

    Some of those expelled followers ended up in various Serbian and/or Croatian places and introduced Glagolitic there (where it ended up surviving for a while, especially in Croatia).
    Some, including Clement of Ohrid, ended up in the First Bulgarian Empire (roughly modern Bulgaria), where they decided to ignore Glagolitic entirely, and just use Greek with some extra letters for Slavic sounds (a script that ended up with the name “Cyrillic”, due to a later misconception that it was what Cyril came up with originally) – which turned out to be so much more convenient that it quickly spread to most of the non-Western Slavs.

    The combination of the above meant that by the mid-to-late 10th century (almost) no one outside what is now Serbia and Croatia (plus some immediately surrounding areas) used Glagolitic any more (and Serbia also stopped not too long after); since there are almost no surviving 10th century (or older) Glagolitic texts, this leads to the impression that Glagolitic originated in that area.
    However, the oldest known Glagolitic text, the early 10th (or late 9th) century Kiev Missal, is probably Czech, i.e. Great Moravian – which fits the above-described history.

  16. January First-of-May says:

    As a side note, the Wikipedia article on Cyril and Methodius briefly mentioned “certain Old Glagolitic liturgical fragments brought from Jerusalem to Kiev and discovered there by Saresnewsky”.

    It took me a lot of frantic googling before I figured out that this is the above-mentioned Kiev Missal, and that “Saresnewsky” (sic) was in fact Izmail Sreznevsky (who published that text in 1874).

  17. I changed the bizarre form and linked to his article.

  18. John Cowan says:

    People can use the truth for political purposes, and their purposes remain political just as much as the truth remains the truth. When Arrogant Whatsisface (I knew I’d forget his name soon enough) told me I had a plebeian surname, I retorted that on the contrary I was descended from kings. That was perfectly true, but I was certainly saying so primarily for “political” purposes.

  19. People can use the truth for political purposes

    But it’s not “the truth” that certain forms of Late Common Slavic are “Old Bulgarian,” it’s a formulation that you happen to find useful. Presumably if you were convinced that nasty nationalists were being aided by it for their own nefarious purposes, you might choose a different formulation that would be just as “truthful” (whatever that might mean in this context) without giving such aid and comfort.

  20. John Cowan says:

    My saying it is pravda, although it may not be sub specie aeternitatis istina. (It is not everywhere I can post a sentence like that with a good chance of being understood.) After, all meaningful names are in the nature of formulations: calling a certain attested variety of London English on the path from West Anglian Old English to Standard Modern English “Middle English” is a formulation that is intended to represent a truth: that there is a direct descent pathway from the second to the third passing through the first.

  21. I’m not arguing with your logic, just pointing out that logic isn’t always the only factor.

  22. J.W. Brewer says:

    “Middle English” is a rather less controversial label given that the thing that preceded it is also called “MODIFIER English.” Here’s an interesting-seeming internet discussion on which modern Slavic language is most “conservative” and thus closest to proto-Slavic, with some folks arguing that pretty much all of the contenders have some conservative features not shared by others but also some innovative features not shared by others. https://forum.wordreference.com/threads/which-slavic-language-is-the-closest-to-proto-slavic.2948747/

    That modern English deviates in more obvious ways from proto-Germanic than most other currently extant Germanic languages is not viewed as a source of embarrassment by English nationalists or ethnocentrists AFAIK. Of course, English-speakers have done rather better in the way of secular power and prosperity over the last century or two than Bulgarian speakers, which has given us less of a motive to talk up in a historicity-challenged fashion just how posh and important our millennium-ago predecessors were by way of changing the subject. Our comparative lack of inclination to indulge (at least in a fully “mainstream” context) in the sort of historicity-challenged myth-making common to Balkan nationalisms should not be thought evidence of our superior virtue rather than simply of our good fortune.

    I do think it’s important to note as one commenter did way upthread that the “Serbs” reference in the linked/quoted article was not a direct quote from the scholar in question but was in the Omniscient Third-Party Narrator voice of the journalist, who may have been unreliable rather than omniscient. It is probably true that the journalist herself is not a Serbian nationalist, but it seems possible that the word “Serbs” came out of the scholar’s mouth in some perfectly defensible part of a larger discourse that did not come through clearly in the final article, with the journalist either garbling what was said or leaving out crucial context.

  23. “Old Bulgarian” isn’t just used by Bulgarian scholars; the term was also widely used by scholars from other European countries in the 19th century (e.g. the introductory text from which I learnt OCS was Leskien’s Handbuch der altbulgarischen Sprache). And it has some merit – in OCS, not surprisingly for a language based on a Slavic dialect spoken near Saloniki, all features that distinguish it from Common Slavic are also shared by Bulgarian (e.g. TorT > TraT, which is general Southern Slavic, and -tj-, -dj- > -sht’-, -zhd’-, which is specifically Bulgarian). If that dialect wouldn’t have become the liturgical language of all orthodox Slavic people, nobody would be bothered by it being called Old Bulgarian.

  24. January First-of-May says:

    After, all meaningful names are in the nature of formulations: calling a certain attested variety of London English on the path from West Anglian Old English to Standard Modern English “Middle English” is a formulation that is intended to represent a truth: that there is a direct descent pathway from the second to the third passing through the first.

    True, but irrelevant; obviously they’re all English.

    Imagine instead that the variety in question was referred to as “Old Cockney” (or perhaps “Middle Cockney”), and you’ll get something much closer to the situation with “Old Bulgarian”.

    And it has some merit – in OCS, not surprisingly for a language based on a Slavic dialect spoken near Saloniki, all features that distinguish it from Common Slavic are also shared by Bulgarian

    Also that.
    I suspect that, if Saloniki was part of a Slavic nation now, we would probably have called it Old Salonikan or whatever (Old Macedonian?) and that name would obviously have been historically correct, but it’s not (it’s in Greek Macedonia), and, as far as I’m aware, never was, so this isn’t an option.

    (IIRC, there are actually some minor sound changes that are shared by OCS and North-Macedonian [and/or some other nearby dialects], but did not occur in Standard Bulgarian. I might be mistaken about this, however.)

  25. J.W. Brewer says:

    If the military and diplomatic events of 1912-13 had worked out a bit differently (and not been subsequently undone by someone else’s irredentism), Salonika would be part of the Slavic nation known as Bulgaria. A resolution where Bulgaria did not get Salonika proper but did get its immediate Slavophone-heavy hinterlands such that the border was not too far from the city limits is perhaps even less improbable — cf the Treaty of San Stefano lines which didn’t stick at the time because inter alia Bismarck and Disraeli were worried that too large a Bulgaria would be too good for Russia. (But to get back to where we started, the whole presumed political point of calling OCS “Old Bulgarian” is to emphasize how the Russians were not in olden times the most important Slavs even if that’s how the geopolitics had worked out in more recent times.)

  26. David Marjanović says:

    which is specifically Bulgarian). If that dialect wouldn’t have become the liturgical language of all orthodox Slavic people, nobody would be bothered by it being called Old Bulgarian.

    North Macedonian nationalists were and are bothered by this use of Bulgarian sensu lato.

  27. J.W. Brewer says:

    @David M. If we’re already tweaking the historical role of OCS it’s a much smaller additional tweak to posit that this timeline’s “North Macedonian nationalists” are that timeline’s “Southwest Bulgarian regionalists,” who would no doubt leap at the opportunity to point out that their regional dialect is the purer descendant of Old Bulgarian as compared to the funny way those stuck-up folks closer to the Black Sea talk.

  28. John Cowan says:

    True, but irrelevant; obviously they’re all English.

    For a long time, scholars insisted in calling Old English Anglo-Saxon, as if it were a different language altogether, even after the Old-Middle-Modern terms were well-established for German.

    Imagine instead that the variety in question was referred to as “Old Cockney” (or perhaps “Middle Cockney”)

    Works for me. In the one course in Chaucer I ever took, we were encouraged to try to read it aloud as a way of understanding the poetics. Since I already knew the ME vowel qualities, I could do this better than anyone else. (Gale and I were both in the class and became read-aloud partners, as indeed we still are.) But what I learned only from the instructor was to drop h- systematically (and not just in unstressed pronouns as all anglophones automatically do), as well as to drop -e whenever the meter required it.

  29. Andrej Bjelaković says:

    AFAIK scholars nowadays think the ubiquitous h-dropping is more of a Early Modern feature but it’s present in Helge Kökeritz’s transcriptions of ME (e.g. in the Chaucer’s Pronunciation booklet, first published in 1954).

  30. January First-of-May,

    Cyril and Methodius, who worked first in the Theme of Thessalonica
    That’s where they were from, but Life of Constantine (Cyril’s original name), chapter 14 describes Cyril getting to work on the script right after being called in by the Emperor, so that was presumably in Constantinople.
    Speaking of the sources: Life of Methodius has a specific reference to Thessaloniki, where in chapter 5, the Emperor says to Constantine: “Get your brother Methodius and go, because you are both from Thessaloniki and all you Thessalonians speak pure/good Slavic.” This underscores the unity of Slavic back then.

    Great Moravia (roughly modern Czechoslovakia
    It’s been 27 years, yo.
    The exact location of Great Moravia is a subject of debate, but definitely included Southwest Slovakia and Southeast Moravia (the Czech Republic), including Bratislava and the very part of it I am writing from.

  31. Hans,

    emphasis mine:
    “Old Bulgarian” isn’t just used by Bulgarian scholars; the term was also widely used
    It WAS used by some scholars, especially those writing in German (like Šafařík, who invented it, but not Jagić), it is not any more.

    OCS, not surprisingly for a language based on a Slavic dialect spoken near Saloniki, all features that distinguish it from Common Slavic are also shared by Bulgarian
    No. There are a tons of features that distinguish some versions of it from Common Slavic which are shared by Western Slavic languages. The Kiev Folios are a prime example, cf. also the Pannonian theory of the origin of OCS which has been disproven, yet goes to show that even the linguistic part is far from clear cut.

    But, most importantly, the label of “Bulgarian” is not only – to quote nemanja’s wonderful description – a Romantic Era ethnonational construct, but also inaccurate and anachronistic geographically and ethnologically.

  32. John Cowan says:

    Concedo.

  33. There are a tons of features that distinguish some versions of it from Common Slavic which are shared by Western Slavic languages.
    Can you give some examples? I assume you are talking of features that are shared by Western Slavic languages but not by Bulgarian?

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