Kabaservice.

I ran into a mention of the writer Geoffrey Kabaservice, and of course my first thought was “what kind of name is Kabaservice?” I did the requisite googling and came up empty (this site, for instance, says “We don’t have any information on the history of the Kabaservice name… We don’t have any information on the origins of the Kabaservice name…”). The only thing I can think of is that it could be an Anglicized form of some South Slavic name like Kojašević or Kovačević, but that’s not very convincing. As always, any nuggets of information, thoughts, or hypotheses are welcome.

Comments

  1. SFReader says:

    Kaba servis – rude service (Turkish)

  2. The site forebears.io claims seventeen incidences of the name in America and one in Poland. Googling for the name and filtering out Geoffrey, all the people that the search found were Americans.

  3. His great-grandfather was born Wincent Kabacewicz, in Suwałki (Poland), or in Lithuania. Vincent’s son Peter is the one who changed his name.

  4. Here’s a Polish-American question back at ya. Why did the -icz of some Polish surnames get voiced to -ige in the U.S., as in Miscavige and Sincavige?

  5. @Y: I’m not sure, but the phonetic distinction between those two (unstressed) syllables isn’t very robust in English, and there’s precedent for variability: Norwich, in Norfolk, is pronounced by locals as /ˈnɒɹɪdʒ/, and spinach used to be /ˈspɪnɪdʒ/ as well.

  6. J.W. Brewer says:

    I knew Geoff back several decades ago (he was a year behind me in college) but have not kept up – I probably last bumped into him in the early ’90’s. I don’t recall ever hearing the backstory of his surname, but Y’s account seems fully plausible to me and certainly not inconsistent with anything I would have supposed.

    Relatedly, it appears that Geoff and I currently have five mutual Facebook friends, one of whom is a Lithuanian-American fellow whose surname is a spelling variant of the one Y gives as “Sincavige.” He (the mutual FB friend, not GK) explained in an online discussion maybe five years ago that “The -avage ending is the -e(o)wicz patronymic suffix Americanized in a fashion characteristic of Pennsylvania, New York, and Illinois. In New England, it usually became -owitz. All the -e(o)wicz patronymic names are really Lithuanian. That suffix comes into use in Lithuania in the period in which Old Belarussian was the chancery language of the Grand Duchy. The -ewicz / -owicz patronymic suffix is obviously exactly the same (except for orthography) as the Russian -evich / -ovich.”

  7. Sincavige sounds like an illiterate peasant’s attempt to spell Polish surname Sienkiewicz. It’s Lithuanian equivalent would be Sienkievičius.

    Same with Miscavige which is a corrupted spelling of Polish surname Myszkiewicz. Lithianian equivalent is Miškevičius.

  8. Sincavige makes a much better phonetic approximation than [ˈsɪŋkəˌwɪts], which is how it would be pronounced if spelled “correctly”.

  9. So Polish national hero Adam Mickiewicz had a Lithuanian name?

    Some others are Andrucavige, Gincavage, Grincavage, Gruscavige, Lacavige, Ludcavige, Metrocavige, Vascavige, Wolencavige, etc.

  10. Another issue is the -er- of Kabaservice. Peter Kabacewicz grew up in Queens, and that’s where he was living when he changed his name, in the 1930s. Wouldn’t -er- in Queens dialect be [əɪ]?

  11. J.W. Brewer says:

    Mickiewicz was by ethnicity at least arguably a Lithuanian, but from the era when the Lithuanian elite had been largely Polonized in the centuries before Poles and Lithuanians alike had fallen under the yoke of Romanov rule. It was a few generations later before a Lithuanian nationalism that sought to identify and magnify differences between LIthuanianness and Polishness arose and, in the chaos following the end of WW1, came to power. But no one of any importance was, during his own lifetime, going to fault him for resisting encroaching heavy-handed Russification via writing in Polish rather than via writing in LIthuanian.

    Mickiewicz’s most famous work begins with a shout-out (in Polish) to “Lithuania, my fatherland” (or native land or homeland or what not, depending on the particular English translation).

  12. SFReader says:

    Basically, most Lithuanian surnames are of Belarussian/Russian origin, the rest are primarily Polish. Surnames of purely Lithuanian origin are rare.

    The top ten (male form):

    Kazlauskas (Kozlovsky), Petrauskas(Petrovsky), Jankauskas(Yankovsky), Stankevičius(Stankevich), Vasiliauskas(Vasilevsky), Žukauskas(Zhukovsky), Butkevičus (Butkevich), Paulauskas(Pavlovsky), Urbonas (Urban), Kavaliauskas(Kovalevsky).

    Here, 9 are Belarussian/Russian, 1 (Urban) is Polish.

  13. SFReader says:

    Andrucavige, Gincavage, Grincavage, Gruscavige, Lacavige, Ludcavige, Metrocavige, Vascavige, Wolencavige, etc.

    My attempt at decipherment:

    Andrukiewicz, Zinkiewicz, Grinkiewicz, Gruskiewicz, Lachiewicz, Ludkiewicz, Mietkiewicz (?), Waskiewicz, Walenkiewicz.

  14. January First-of-May says:

    The -ewicz / -owicz patronymic suffix is obviously exactly the same (except for orthography) as the Russian -evich / -ovich.

    With the caveat that the Russian version doesn’t take the stress, while, IIRC, the Polish version does.
    My own surname is an -ewicz one that could have passed for a Russian-style patronymic if it had initial stress.

    …I’ve often joked that I might be Polish, because my surname is Polish (and I’m not eligible to any other ethnicity that I know of – all I know of my genealogy [3-5 generations depending on the line] comes out to half Russian and half Jewish in exactly the wrong direction).
    I guess I should switch that to Lithuanian now…

    (Then again, I’m probably more comfortable with calling myself Lithuanian than Polish anyway – I’ve been to Vilnius and it’s a beautiful city.)

  15. Metrocavige was Metrokewicz.

  16. SFReader says:

    How on Earth one ends up with surname like Metrokewicz?

    Was he a Polish Greek or something?

  17. SFReader says:

    Theoretically it could a Russian/Belarussian surname Mitrakovich (from Mitrak, dimunitive of Mitrofan).

  18. David Marjanović says:

    I’m not sure, but the phonetic distinction between those two (unstressed) syllables isn’t very robust in English, and there’s precedent for variability:

    Also, I’ve heard (voiceless) lenes at the end of pięnć “5” and dziesiąć “10” at, I think, every occasion. Next time I need to pronounce them, I’m probably going to voice them if I don’t pay attention.

    The -ewicz / -owicz patronymic suffix is obviously exactly the same (except for orthography) as the Russian -evich / -ovich.

    Not only that, but the regular Polish correspondence would be -c, not -cz.

    “Lithuania, my fatherland”

    Litwo! Ojczyzno moja!

    With the caveat that the Russian version doesn’t take the stress, while, IIRC, the Polish version does.

    The Polish version always does, because Polish has a very small and shrinking number of exceptions to penultimate stress.

  19. His great-grandfather was born Wincent Kabacewicz

    Aha, so my Slavic guess was right!

    The -avage ending is the -e(o)wicz patronymic suffix Americanized in a fashion characteristic of Pennsylvania, New York, and Illinois. In New England, it usually became -owitz. All the -e(o)wicz patronymic names are really Lithuanian. That suffix comes into use in Lithuania in the period in which Old Belarussian was the chancery language of the Grand Duchy. The -ewicz / -owicz patronymic suffix is obviously exactly the same (except for orthography) as the Russian -evich / -ovich.

    Fascinating!

    With the caveat that the Russian version doesn’t take the stress, while, IIRC, the Polish version does.

    No, the Russian version always takes the stress as a surname (with very rare exceptions of Serbian origin, like Miloradovich).

    Lots of good information in this thread; I’m glad I asked.

  20. Miscavige

    Now there’s a name I haven’t heard in far too short a time.

  21. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    No, the Russian version always takes the stress as a surname (with very rare exceptions of Serbian origin, like Miloradovich).

    As there are two vowels in ovich which one is stressed? I’ve always said “Shostakovich” with stress on the o, but is that wrong?

  22. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    spinach used to be /ˈspɪnɪdʒ/ as well.

    It still is, when I say it. How do you say it?

  23. I’ve always said “Shostakovich” with stress on the o, but is that wrong?

    No, that’s right: it’s OH-vich.

  24. It still is, when I say it. How do you say it?

    /ˈspɪnɪtʃ/, as written.

  25. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    About 30 years ago I was assured (by an Afrikaans-speaking South African) that all British people said “Shostakovich” wrongly, and that it should be stressed on the a. I was sure that wasn’t correct, but with no Wikipedia at that time, and no Russians around to ask, I couldn’t argue.

    Until fairly recently (last few months) there was a Ukrainian in the building that I sometimes used to ask about Russian pronunciation. Probably not 100% reliable, however, I suppose.

  26. The one reasonably consistent difference between Ukrainian and Russian pronunciation of surnames that I’m familiar with is that Ukrainians have antepenultimate stress on -enko surnames (LY-senko), whereas Russians have penultimate stress (Ly-SEN-ko).

  27. Ukrainians, even Russophone Ukrainians, tend to have distinct and noticeable accent when speaking Russian. This is very strange for Russians, because most regional accents in Russian disappeared long ago.

    The first thing an Ukrainian immigrant (especially female Ukrainian immigrant) does in Moscow is to try to get rid of the accent. Very difficult task, I am told.

  28. Lithuania the fatherland was a huge entity including all of today’s Belarus and parts of Ukraine, Russia, Latvia and Poland, while Lithuanian language was spoken largely in Kovno area in it’s extreme West, and by lower classes. So a usual distinction between a multiethnic country and its titular language applies even stronger in its case

  29. We had quite a long discussion of that back in 2012.

  30. Any theories on why Archie Bunker’s Polish-American son-in-law, Mike Stivic, has what appears to be a Croatian surname?

  31. Next you will be asking why Soviet generals in Bond movies have surnames like Gogol and Pushkin 😉

  32. Further to Norwich, spinach… also rubbidge : dialectal rubbish (not that the dialect’s rubbish but that the variant exists/existed of rubbish)

  33. J.W. Brewer says:

    I probably have not had much occasion to say “Norwich” out loud or hear others say it, but the Robyn Hitchcock song “Listening to the Higsons” contains the rhymed couplet “The Higsons come from Norwich / And they eat a lot of porridge,” so there you go. The song is otherwise of potential LH interest because based on a mondegreen – there was apparently a Higsons song with the title and repeated line “Got to Let This Heat Out,” which Robyn misheard as “Got to Let This Hen Out,” which he thought a much better phrase and ended up using himself as an album title.

    (Wikipedia confirms that the Higsons, a funk-punk band that never made much of a splash on my side of the Atlantic, were in fact formed in Norwich while their members were students at, or at least hangers-on near, the University of East Anglia.)

  34. The man in the moon came down too soon
    And asked the way to Norwich,
    He went by the south and burnt his mouth
    With supping cold plum-porridge.
         —Traditional

    Tolkien “reconstructed” a much longer version of this song as Hobbit-verse, as he did with “Hey diddle diddle”.

  35. I’m late to the party, I see, but for future reference you can search passenger manifests at the Ellis Island site https://www.libertyellisfoundation.org/ for “sounds like” any name. I did that and concluded pretty quickly that the origin of Kabaservice was probably Polish or perhaps Greek: Kapcaszecrski, Kapasourris, Kapusciurz, Kavaceric, Kevaczrwski, etc.

  36. A Ukrainian.

  37. On Mike Stivic: This does sound Croatian, specifically from Slavonia. The Croatian version would be Štivić. The english equivalent being Stevens.

  38. Polish equivalent would be Szczepanowicz, I suppose.

    Googling also found these gems of Polish pronunciation and spelling – Szczepaniec, Szczepanczyk, Szczepanczuk, Szczepanek, Szczepanik, Szczepaniak.

    Stivic is way easier to pronounce for American actors

  39. Geoff Kabaservice says:

    Thanks for the discussion. There’s not a lot of family knowledge about the name, but it is in fact Lithuanian. The original surname was Kabacewicz, although at some point some family members apparently used an -icius suffix. I’ve come across other central and eastern Europeans whose names start with Kaba-, such as the Russian composer Dmitry Kabalevsky. My grandfather changed the name to sound more American but failed since “Kaba” inevitably makes people think that “service” must be pronounced in some exotic way.

    Coincidentally, I was just reading “Conversations with Czeslaw Milosz,” in which Milosz talks about growing up in Vilnius/Wilno/Vilna and his identity as a Polish-speaking Lithuanian. The country, historically, was a real crossroads traversed and inhabited by Lithuanians, Poles, Prussians, Russians, Galicians, Byelorussians, and who knows who else. I keep meaning to visit.

  40. Hey, thanks for dropping by and confirming the origin! And I really need to read more Milosz.

  41. Thanks for the information! My question is: how is Kabaservice pronounced? I get that it is an anglicized spelling, but the pronunciation still isn’t completely obvious. Is it pronounced like CAB-a-service?

  42. Ксёнѕ Фаўст says:

    Not only that, but the regular Polish correspondence would be -c, not -cz.

    The old Polish suffix was indeed -owic but the -c was replaced with -cz under East Slavic influence, I think universally since I haven’t heard any contemporary surnames in -owic. But it’s retained plentifully in placenames like Katowice (literally ‘the descendants of Kat’, i.e. Executioner).

  43. David Marjanović says:

    placenames like Katowice (literally ‘the descendants of

    *lightbulb moment*

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