FODDER FOR ALLUSIONS II.

I wanted to quote a particularly good example of the way quotations are used in Russia from the Boyle/Gerhart book I wrote about here; I was googling for an English translation of the Pushkin poem cited when I discovered that this section happens to be included in a webpage of sample passages from the book (scroll down, it’s the second one). So I’ll let you read the poem there (the lines in italics in the Russian are ones that are particularly often quoted on their own), and I’ll just quote the jokes based on it here (the Russian is on the linked page):

“Why do you have Pushkin’s portrait on the wall in the KGB office? Why not Dzerzhinsky’s [founder of the KGB]?”
“Because he was the first to say ‘Strangle the noble impulses!’ [= ‘The soul’s noble impulses’].”

This quotation has to be pronounced with the intonation of an imperative. The punchline is based on the coincidence between the Genitive of душа (‘soul’) and the imperative of the verb душить (‘strangle, repress’), which is of course lost in translation. Another joke of the perestroika period shows people’s bewilderment and mistrust of the entire concept of glasnost:

Comrade, trust me: the era of Gorbachev’s glasnost will pass,
and the KGB will remember our names.

By the way, speaking of Russian literature, I found the interesting link Что читать? (‘What to read?’; Ищем советы, что почитать ‘We’re looking for suggestions about what to read’) in a comment at Lizok’s Bookshelf; it looks like a useful source of book descriptions.

Comments

  1. David Marjanović says:

    Что читать?

    Of course, this looks like an obvious pun on Что делать?, Lenin’s famous order about “what to do”/”what is to be done” – to seize power first and think about what to do with it later, that’s what.

  2. Actually, I think it’s just the normal way to say it in Russian.

  3. Lenin’s famous order about “what to do”/”what is to be done”
    Preceded in 1863 by Chernyshevsky’s novel Что делать? Lenin was just a copycat.

  4. David, do you imagine that every instantiated phrase pattern “what to V ?” in Russian is necessarily harking back to Lenin ? Or is there something especially connotative about читать ? What about “What to eat ?”, “What to study ?”, “WTF ?”.

  5. Chernyshevsky’s title (1863) reminds me of Can You Forgive Her ? (novel, 1865). Trollope also wrote Did He Steal It ? (play, 1869), Is He Popenjoy ? (novel, 1878). Was there a period of time when question titles were in vogue, or was that mainly Trollope ?
    There are the novel and film(s) Whatever Happened to Baby Jane ?

  6. Of course before you can start answering “Что делать?” you have to find “Кто виноват?” (Who is guilty?)

  7. Did you mean to connect that to a URL? If so, let me know and I’ll work my hattic magic.

  8. Evidence that Lenin knew what he was doing: I found this in the Spanish WiPe entry for ¿Qué hacer?

    ¿Qué hacer? (en ruso: Что делать? Chto delat?) es un tratado político, escrito por Vladímir Lenin a finales de 1901 y principios de 1902 y publicado en febrero de ese año. … El título se inspira en la novela homónima de Nikolái Chernyshevski, escrita en 1862, que según Lenin ha influido en numerosos revolucionarios.

  9. jeff del col says:

    Chernyshevsky’s book is one of the oddest, yet most influential, books in the world. Generations of revolutionaries and wannabes admired it. As a novel, it’s a disaster, a creaking, overtly tendentious botch, but the character Rakhmetov was the inspiration for the ‘leather men in leather coats.’

  10. Yes, and Nabokov’s amazing reconstruction of Chernyshevsky’s life and work in Dar (The Gift) should be better known than it is.

  11. FODDER FOR ALLUSIONS II.
    I suppose you’re predicting 245 comments again. This isn’t Jaws, you know.

  12. LH: I tried to link to en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Herzen#Writings

  13. Нате!

  14. Oops, that looks like “Hate,” doesn’t it? It’s nate, Russian for ‘(t)here you are.’

  15. michael farris says:

    I feel like I just stepped into an Agatha Christie story (IIRC she used the difference between Latin and Cyrilic H more than once).
    This can only mean that the murderer is ………

  16. It’s nate, Russian for ‘(t)here you are.’
    Odd: a “nate” ought to be a buttock, but “nates” has no regular singular in English. “I hate leg” could be the motto of a nates man, but “I hate nate” sounds more like a personal dislike of Nathaniel.

  17. Off on a tangent again (but the same one, touching buttocks), I found in the German Wipe on Pluraletantum (fused together, yes) a claim that Eltern [parents] has a singular: fachsprachlich auch der oder das Elter. I wonder what Fach that is. Never in my life have I heard such a thing. I have always found it annoying and artifical to have to say ein Elternteil [""one part of the parents""], but that’s the way it is: there ain’t no der oder das Elter.
    There’s an article making fun of Elter in the Stupidpedia. Pity they didn’t name it Stultipedia. The URL stultipedia.com is not taken …

  18. I have to take that back: Duden has Elter: ein Elternteil (bei Mensch, Tier, Pflanze). But nobody ever uses it in everyday life. It would be useful to have it, but it sounds weird. What’s strange is that German speakers over the centuries have apparently not encountered a need for the concept of “a parent”. Or maybe it’s strange that English has one, whereas other languages (French, Spanish, German) don’t really. Seen from the point of view of an English speaker, there’s usually a bit of ambiguity involved (French un parent, although devenir parent is unambiguous), or else circumlocution (German, also Spanish padre o madre).

  19. This is definitely a sociolinguistic issue, not one about “the language”. Now I’m finished with the tangent.

  20. …apparently not encountered a need for the concept of “a parent”. Or maybe it’s strange that English has one…
    “Children must be accompanied by a parent”?
    Norwegian has “a parent”, en forelder.
    It’s funny that we don’t need to say “a pair of parents”.

  21. It’s funny that we don’t need to say “a pair of parents”.
    Isn’t that because parents are already a pair ? Oh, I get it, you mean as in “pair of shoes”. But shoes are sold in matching pairs, whereas parents are more like socks grabbed at random out of a drawer – they don’t always match.
    I would say “pair of socks” only when the socks matched – I think.

  22. I’d say the opposite: parents are more like shoes (symmetrical, but never identical) than socks (identical, if you can find them).

  23. If the Sue fits, marry her ?? No wonder there are so many divorces. I don’t see where symmetry comes into the picture. Physically, men and women go for the non-symmetrical singularities in the other – as I have read.

  24. If the Sue fits, marry her ?? No wonder there are so many divorces
    Explanation: if you think the Sue fits, that means you think you can walk all over her. That leads to trouble – unless she actually likes being socked.
    I should be ashamed of myself for making such corny puns. Shamelessness is a heavy cross to bear.

  25. “I would say “pair of socks” only when the socks matched”: and otherwise? A brace of socks?

  26. I heard about a guy with a really rough childhood: his father was a loafer and his mother was a sneaker.

  27. and otherwise? A brace of socks?
    I think that when socks don’t match, I merely refer to them as “socks that don’t match”. I don’t accord them the elevated status of “a pair”.
    “Brace” I know only from “a brace of suspenders” and “a brace of pheasants”.

  28. michael farris says:

    Looked for a link on youtube and was disappointed. But I did find the lyrics for this classic George Jones and Tammy Wynette number” (excerpts follow and you are very welcome):
    “We’re just a pair of old sneakers
    Stringin’ each other along
    Sometimes I feel just like a heel
    ‘Cause I know in my soul, that it’s wrong
    We’re just a pair of old sneakers
    Kickin’ each other around

    We’re just a pair of old sneakers
    We know that cheatin’ is wrong
    We’re just a pair of old sneakers
    And we’ve been in the closet too long”

  29. j. del col says:

    Shamelessness is certainly not a cross-eyed bear.

  30. I was a cook
    and she was a waitress
    Down at the Salty Sam Seafood Café
    and somewhere ‘tween the clam juice and the seaweed salad
    some little shrimp just lured her away.
    Oh, I lobster but never flounder,
    He wrapped his line around her
    and they drove off in his carp.
    Oh, I lobster but never flounder,
    I octopus his face in—
    Eel only break her heart.
    I said, “Just squid and leave me
    for that piano tuna
    if you want to trout something new.”
    She was the bass I ever had,
    Now my life has no porpoise;
    Oh my cod, I love her, yes, I do.
    Oh, I lobster but never flounder,
    He wrapped his line around her
    and they drove off in his carp.
    Oh, I lobster but never flounder,
    I octopus his face in—
    Eel only break her heart.
    (Spoken:)
    “Boy, I swordfish she’d come back to me, Sandy. I shore’d a whale of a time.” “Now, Richard, you know she’d just pull that ‘Not tonight, I’ve got a haddock’ routine.” “You’re probably right. But y’know, I’ve kelped her picture in my walleye just for the halibut. I wonder if she’s still got mine in her perch?” “Did you..you say ‘perch’?” “Yeah, I’m afraid so.” “That’s good. For a moment there, I thought I was losing my herring.” (audience groans) “Well, we bass squid all this seahorsing around before these people out here go into a state of shark.” “Yeah, if we get out of here alive, it’s going to be a…mackerel.” “Frankly scallop, I don’t give a clam.”
    —Braddock & Braddock

  31. this classic George Jones and Tammy Wynette number
    I can almost remember the melody. Damn. Great song !

  32. Russian has родители for “parents,” but the singular родитель is either jocular (like using “sibling” in English for someone whose gender is known) or archaic (meaning “father,” or, more literally, “progenitor”). Perhaps not surprisingly, there is no exact Russian equivalent for “sibling” either. There is, however, a word for the time period consisting of one day and one night (сутки, which is itself a plurale tantum sort of word).

  33. michael farris says:

    “You can talk about your Frauleins and your pretty Geisha girls
    And about the one you got in the USA
    But I found myself a sweetheart in Alaska way up high
    She’s my Eskimo baby she’s my Eskimo pie
    She’s my Eskimo baby she’s my Eskimo pie
    She lives south of the North pole and I know the reason why
    She’s my Eskimo baby and I’ll love her till I die
    She’s my Eskimo baby she’s my Eskimo pie
    Crossing o’er the frozen river to a valley filled with snow
    I lost all my directions and I knew not where to go
    When a warm hand fell upon me and a voice said with a sigh
    I will take you to my igloo Mister I won’t let you die
    She’s my Eskimo baby….”
    Warning: This is not the only George Jones song of this kind, and it’s far from the most offensive to modern sensibilities….
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cVWTI_rpGmI
    If I’m not stopped, there will be more…..

  34. michael farris says:

    Polish uses ‘rodzice’ for parents. The singular ‘rodzic’ is used but seems kind of inmpersonal and bureaucratic.

  35. Man, what a harvest of puns!
    Wimbrel, what you describe causes great difficulties in translating roditel’ into English. It’s far more common in both senses you give in Russian than in English. It’s on my translation black list.

  36. a word for the time period consisting of one day and one night (сутки …
    So 24/7 could be neatly expressed as суткиceмь ?

  37. Alas, no. But sytki is a lovely word that is very handy. It’s on my white list — words I wish we had in English.

  38. michael farris says:

    Polish has a similar word, doba, which means either one day and one night or a 24 hour period. It is handy one the kind of thing you miss in a language that doesn’t have it – though you won’t necessarily realize you miss it in one language till you have it in another.

  39. michael farris says:

    Similarly I really do wish that the idea of gender neutral kin terms (spouse, sibling, cousin, parent) were more diffused in European languages.

  40. michael, this is what I was getting at when I wrote “this is definitely a sociolinguistic issue”: England as opposed to Europe.
    The gender-neutral kin terms are surely a reflection of social structures and developments on an island isolated by geography and language. Although except for “sibling” they’re all of Latin extraction, that alone couldn’t account for the differences, because similar words have come down in Spanish and French as well.
    I don’t know how to put this without sounding pseudy: it’s as if in England over the centuries (and then the US) the individual person moves to the conceptual front in social interaction. What an individual is understood to be, becomes ever less a matter of what structures and strata he is born into. Instead, he is seen more and more as a person in his own right, with his own rights, playing certain functional roles. So singular linguistic terms for those roles are required.
    As I write, it strikes me with great force that this – funktionale Ausdifferenzierung and the semantics which accompanies it (but not always precedes it !) – is exactly one of the main themes of Luhmann’s wide-ranging and massive Gesellschaftsstruktur und Semantik (but not in airy-fairy remarks, as my lucubrations here are). This is the first time I have connected up in such a concrete way with this standard theme of Luhmann’s.

  41. Of course such changes also took place in Western European countries/nations over various periods of time, but the semantic traces are different. Maybe it’s just wrong-headed to think that the lack of singular forms outside English is some kind of hindrance for non-English-speaking people. After all, I have no problem in German. As I said, it’s only when I take the viewpoint of an English speaker wanting to translate something that I feel like griping.

  42. George Bernard Shaw paid someone to knit mirror-asymmetrical socks for him, on the grounds that if civilization had advanced enough to have shoes that properly fit each foot, it might as well have socks that properly fit it too.
    But they’d still be a pair of socks.

  43. My father used to thunder about American missiles being sissy and over-sophisticated, so that they often failed – whereas the Commies built large, primitive SS-3′s (Pobedas) that always worked. That was why they were going to beat us.
    Late in life I discovered how right he was in principle – for instance when it comes to socks. For many years now in Germany, clothing stores have carried pairs of lefthand and righthand socks. But this can easily be seen to be an effete and hypertophic development, because single socks always get lost in the washing machine.
    I always buy non-handed socks in black, so when one gets lost I’m sure to have another one of the same color. I will bury the folks with handed socks, because they won’t be able to deal with laundry attrition – they’ll be late for work, their pampered feet will chafe in wrong-handed socks etc.

  44. I dunno, Stu. You could probably get away with using chiral socks as long as they are all indistinguishable in color and every other regard. What are the odds of the washing machine swiping the two kinds in seriously unequal numbers?

  45. I don’t know about “seriously unequal”, but the long-term probability of matching chiralities being swiped is surely much smaller than that of unmatching chiralities being swiped – because the latter kinds of outcome are much more numerous.
    When sampling n letters with replacement from {H, T}, there are relatively few runs containing an equal number of H and T.

  46. I hasten to fake it by adding: “sampling with replacement” because new pairs of socks keep having to be bought.
    Actually, I’m not sure. It just seems to me that unsatisfactory outcomes with unequal numbers of H and T are more likely.

  47. j. del col says:

    Your father’s fears about US missiles were misplaced. The Russians knew better. For example, as soon as they could, they scrapped their liquid-fueled submarine launched missiles for solid-fuel ones modeled on the American Polaris.
    Several Russian subs suffered disastrous fires as a result of malfunctioning liquid fueled rockets–the propellants were hypergolic and would explode if they were mixed together or reacted with seawater, which happened because of leaks in the subs’missile silos.
    The HEN (Hotel, Echo, November) classes of Russian nuke boats suffered terrible reactor problems. The reactor design was inherently leaky, and the crews of these boats were exposed to far more radiation than the crews of American nuke subs.

  48. j. del col, that could be the explanation for my missing socks – they are radioactive with a very short half-life !
    My father was an expert at constructing plausible, barbershop-chair stories that he loved to tell over and over, to demonstrate his superior insider knowledge of how the world works. The Russkies were just his feeds in the ’60s. Later, it was Lawyers who gave him his cues.

  49. So 24/7 could be neatly expressed as суткиceмь ?
    Not quite (as mab notes above). It would be круглосуточно — “around the сутки.”
    Polish has a similar word, doba, which means either one day and one night or a 24 hour period.
    Not surprisingly, it’s also a word of Ukrainian with the same meaning.

  50. Stu, my idea was that if you maintain a pile of left socks and a pile of right socks and don’t worry too much about the numbers being equal then it should work out. Wash some socks when either pile gets a little low. Of course, there will be one other factor at work: when a sock develops a hole or at least reaches your threshold for threadbareness then you will discard it; and if it has no long-term mate then there is no reason that there will be a simultaneous discard of a sock of the opposite chirality. Does a person wear put left and right socks equally?

  51. wear out

  52. You see, empty ? That’s exactly the kind of sock-stock-monitoring regimen that is doomed by its complexity.
    I have one pile of socks, all the same. Any two I choose are just as good as any other two. When one of them goes to meet its maker, it makes no difference which it was, nor whether it vanished of its own accord or I discarded it because it wore out. It’s not socket science.
    While you are keeping tabs on chirality, I’m reading a good book and planning my next move.

  53. Stu, I do appreciate the simplicity of your system. My point is that because you have such a simple system you are in a particularly good position to experiment with those “handed” socks if you wish to. Clearly you don’t wish to.
    I own only one pair of asymmetric socks. I did not choose them for myself. Now that I think of it, my wife bought them for me when we were in Switzerland, and although it was the Francophone part I realize now that the socks were probably Germanic origin. (They are marked L and R on the toes.) I have been known to carelessly put them on the wrong feet. But then I have also been known to carelessly wear mismatched shoes.

  54. Socks are very interesting, but I’m a bit more interested in Grumbly’s socio-linguistic assessment of personhood in English. In Russian, family relationships were key. You all know about the elaborate system of naming relatives, which are different for a wife’s and a husband’s family. (I mean that there are different words for the wife’s parents and relatives and the husband’s — no “-in-law” stuff.) It is also a country that still uses familial forms of address for strangers. That is, you can call any old person “grandma” or “grandpa” etc. (This is changing, alas.) This makes sense to me because in large Russian households, everything in your life depended on where you were in the hierarchy. So you’ve got to define that hierarchy pretty well.
    Or is that just socio-linguistic crap?
    PS Washers don’t eat socks. Cats steal them and give them to squirrels for their nests. The squirrels make them do it as punishment if they catch a cat chasing one of their babies. I know this for a fact.

  55. Or is that just socio-linguistic crap?
    Oh dear, mab, is sociolinguistics in bad odor among linguists of other types ? I said “sociolinguistics” in order to curry favor with this linguistics crowd, but in fact I have the ideas I sketched from sociologists, philosophers and historians.
    All the aspects of Russian family life you list fit with what I was trying to say:

    in large Russian households, everything in your life depended on where you were in a hierarchy. So you’ve got to define that hierarchy pretty well.

    A person defined by his position in a hierarchy based on strata is forever that position, even when derogation and disgrace supervene. Hierarchical relationships in a stratified society, group, family are incompatible with role-based ones, in the sense I’m using “role” as defining a function that can, in principle and over time, be assumed by another person: doctor, lawyer, teacher, child psychologist. These roles can be assumed by anyone who acquires certain knowledge, i.e. the roles are not inherited (“she’s a princess” because she was born as that, “he’s a farmer” because he was born into a farmer’s family).
    That there is “no ‘in-law’ stuff” also makes sense: the notion of in-law abstracts from particular families, making them into mere variables whose content can be arbitrarily modified, as today in the West. In a stratified society, you can replace one person only by another one from the same stratum, and that only at a pinch.
    Ultimately, from the late 19th century on in Europe (to different extents in different countries), persons are generally regarded as candidates for any function without the precondition that they have to have been born into a certain family or stratum. The resistance to this trend itself tends to focus on person-located, physiological features instead of stratum-related ones, or rather to define personal features as demonstrating membership in a newly minted ersatz stratum (representing an “essence”): certain persons are black, say, or women, and thus not eligible per se. Of course there are still hierarchies in business, politics etc., but the persons occupying the nodes are replaceable without regard to origin or relationships to others. Activities have “separated off by functional differentiation”, as Luhmann says.

  56. Oh, by “socio-linguistic crap,” I meant: Is this stuff I’m spouting off the top of my head without more than a second’s thought and no research hopelessly primitive?
    But you’ve thought about this. Hm. Need to think more.Hmm.

  57. One concrete, provisional conclusion in line with all this – a conclusion that we must have already drawn from novels and history – is that in previous times people have understood themselves and others in ways we cannot immediately “understand”. Marie Antoinette was not an early Paris Hilton trying to develop her personality against the resistance of hidebound courtiers. History does not show us “humankind” fighting against evil clerics for the right to divorce and eat all you can for $ 20.

  58. This leads to the riddle of the blind butler, who is told by his employer to bring a matched pair of socks. He knows where the sock drawer is, and that it contains thirty unpaired white and black socks (non-chiral). What should he do (and no cheating by having him ask the non-blind for help)?

  59. The formulation “thirty white and black socks” supports the interpretation “thirty white-and-black socks”, so the answer would be “bring any two socks” – assuming that the white-and-black pattern is the same in all socks.
    Suppose instead that “thirty white and black socks” means “thirty socks, each of which is either completely white or completely black”. An answer would then be “bring any three socks”. After all, the butler was not charged with bringing two socks only.
    Another answer would be that the butler orders a new pair from Harrods to be delivered by courier.
    I just read that Fayed sold Harrods this year “for £1.5 billion, half of the sale will be used to pay bank debts of £625 million”. The reason he gave, as quoted in the Evening Standard of May 27 (it calls Harrods “the world’s most famous grocery shop”):

    “I’m here every day, I can’t take my profit because I have to take a permission of those bloody idiots…I say is this right? Is this logic? Somebody like me? I run a business and I need to take bloody fucking [pension] trustee’s permission to take my profit.”

    Fayed’s public performances have considerably strengthened the case for the familiar claim that people are the same everywhere. The conciliatory TV appearances of sleek sheiks have a similar effect, but in a different direction.

  60. Another answer would be that the butler orders a new pair from Harrods to be delivered by courier.
    But he would have to ask to speak to a blind employee.

  61. I’m pretty sure that socks are beneath the dignity of a butler.
    Whatever the sock-fetcher’s title is, I wonder how he can be so sure that the numbers of black and white in the drawer are equal. I suppose he would rely on the people who launder the socks to report any losses.

  62. But he would have to ask to speak to a blind employee.
    That’s fine, because in all department stores socks are stocked in matched pairs. All the blind employee has to do is grab a pair at random.
    Whatever the sock-fetcher’s title is, I wonder how he can be so sure that the numbers of black and white in the drawer are equal.
    Where is that assumption being made ? In the case where I said the answer would be three, I was applying a simple combinatorial principle: when you choose three things from among only two different kinds of things, some two of the three chosen must be of the same kind.

  63. Instead of “only two different kinds of things”, read “at most only two different kinds of things”. The argument of course holds even when all the socks are of the same color.

  64. Quite right, Grumbly, except that “white-and-black socks” is unidiomatic; I wrote them in that order to exclude the possibility of black-and-white socks. (Actually, I’m lying; that was sheer luck.) As long as there are more than two socks in the drawer, the number is irrelevant, as is the ratio.

  65. The “simple combinatorial principle” must be the pigeon-hole principle, of course. But where are the holes, which are the pigeons ?
    The somewhat surrealistic answer is: a color is a hole, a pigeon is a “chosen sock”. When you put three “chosen socks” into two color holes, one hole must contain more than one sock.
    Socks enter the pearly gates more easily than their wearers: many fit, even when few are chosen.

  66. How embarrassing. I must have been half asleep when I wrote that. Was I thinking that the master wanted two different socks? No, that doesn’t work, either. Darn.
    (Looks around for more sock puns, anything to recover a scrap of self-esteem. Knit/nit, purl/pearl, heel, … Hey, wait a minute! Purly gates: I get it.)

  67. Stu, are you saying something about the last Strumpf?

  68. The last Strumpf, when every sock will be redeemed or forever darned.
    Don’t feel bad, empty. I wrote “pearly gates” without realizing there was a pun in it. So it’s in fact yours, along with the last Strumpf, which I have now merely embellished.

  69. Thanks. I’ll sock them away in a drawer.
    By the way, I note that in German the pigeonhole principle is a drawer principle.

  70. drawer principle
    Sigh. I didn’t know what it was called, but that’s a mistranslation without the slightest excuse, and I reject it. A pigeonhole is a Sortierfach, for instance in a secretary. Whoever dreamed up Schubladenprinzip must have imagined the pigeons as drawers to be shoved into openings.
    Two mistranslations, in fact, since Taubenschlagprinzip is also offered. But a Taubenschlag is a dovecote. Where the pigeon holes up is a Nistkasten in the Taubenschlag, not the Taubenschlag itself.
    I have just launched a campaign to correct this state of affairs. From now on I’m going to use the expression Sortierfachprinzip at every opportunity, until the Germans straighten up and fly right.

  71. Taubenfach could be a candidate, but I can find it only in a piece of doggerel by Clemens Brentano, and it may mean dovecote there. Grimm has Taubenloch for what we’re talking about, citing an older work giving Taubenlöcher as foruli columbarum.

  72. German Wiki suggests that Dirichlet formulated the Schubfachprinzip and maybe even gave it that name. So maybe it’s the English term that Stu should be complaining about. “Whoever dreamed up pigeonhole principle must have imagined the drawers as pigeons coming home to roost.”

  73. Nabokov’s amazing reconstruction of Chernyshevsky’s life and work in Dar (The Gift) should be better known than it is.
    hear, hear!

  74. Neat twist ! I saw that about Dirichlet, but found it convenient for the purposes of complaining to assume priority for pigeonhole. In other words, it dovetailed with my campaign plans to allow for the possibility that Dirichlet is the mistranslation culprit. One of my hobby horses is the fact that German film distributors often trivialize (= mistranslate, here) the titles of English-language films when they are issued in German.
    The earliest record that Grimm gives for Schubfach is 1794. But pigeonhole in the present sense appears in a letter by Locke from 1688:

    Another way may be with pigeon-holes as they call them: at these twenty-four holes, over the first paste an A, over the second a B, [etc.].

    I don’t see any conclusions to be drawn from that, but still …. I find it odd that this simple kind of mathematical argument should have been made explicit only in the 19th century. I bet it had been used much earlier, under a different name or no name at all.
    I hadn’t known that Dirichlet grew up around here, going to school in Düren, Bonn and Cologne. He obtained his doctorate at the U of Bonn.
    The few times I have had anything to do with combinatorics, I have been tickled pink by the techniques. By interpreting numerical problems in terms of hypergraphs, say, you can prove that certain expressions are integers. For a different example, binomial coefficients (n k), or rather simple counting arguments, show that “the product of any k successive numbers is divisible by the product of the first k successive numbers”. Put that way, who woulda thunk it ?

  75. Нате!
    ‘Nate’ – náh-te – is also the title of the famous Mayakovsky poem, used in plural/polite second person (вы). I could never understand why he called himself, in that poem, “грубый гунн” – rude Hunn, instead of, say, ‘scythian’, as Blok did – “да, скифы мы” – yes, we are all scythians.

  76. great difficulties in translating roditel’ into English
    why is it difficult to translate, mab?

  77. “sibling” …it’s as if in England over the centuries (and then the US) the individual person moves to the conceptual front
    not arguing with the concept in principle, I must say that sibling sounds to me less individual, more impersonal than brother or sister. Can you imagine John Lennon addressing the crowd at his last concert as ‘Siblings! Give peace a chance!’ instead of ‘brothers and sisters’.
    little footnote: сибс is used in Russian for siblings, though, admittedly, mostly as an obscure term in psychiatry.

  78. Genevra Gerhart’s book – is it widely known?
    On Russian quotes: there is a t-shirt company in England called T-34 Redmolotov.com. They do a roaring trade with Russian quotes. One of their current best-sellers is a Bakunin t-shirt: ‘People are not happier if the stick with which they are hit is called a ‘people’s stick’.
    Another memorable Pushkin paraphrase: Товарищ, верь, взойдёт она, на водку новая цена! (Comrade, trust, it will rise – the price of vodka!)

  79. I must say that sibling sounds to me less individual, more impersonal than brother or sister.
    I was trying to say that certain new characterizations accompany (or precede, or follow) social changes. Such characterizations are not needed as forms of address for individuals, but as forms of description for functions which no longer “are” individuals, but are “fulfilled” by them. When you think of it that way, even “Brother” and “Sister” seem pretty impersonal as forms of address.
    Perhaps we shouldn’t automatically assume that in previous ages “brother” and “sister” always meant the same as they do today, whether as descriptions or forms of address – think of the Quakers, to name but some, or that early free-market social engineer who said: “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.”.

  80. Nice to hear from you again, Sashura.
    As Wimbrel writes, roditel’ in Russian can be either poetic (lots of o! roditel’ stuff), or if not jocular, then a marker of a certain class. I once did a search and found dozens and dozens of examples of usage in Russian literature, most in the o! roditel’ meaning, but also the second (particularly in Dostoevsky). I then did a search in English and American literature, and found only a few examples. And they don’t have the same connotations that the Russian has. So you want to translate the word as “parent,” but then you reread what you’ve written and see that it misses almost everything in the Russian. And so you spend a day or two, muttering to yourself, trying to think of a word that might fit.

  81. I just remembered that Dickens used “honorable parent” in a semi-jocular way in one of his novels. The net has hits in Our Mutual Friend and A Tale of Two Cities.

  82. Thy ass is grass, Progenitor !
    A joke now, stern authority -
    My mother told me recently
    You almost didn’t marry her.

  83. Grubyi gunn..
    Radi rifmy I suppose, and the S’s comment is an example of that like podsoznatel’noi velikorosskoi nadmennosti o kotorom tak dolgo govoril tovarish panu
    otchego eto radi boga skify are more acceptable than grybui gunn? Sprashivaet this potomok of gunnov
    I love Russian lit and poetry, of recent, multiki mostly, as if like abstractly, but never liked the individual Russians I’ve met until now, such a kinda paradox

  84. Genevra Gerhart’s book – is it widely known?
    No, not as far as I know. There are two books, and I discovered the first one by chance and the second when a commenter mentioned it in my thread about the first one. I suppose it’s possible that they’re widely known in Russian departments these days, but how many such departments are left?

  85. roditel’
    In Dickens, cont’d: “The Aged P.” in Great Expectations.

  86. Sprashivaet this potomok of gunnov
    it’s my question too, read. i am a descendant of the Hunn too – my grandfather was born in Buryat-Mongolia.
    The Hunn, as my Triple Entente allies would testify, was most likely a reference to Germans. But why would the rebel Mayakovsky call himself that? I thought that it might have been an indirect argument with Blok, but Blok’s Scythian (Mongolian) reference is from 1918, Mayakovsky’s is 1913. Blok’s famous phrase is: Да, скифы – мы, да – азиаты, с раскосыми и жадными очами. So he’s identifying Russians with Mongolians (Asians). Or did B and M mean the same, i.e. Hunns literally, not as in the popular nickname for the Germans during WWI? Searching for Mongolian (Asian) roots of Russianness was a popuar motive at the time – cf.Ballet Russes, Stravinsky and Roerich.

  87. how many such departments are left?
    do you know?
    was the recent Russian spy thing engineered by them to attract more funding/students?

  88. родитель – parent
    nice to read your comments too, Mab,
    Pushkin also uses singular родитель (Belkin’s tales). I see the difficulty. When did it lost its neutral meaning, I wonder?

  89. родитель – parent
    nice to read your comments too, Mab,
    Pushkin also uses singular родитель (Belkin’s tales). I see the difficulty. When did it lost its neutral meaning, I wonder?

  90. Um, i’m a good provocateur it seems, sorry, S, for my outburst unfiltered
    my pop history knowledge says me hunns are asiaty and skify were more like some Slavic tribes, but, yes, i didn’t know during the wwi strangely the Germans were called Hunns, not Vikings or Goths or whatever
    regarding Chinese, I don’t find their culture or art too attractive for me, but the people I’ve met so far were pretty nice, helpful and not arrogant, another strange paradox, that I should try to overcome too, regarding their art of course, not people

  91. Asian roots of Russianness
    Seen from the opposing side, « Grattez le Russe, … », right?
    strangely the Germans were called Hunns
    Hunnenrede. English.

  92. thanks for the link, MMCM
    Grattez le russe sure! The phrase proved to be very popular since it was circulated by the French in early 19th. Dostoyevsky used it, and Lenin and Klara Zetkin paraphrased it: ‘scratch a communist and find a philistine’. Putin recently remembered it in a speech related to Tatarstan.

  93. going back to the post: did you find a good translation of ‘To Chaadayev’?

  94. Oh, I wasn’t looking for a good translation; that would be a bit much to ask for any Pushkin poem, let alone an early and obscure (outside Russia) one. No, I just wanted a translation so that non-Russian-speakers could see what was going on, and that third (“webpage”) link had it.

  95. I know of two, one by Chandler, just published. I am just writing a blog on this – let me find the links buried somewhere on my machine and I’ll post.

  96. Is there any way you could post an audio version of that Russian Purcell aria your last post was about?

  97. To Russia, comrade, let us give
    Our spirits whole and undivided.
    (Души прекрасные порывы)
    is
    here
    Not long did youth’s vain hopes delude us,
    Its dreams of love and prideful fame.
    They briefly, fleetingly pursued us,
    Then passed like mist and no more came.
    But still we chafe, our hearts afire,
    Under the yoke of tyranny,
    And, heedful of our country’s plea,
    Her true deliverance desire.
    We freedom wait with all the fever,
    The hidden ache and eagerness
    That ‘fore the hour of promised bliss
    Consume the yong and ardent lover.
    While freedom’s flame within us lives,
    While we by honour’s voice are guided,
    To Russia, comrade, let us give
    Our spirits whole and undivided.
    Dear friend, have faith: the wakeful skies
    Presage a dawn of wonder – Russia
    Shall from her age-old sleep arise,
    And despotosm impatient crushing,
    Upon its ruins our names incise!
    Translation by I.Zheleznova
    The web-page doesn’t refer to the book it was taken from, but I think it’s Fifty Soviet Poets, a 1974 Moscow publication, remarkable bacause most of the translations into English were done by Russians.
    The second translation there is by Nick and Dimitri Derkatch. I think it is of inferior quality, but what is interesting is that Отчизна (lit.=Fatherland) in the first piece is rendered as ‘Russia’ and in the second as ‘our land’.

  98. Purcell aria
    gladly, if someone could tell me how to turn a vinyl record into an MP3 or and uploadable iMovie.

  99. i like more the second translation by Nick and Dimitri Derkatch in the link, it sounds more like the original imho, though i don’t know how it sounds to the native English speaking ears :)

  100. Purcell:
    I just couldn’t find it anywhere on the internet.

  101. if someone could tell me how to turn a vinyl record into an MP3 or and uploadable iMovie
    Here’s one description of how to convert vinyl to CD (better quality than mp3). They recommend the free Audacity program.

  102. thanks, I’m just checking if I have all the necessary jacks and cables.

  103. on dushi – smother, I remember another example: Alla Pugacheva’s album Zerkalo Dushi (mirror of the soul). It was the time when there were still rumblings in the cultural apparat about Tarkovsky’s masterpiece Zerkalo (the Mirror). The pun was: Zerkalo? Dushi! (Mirror? Strangle it!) Pugacheva also had enemies in the cultural establisment. I think she was seen as a westernising influence at the time when Russian national motives were heavily promoted – and genuinely popular (Zhanna Bichevskaya, now a rabid nationalist, folk-moderne of Dmitry Pokrovsky).

  104. I love everyone’s comments – this is one place where I reliably have to go look up words in English, my native language! Chiral and hypergolic. That’s +2 for today. And mab – what do people call older folks now, if not the generic babushka and dedushka? I know that for children to call adults tyotya and dyadya is still okay (even if they don’t know them, like “von eta tyotya skazala mne…”). (Or is that different because it’s not a direct address? Hm. Could a child still say, for example, “Tyotya, vy uronili bumazhku?”) And – I would love to hear some of your other blacklisted translation words. What an interesting list to compile!

  105. aof, you sometimes still hear the familial forms of address, especially in smaller towns. In Moscow people now tend to use the(awful) generic Zhenshchina! (Woman!) Muzhchina! (Man!) Paren’/mal’chik! (Young man!) Devushka! (Young lady!) The joking reply to the last form of address, when you are well beyond “young lady” years, is: And a separate thanks for “young lady.” Grazhdanin/grazhdanka (citizen) is the Voice of Authority form of address. The other day I heard a guy trying to convince a woman to move her badly parked car call her grazhdanochka, which conveyed: I’m being nice and kind of jokey, but I’m also letting you know that I have some rights here. There is also khozyain/khozyaka, which is something “the man/lady of the house” (remember that?) When people bring around produce to sell at the dacha, they call out: Khozyaka! I’ve got cucumbers I just picked this morning. Or men yell: Khozyain! Do you have any work?
    Comrade disappeared in a nanosecond. You can sometimes hear it when people are addressing a group, like a crowd on a bus, but I can’t remember the last time I heard it used with regard to an individual.

  106. familial forms of address
    molodoy chelovek – young man like young lady could refer to someone past first youth
    chef – addressing driver, from shoffer=chauffer
    komandir – bottom up addressing anyone
    comrade – is retained in army
    interestingly – gospodin/gospozha (pre-revolutionary neutral Mr/Mrs) never quite made a come-back
    addressing to attract attention: prostite, izvinite = excuse me, when not sure, this is best
    collective: rebyata – guys, muzhiki – men, devochki, devchonki – woman to women

  107. I do hate “zhenshchina.” I’d be hard put to respond positively to a random “zhenshchina!” on the street in Russia, just as I don’t turn around to any old “hey you!” in the US. A shame to hear the folksy-respectful “babushka” is completely gone in the city (even for women who look like a typical derevenskaya babushka). I guess the whole issue is that the term doesn’t reflect respect anymore…

  108. ‘babushka’ lives on in English though

  109. Devushka! (Young lady!)
    Wouldn’t “young lady” be the — now slightly ridiculous, but still used by some — “барышня” (barishnya)? That “devushka” isn’t really on that level; it’s a “maid(en)”, isn’t it?
    In any case I, too, intensely dislike the man/woman/maid/guy/grandma used as terms of address. However, this has been lamented upon for many, many years, publicly and privately, in print and on TV — to no avail. We have to live with it, I suppose.

  110. Wouldn’t “young lady” be the — now slightly ridiculous, but still used by some — “барышня” (barishnya)? That “devushka” isn’t really on that level; it’s a “maid(en)”, isn’t it?
    Only etymologically. In practice, “young lady” is just a polite way of saying “young woman”; it has nothing to do with social class.

  111. In practice, “young lady” is just a polite way of saying “young woman”; it has nothing to do with social class.
    Thanks, L.H., but the English usage is clear – it’s the (modern) Russian one that, to me, isn’t. What makes me think that the Russian “young lady” would be “барышня” rather than “девушка” even now is (1) “барышня” was also used in a class-agnostic way, e.g., famously, to address a telephone operator (“телефонная барышня”) (2) “девушка” retains strong reference to marital status and way of life of the young lady in question (I have heard some of the more vulgar girls from my generation, when so addressed, respond “где ты был, когда я была девушкой?” – “where were you when I was one?”, just to give you an idea)

  112. Ah, gotcha.

  113. “барышня” was also used in a class-agnostic
    but no-no-no, that’s how девушка appeared – to banish the gentry-speak baryshnya, eq. to Miss. What happened next, like with many other gender neutral Soviet words, is that the language resisted ‘comrade’ as a form of addressing a woman who you don’t know. It was okay to say Tovarish Natasha or Comrade Ivanova, but you just couldn’t say, ‘hey, tovarish, give me Smolny’. Devushka=virgin maiden is a play on words, a through-back to its original, ‘spinster’ meaning and is only used in vulgar humour. Compare with this ‘telephone’ joke:
    -Mozhno Natashu? (lit.Can I have N.?)
    -Mozhno, no yeyo seichas nyet (Yes, you can, but she’s not here at the moment).

  114. but no-no-no, that’s how девушка appeared
    Well, I am not sure we are not confusing things here. Also, please note, that I don’t pretend I know the answer to the question under discussion, namely, “how to translate “devushka””. I think it might be “young woman” (literally “maid”), rather than “young lady”.
    As for the historical aspect mentioned by Sashura, my (unverified) suspicion is that Russian usage was undergoing the same change that made every woman a lady in English, and the (projected, probable in my opinion) result would have been “baryshnia”; the Bolshevik revolution made nonsense of it all, and added the factors that Sashura described, resulting in the use of “devushka” for the same purpose.
    I think that this still makes “devushka” different from “young lady” in translation, but I may very well be wrong and I don’t have anything more serious to support this opinion.

  115. David Marjanović says:

    Actually, I think it’s just the normal way to say it in Russian.

    I know (also in French and Spanish, and for some verbs it occurs in German as well – was tun?). But when the word after the next one is советы, I do wonder if it was deliberate.

    I have to take that back: Duden has Elter: ein Elternteil (bei Mensch, Tier, Pflanze). But nobody ever uses it in everyday life.

    It occurs in non-molecular genetics and was apparently deliberately invented for that purpose. I’ve never encountered it elsewhere.
    Elternteil does occur, but only in contexts like “one parent needs to sign this”.

    She lives south of the North pole and I know the reason why

    LOL!

    One of my hobby horses is the fact that German film distributors often trivialize (= mistranslate, here) the titles of English-language films when they are issued in German.

    <wince> <wail> Don’t get me started! In many cases an entirely new title is substituted, and in at least 95 % of those cases the new one is just atrocious.

    Товарищ, верь, взойдёт она, на водку новая цена!

    Awesome.
    (Last but not least because it reminds me where the stress goes on цена. I had too much exposure to Polish.)

    was the recent Russian spy thing engineered by them to attract more funding/students?

    ROTFL!

    skify were more like some Slavic tribes

    The Scyths had an Iranian language. They were one (or twenty) of the Iranian Rider Peoples®.

    Grattez le russe [...] Putin recently remembered it in a speech related to Tatarstan.

    Awesome.

    grazhdanochka

    :-D :-D :-D

    “где ты был, когда я была девушкой?”

    Oh, snap!

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