LAZHECHNIKOV’S ICE PALACE.

I’ve finished Lazhechnikov‘s Ледяной дом (The ice house; see this post), and I enjoyed it despite the bad writing and melodramatic contrivances (the plot is often driven by intercepted letters, overheard conversations, and the like). The focus of the story is the downfall of Artemy Volynsky, who plots unsuccessfully against the hated Biron, the empress’s favorite. Historically, this came about because of foreign policy (Biron thought that a generous indemnity should be given to the Poles for Russian violations of Polish territory during a recent war, whereas Volynsky thought the Poles were all a bunch of traitors and no indemnity should be paid at all, and in the course of his objection he used language that Biron took extreme offense at), but Lazhechnikov invents a princess of obscure origin who has become a favorite of the empress’s and who Volynsky falls hard for, neglecting both his wife and his patriotic duty. While very silly, this works well in terms of basic storytelling (a great deal of classic literature, not to mention opera, boils down to love versus duty) and it keeps you reading despite the overlong digressions and tedious outbursts of predictable emotion (tears, handwringing, broken exclamations, verbose assurances of eternal love, etc. etc.). If you like Scott or Dickens, you’ll probably like Lazhechnikov.

One interesting point is that he found it necessary to change some of the names of his hero’s coconspirators, who were either executed or exiled: Khrushchov becomes Shchurkhov, Eropkin becomes Perokin, and (my favorite) Musin-Pushkin becomes Sumin-Kupshin. I’m guessing that the real aristocrats involved had powerful descendents who, even if their ancestors had been vindicated by history, would not have appreciated the tarnishing of their family names in a popular novel.

And now: more Gogol!

Comments

  1. Jeffry House says:

    From Musin Pushkin to Lyapkin Tyapkin!

  2. This reminds me of The First Circle, where the security officers Major Shikin and Major Myshin are conflated by the prisoners into “Shishkin-Myshkin”.

  3. Did Solzhenitsyn and his fellow-zeks conflate the guards’ names because they couldn’t tell the two apart, or to imply that they might as well have been the same person, given the way they acted?
    A friend once had a pair of identical twins living next door, whom she called ‘Pan’ when she met one or both. They were mischievous 5-year-old red-headed boys named Pat and Dan, she couldn’t tell them apart, and she was a Classics major, so ‘Pan’ seemed an appropriate collective name.

  4. I can understand Lazhechnikov changing the names. But why on earth did Akunin change the name of General Skobelev to General Sobolev in The Turkish Gambit (pub.1998)?

  5. why on earth did Akunin change the name of General Skobelev to General Sobolev in The Turkish Gambit (pub.1998)
    Or rather on The Death of Achilles … and there is nothing Skobelev-specific; most historic personalities have subtly changed names in this series. Like Dolgorukov, the General-Governor of Moscow, is Dolgorukoy in the novel.
    On a different subject (ok, a loosely related subject if we shift “between the Greeks” from Achilles to Alexander the Great). We discussed Efremov earlier on LH. I just leafed through my volumes of Efremov (I got all genres, adventure novels, historical fiction, sci-fi, uncovered in the “fog of remodeling”). I was surprise how dense is Greek in the “Thaïs of Athens”. Every custom and every object are being introduced in classic Greek, before being, very educationally, explained away. I guess when I had this book in my hands as a teenager, I must have skipped all the Hellenisms to advance to the next scene of love?

  6. Dmitry, great summary but every one has their own slant. Me? Ah! to be an unknown lovely princess, and be highly favored by the empress’s. Why wouldn’t Volynsky falls hard for her blindly forgetting both his wife and his duty.
    Seldom do I look over a book again. I always have a list to get to. I have plenty of time for reading since I was struck with fibromyalgia.

  7. Did Solzhenitsyn and his fellow-zeks conflate the guards’ names because they couldn’t tell the two apart, or to imply that they might as well have been the same person, given the way they acted?
    The latter. From their own viewpoints, they are intense rivals: Shikin is the head of security for the sharashka (scientific institute), whereas Myshin is the head of security for the prison camp itself, so they have distinct but overlapping functions. To the prisoners, though, they are interchangeable MGB bureaucrats.

  8. So very much like Rosencrantz and Gildenstern, at least as portrayed in the last two productions at the Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton, VA. In each case, they were played by a totally mismatched pair: Rosenkrantz a big fat guy in the first production, a very buxom woman in the second, Guildenstern a tiny woman and a rather small man, respectively. Despite the blatant disparity in size and even gender, the King and Queen constantly mixed up their names, as if they couldn’t be bothered to remember which is which among their obsequious subjects.

  9. I trust everyone here is familiar with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead; if not, go remedy the omission. It’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever read, and the King and Queen constantly mixing up their names is a recurring source of irritation to them and amusement to us.

  10. Michael: The tradition I was riz in is rather more subtle: it’s only the King who gets it wrong, and the Queen corrects him more or less subtly. This is presumably based on the pair’s introduction to the royals in II:ii, where the King says “Thanks, Rosencrantz and gentle Guildenstern”, and the Queen promptly overrides him with “Thanks, Guildenstern and gentle Rosencrantz.”
    A similar passage is in Macbeth I:vii, where Macbeth says (per the First Folio) “If we should faile?” and Lady Macbeth replies “We faile?” There are a number of ways to deliver this, from “We fail!” to “We? Fail?” to “We — fail.” But an interesting possibility is that it is textual corruption, and should read “We fall”, a flat affirmation of the all-too-frequent outcome of ambition. This would fit with the many paired alliterations of the play: the Captain’s speech in I:ii, for example, has “spent swimmers”, “merciless Macdonald”, “shipwracking storms”, “surveying vantage”, “cannons … cracks”, and even “doubly redoubled”. They are usually not quite this thick on the ground, but in the very next scene we have Banquo’s “so withered and so wild”, “seem to fear things that do sound so fair” (a full consonance, like “fail … fall”), and “insane root that takes the reason prisoner”.

  11. Yes, that’s how the Blackfriars troop does it, and that’s what I was thinking of: the King and Queen nod to the same two in the same order, which means the Queen is correcting the King. But they had them both show some confusion in the action at other times, so I suppose they were Stoppardizing Hamlet.
    The schene could easily be done differently, with them nodding to the same two in the opposite order. What would that mean? I imagine monarchs would tend to thank their flunkies in order of precedence (social rank, age, length of acquaintance, whatever), so reversing the order would mean either that the Queen thought G. outranked R. and was correcting the King, or (more likely) that the two were so equal in rank that it was only fair to have them take turns being first and second – as if they were a pair of identical (or even Siamese) twins. Or just interchangeable flunkies not worth keeping straight.
    The same troupe did Comedy of Errors in the same season, and there they made the two pairs of twins as identical as possible – confusingly so, at times. I assume the resemblance of the two Dromios’ costumes to Tweedledee’s and Tweedledum’s was not a coincidence. The two Dromios were played by the two fattest actors, who played Rosencrantz and Polonius in Hamlet and in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. The two Antiphili played Hamlet and Laertes/Alfred.

  12. John Cowan says:

    Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is being shown on the PBS series Great Performances this week; check local listings for details. I presume it’ll be at pbs.org later. The performers in question are the National Theatre of Britain.

  13. Thanks!

  14. The blurb I found says:
    “The 50th anniversary of the National Theatre of Great Britain is marked with live extracts and archival footage of NT productions. Included: “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” with Benedict Cumberbatch; “Mourning Becomes Electra” with Helen Mirren.”

    Do you know if they will show the whole play or just excerpts?

  15. Yup, looks like just excerpts. Rats. Well, should be an interesting program anyway.

  16. Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe was a contemporary of Shakespeare. “Rosencranz and Gyldenstern” figure in his coat of arms.

  17. It was indeed interesting.

  18. Yes, we were glad we watched it, so I appreciate the heads-up.

  19. John Cowan says:

    “We Haven’t Got There Yet” is Harry Turtledove’s take on how Shakespeare would have seen Stoppard’s play if it could be performed in Shakespeare’s time.

    “Not content with stealing his characters, this very superficial, ignorant, infected Stoppard has taken his line as well, and taken it for a title.”

    “How to get across what the audience needs to know without setting it yawning? This thieving Stoppard, whoever he may be, answers the question by not answering it. He cares not a fig for what the audience needs to know. And, somehow, he makes the audience care not a fig with him.”

    “How can a man not know his own name? The befuddled soul on stage seems to have no trouble at all, and to be too troubled to have the faintest idea how troubled he is. If his—Rosencrantz’s—trouble troubles the tragedians’ spokesman, that worthy likewise gives no sign.”

  20. David Marjanović says:

    So. Do I want to know how Sir Patrick Spens died?

    (Also note the vocative Jesu. And mayhap Shakespeare’s complete lack of surprise at the suggestion that he owns an ass, let alone whatever a sweet one is.)

  21. David Marjanović says:

    “This page is maintained by Rich Spens”

  22. What I want to know is, why were they hanging out in Noroway spending anyone’s money when all they had to do was pick up a passenger and probably a few supplies and turn around?

  23. They were too busy drinkand the blude-reid wine.

  24. David Marjanović says:

    The way I understood it, the weather didn’t let them go back right away.

  25. John Cowan says:

    So they waited, and… “Things changed. They got worse.”

    As for Shakespeare’s ass, he probably correctly understood it as arse from context, just pronounced in the “sharp unfamiliar accent” they use both when playing and when just talking. Note that he would have said the word as [a:s], thanks to early loss of /r/ before dentals (ca. 1300), so [æ:s] wouldn’t be particularly alien.

  26. January First-of-May says:

    They were too busy drinkand the blude-reid wine.

    That and it probably took a while to fetch the passenger. Noroway was pretty darn big (or, at least, long) even in those days, and they might not have immediately landed in the correct port.
    (I also see that other versions of the story don’t include this particular part at all.)

    As for Shakespeare’s ass, he probably correctly understood it as arse from context, just pronounced in the “sharp unfamiliar accent” they use both when playing and when just talking.

    In fact ass is the regular development of arse, but most of the words to which this sound change had applied (including arse, in the UK) were later reverted to spelling pronunciations. IIRC, the only non-reverted exception aside from ass is bass (the fish).
    I did not realize that the change would already have happened by Shakespeare’s time; of course if it did, he wouldn’t have needed to do any context-based interpretation (…well, any more than in the rest of their dialogue, at least), just the accent inversion he had to do anyway.

  27. IIRC, the only non-reverted exception aside from ass is bass (the fish).

    Also, in low register, cuss and bust.

  28. I wouldn’t call bust low-register in the US; colloquial, maybe, but I’d say burst is the more marked of the two — it would sound prissy to say “the balloon’s about to burst.” At least in my dialect.

  29. PlasticPaddy says:

    @lh
    Wouldn’t pop or break be the more usual word for the balloon in US? So already bust or burst is a conscious “elevated” choice. But maybe Midwest is different. What would you say for a tyre bursting?

  30. You’re right, pop is more natural.

  31. Sorry to burst your bubble, but both balloons and tyres burst.

    (Don’t bust a gut about it, though. If something is busted it’s busted, even if it never actually burst.)

    I always loved the lines:

    O loth, both, were our good Scots lords
    To wet their cork-heel’d shoon,

  32. John Cowan says:

    Bridget > Biddy > biddy ‘chicken’, durst not > dursn’t > dasn’t (I still say this, at least), first > fust (archaic AmE), furze > fuzz (disputed), garsh > gash, Guernsey > guernsey > gansey, hirstle > hustle, horse > hoss (archaic AmE), moss-troopers ‘raiders on the Scottish borders’ (historical), which are known for their marshes rather than mosses, parcel > passel ‘a lot’ (another word I use), scorch > scotch ‘wound superficially’ (disputed), Lewis Carroll’s pun on tortoise/taught us, and gobs of place names.

  33. David Marjanović says:

    Lewis Carroll’s pun on tortoise/taught us

    That’s just ordinary newfangled non-rhoticity, and, judging from French tortue, probably even postdates the horse-hoarse merger.

  34. January First-of-May says:

    Also, in low register, cuss and bust.

    I should have thought of cuss (which makes a doublet with curse the same way ass makes one with arse, though with different distributions), but I never realized that (to go) bust originated from burst!

    (…Now that I think of it, my mental image of “going bust” definitely had to do with falling, probably after stumbling. Dunno why.)

  35. John Cowan says:

    ordinary newfangled non-rhoticity

    Hill’s 1940 paper on early loss of /r/ reports it first in Kent, 1887, so you are probably right.

    I forgot to mention parsnip, which is a hypercorrection of ME pasnepe, a blend of OF pasnaie (ModF panais) < Latin pastinaca and neap ‘turnip’ < L nāpus.

  36. Eli Nelson says:

    That’s just ordinary newfangled non-rhoticity, and, judging from French tortue, probably even postdates the horse-hoarse merger.

    @David Marjanović How are French tortue and the horse-hoarse merger related?

  37. Lars Mathiesen says:

    If tortoise was borrowed with the same vowel as tortue (i.e., FORCE, right?), it wouldn’t rhyme with taught us unless the merger had happened. I think. I was taught the merged versions so I’m in deep waters here, and besides it’s a pretty nice distinction to reject a rhyme over.

  38. David Marjanović says:

    I never realized that (to go) bust originated from burst!

    Last time I checked that was in some amount of dispute, because bust – busted – busted doesn’t match burst – burst – burst.

    i.e., FORCE, right?

    NORTH, like horse: LOT + r, while FORCE is (monophthongized) GOAT + r. I wasn’t taught the distinction either, so had to reconstruct it from the [ɔ] in tortue.

  39. Lars Mathiesen says:

    But taught is FOUGHT. I am now officially confused, and may have to send my faux-RP vowels off for adjustment.

  40. So bass, the fish, used to be barse?

  41. @Lars Mathiesen: No, you’re right that they are not perfectly homophonous in RP. But they are a minimal pair for a vowel difference, which is exactly what one wants for that kind of pun.

  42. So bass, the fish, used to be barse?

    Yup. OED s.v. barse:

    Etymology: Common Germanic: Old English bærs, bears ( < bars) = Middle Dutch bars, Dutch baars, Middle High German bars, German barsch, < root *bars-, bors-, whence Old High German burst, Old English byrst, Scottish birse ‘bristle.’

    Obsolete exc. dialect.

    Name of a species of fish: the original form of the word subsequently corrupted to base n.2, and bass n.1; still retained in some dialects.

    c1000 in T. Wright & R. P. Wülcker Anglo-Saxon & Old Eng. Vocab. (1884) I. /180 Lupus, uel scardo, bærs.
    c1050 in T. Wright & R. P. Wülcker Anglo-Saxon & Old Eng. Vocab. (1884) I. /293 Lypus, bærs.
    1753 Chambers’s Cycl. Suppl. Barse, in ichthyology, an English name for the common pearch.
    1860 H. Riley Liber Custum. Gloss. Barcius, a perch, which in Cumberland and Westmoreland is still known as barse.

  43. This question is definitely a kill-ease.

  44. Lars Mathiesen says:

    bars is the form the word takes in MDu, whence it seems to have been imported all over Northern Europe (even France, losing the -s, probably interpreted as plural) — even though it has a good IE pedigree (*bʰórsos = ‘spiny’).

    Danish has bars for the european bass and aborre < agborre = ‘spiny spiny’ for the common perch (borre from the LG form of the word).

  45. Lars should really have become Lass.

  46. And Karl, Kalle:

    Kalle is a masculine given name of North Germanic origin, a variation of Karl. In Sweden, people named Karl are commonly nicknamed Kalle. The name is also found in Finland and Estonia.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalle

    Pelle
    A Swedish diminutive of the name Per and a variation of the name Peter. It was the #351 ranked name in popularity in the Netherlands in 2015.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pelle_(given_name)

  47. John Cowan says:

    I wasn’t taught the [NORTH/FORCE] distinction either

    You can look up such words in AHD4, which gives one pronunciation in their weird North American dictionary respelling for NORTH words (e.g. “nôrth”), but two for FORCE words (e.g. “fôrs, fōrs”). Tortoise is “tôrtĭs”, so it’s NORTH as David says. (For me, THOUGHT remains conservatively at [ɔ] (fronted as usual in English), but NORTH=FORCE has moved up to [o].)

    The general U.S. unrounding of LOT to merge with PALM (except in eastern New England) has in parts of the South dragged NORTH along with it, so that it merges with START instead of FORCE for a cord-card merger (there is no set order of these words). Labov 2006 says this survives in Central Texas, Utah, and St. Louis, but it is in recession everywhere in favor of the usual NORTH=FORCE.

  48. Lars Mathiesen says:

    The kælenavn (‘affectionate name’) associated with Lars is indeed Lasse both in Danish and Swedish — but in Denmark people generally don’t use it unless it’s somebody’s official name too. (A lot of the common baptismal names here are originally such secondary forms, though some of them may just reflect regular developments — Ib for Jakob, Mads for Mathies, Mikkel for Mikael, Jens and Hans for Johannes, and so on).

    In Sweden people will have Pär or even Peter on their driver’s licence and be Pelle to everybody, no questions asked; in a sense that is their name too. I had to tell people to stop calling me Lasse because that’s not my name.

    Kalle is only Swedish, at least it’s down in the noise in Denmark, and there are a lot of other forms that are not recognized in Denmark: Affe, Henke, Kicki, Micke, Robban, …

  49. Kalle is only Swedish, at least it’s down in the noise in Denmark

    Pelle the Conqueror resembles successful radical and socialist literature in being basically autobiographical. Like Martin Andersen Nexø, who was born in one of the poorest slums of Copenhagen, Denmark, the central character of Pelle the Conqueror is a member of the working class. While he follows his own particular destiny, Pelle also represents choices for the working-class movement as a whole, and there can be no doubt that, beyond telling an interesting story, Nexø intended his book to help transform the life of working people. Lasse, Pelle, Kalle, and Erik are all meant to serve as social types and as indicators of working-class responses.

    https://www.enotes.com/topics/pelle-conqueror/critical-essays

  50. Lars Mathiesen says:

    On introspection, and looking at the list of FORCE words here, I realize that I do have the RP-like /ɔə/ in a few of them — divorce, for instance, and on that model the FORCE version of hoarse suddenly feels familiar — but for most of them it’s /ɔː/. I guess I learnt some of them in school but most of them from US media and never realized there was a difference to pay attention to.

  51. Lars Mathiesen says:

    Note that Pelle Erobreren is a Swedish immigrant to Denmark. I don’t know if Lasse and Kalle in the novel are Swedish too, but in any case this was long ago and on Bornholm closer to Sweden. Pelle is much higher in the current Danish name lists than Kalle, I’m pretty sure that’s because of the novel.

  52. Trond Engen says:

    Lars Mathiesen: Affe, Henke, Kicki, Micke, Robban, …

    Nicknames ending in -an are interesting. I have a non-native feeling that they belong to a different register (but registers leak). Robbe is someone with a pedigree and a French family name, while Robban dropped out of school to hang down at the corner in a leather jacket.

    I have several explanations, all or none of which may be right. I want to say that it has to do with the position of the feminine gender in urban Swedish. -an is the definite ending added to a form ending in -a, or, if you prefer, the weak feminine definite ending. At some point in a not too distant past, having a fully functioning feminine gender was a sign of vigorous colloquialism, also in urban Swedish, and the weak feminine paradigm spread to other words that served as markers for colloquial language. Robert is one of those names that became popular in post-war working-class culture. Unfortunately for this story, other names with the same cultural connotations don’t have a definite feminine nickname form. It could also have spread from Kickan “Chris”, where -an may have developed under influence of the full form Kristian, but that doesn’t explain why especially Robert. Maybe it’s because unlike most of these names. Robert already existed and had an established nickname form that could be colloquialized.

    In Norway, lexicalized nicknames like these are dead, except in Bergen. Bergen nicknaming isn’t as automatic as in Sweden, but I used to know a >Paul called Pølle and a Kristian called Kissa, and the connection between the official name and the nickname is obvious and available to to everyone.

  53. I discovered that Kalle Blomquist in English translation is Bill Bergson.

    How stupid!

    They should have named him Charlie Chansen

  54. January First-of-May says:

    I discovered that Kalle Blomquist in English translation is Bill Bergson.

    Huh. He’s plainly Калле Блюмквист in the Russian version. Maybe Russians have less problem with letting fictional Swedes keep their Swedish names?

    (…Is it “less problem” or “less problems”? I wasn’t sure which would be better. Pedants would probably say it’s “fewer problems”.)

  55. Less of a problem. (Those cursed articles…)

  56. David Marjanović says:

    @Lars Mathiesen: No, you’re right that they are not perfectly homophonous in RP. But they are a minimal pair for a vowel difference, which is exactly what one wants for that kind of pun.

    This side of the Queen at least, they are perfectly homophonous, because NORTH=FORCE has completely monophthongized and merged with THOUGHT. Today, the vowel is mostly precisely [o] (and long if all else is equal). LOT used to be [ɒ] but is creeping back up to [ɔ].

    In the US, FORCE (and NORTH for most) is likewise [oɻ], but THOUGHT is [ɒ] absent the PALM=LOT-THOUGHT merger.

  57. Eli Nelson says:

    I’m still confused because I thought that in non-rhotic accents, NORTH merged with THOUGHT before NORTH/THOUGHT merged with FORCE. E.g. I think I’ve seen old transcriptions of RP where NORTH and THOUGHT are both transcribed as /ɔː/ and FORCE is transcribed as /ɔə/. Since “tortoise” is a NORTH word, how does the “tortoise”/”taught us” pun—between a NORTH word and a THOUGHT word—relate to the dating of the horse-hoarse merger? It seems like it would work equally well in a non-rhotic accent with or without the horse-hoarse merger.

  58. David Marjanović says:

    NORTH merged with THOUGHT before NORTH/THOUGHT merged with FORCE

    Oh. I didn’t consider that possibility.

  59. Lars Mathiesen says:

    Robbe is someone with a pedigree and a French family name, while Robban dropped out of school to hang down at the corner in a leather jacket.

    I’ll make sure to tell my stepson that. Well, his classmates at school were likely headed down to the corner and didn’t know any pedigreed Roberts, so there’s that.

  60. Trond Engen says:

    I expected to be shot down. At the very least I overstated the sociolinguistic difference. Maybe I could have got away with “Your friends may call you Robban but your mother would prefer Robbe,” Or maybe not. Maybe I should have started by surveying the land before drawing the map. Do you agree that -an makes it more colloquial?

  61. David Marjanović says:

    Long-consonant nicknames all over Germanic, Gothic included, cleverly disguised in High German. They’re n-stems, derived straight from the IE tradition of making nicknames by turning adjectives into individualizing n-stem nouns.

  62. Stu Clayton says:

    I see “Goth. Micca” there. Could that be behind the name “Maik” ? Until now I thought it was calqued on “Mike”.

    Also there I see “commandor”. Is that merely a misprint, or a Thing ? The internet says only that it is a model of Claas Mähdrescher

  63. David Marjanović says:

    There was a DDR tradition of sticking it to the regime by giving people names in Hollywood-English, but in Germanized spellings so the censors wouldn’t notice, apparently. Maik, Devid

    No way the consonant and the vowel would suddenly switch lengths!

    commandor has to be a brain glitch on the author’s part.

  64. I grew up with with the eight (I think) LP set of Cyril Ritchard reading Alice in Wonderland, and the Gryphon and the Mock Turtle was my favorite part. Ritchard seemed to be doing the story (including a contrast between “tortoise” and “taught us”; with a separate contrast between “porpoise” and “purpose”) in perfect Received Pronunciation. However, looking him up now, I find that Ritchard was actually Australian, as were his parents, so his RP accent was presumably fictitious. You can judge his pronunciation of Alice here (although there is some unfortunate musical background later in the video); and here he appears as Elrond (although in a production full of Americans—Orson Bean as Bilbo, John Huston as Gandalf, Hans Conreid as Throrin—evincing post British accents).

  65. That music certainly is annoying. Why do people feel the need to support/emphasize/overwhelm spoken words with doomy/quirky music, often loud enough to make it hard to catch what’s being said (especially if one is not in one’s first youth)? My wife and I love the radio show To The Best Of Our Knowledge but are often extremely irritated with it for this reason. Did it start with This American Life? What is the point of it?

  66. David Marjanović says:

    There’s not so much a point as simply the fact that I’m one of the last hearing people whose life doesn’t have a soundtrack. Most people my age or younger, in the First World anyway, have grown up listening to music practically all their waking lives (and their sleeping lives, too, if they fall asleep while the music is still on). Whoever made the video probably simply couldn’t imagine not having any music on for almost 25 minutes, so they put some in.

    I find the musical background in the video very distracting; it’s as loud as the speaker, and it barely has anything to do with the text. But several people have told me they’re so scatterbrained music actually helps them focus, by drawing the distractible parts of their minds away and leaving the rest to focus on the task at hand unimpeded. 😐

    In the video, BTW, the NORTH-FORCE-CURE merger is complete, and half of all /w/ have turned into /v/. It’s a very odd combination with the otherwise old-fashioned RP.

    not in one’s first youth

    News magazine headline 20 years ago: Der vierte Frühling des Josef Cap

  67. But several people have told me they’re so scatterbrained music actually helps them focus, by drawing the distractible parts of their minds away and leaving the rest to focus on the task at hand unimpeded
    I am one of these people. Music in the background helps me stay focused with repetitive and boring tasks, like checking formulas in an Excel sheet or ensuring that all slides in a PowerPoint presentation are formatted identically.

  68. John Cowan says:

    It’s impossible for me to read or write or write code with music on, because it seems to occupy the verbal part of my brain that I need for those activities. (I talk to computers, I’m not a mathematician.) If I need to shut out the external soundscape, fan noise is the thing.

  69. If I need to shut out the external soundscape, fan noise is the thing.
    I actually can put up with quite a lot of background noise. I mostly need music to shut down the part of my brain that tells me “Do I really have to do this? Can we do something else, please?” The moment the task becomes interesting (e.g. I found a mistake that I have to figure out), I switch the music off.

  70. Smeknamn
    Then we have “smeknamn” which roughly means “nickname”. A guy called Hans is often nicknamed “Hasse” – like Ted for Edward etc. A “smeknamn” is usually shorter than a “tilltalsnamn” in sound, but not always in the number of letters.
    Hans has a long “a” (long vowel) while “Hasse” has a short “a” (short vowel). Other examples of ”tilltalsnamn” and ”smeknamn” are: Lars – Lasse, Olof – Olle, Per – Pelle, Karl – Kalle, Jan – Janne, Ulf – Uffe, Bo – Bosse, Mats – Matte, Mikael – Micke, Sven – Svenne, Kent – Kenta. All these given names have a long vowel while the corresponding “smeknamn” has a short vowel.

    http://www.hhogman.se/first_middle_names.htm

  71. Stu Clayton says:

    The moment the task becomes interesting (e.g. I found a mistake that I have to figure out), I switch the music off.

    That is the first time something has been brought up in connection with these “music helps me focus / calms me” explanations that clearly distinguishes them in type from those proffered by alcoholics for their drinking, and by heroin addicts for their consumption. In these last two instances, the calm is never switched off willingly.

    I have found it impossible to analyze this convincingly for myself in terms of “won’t” and “can’t”. It seems to be more a case of sorry excuses as a way of life. But music doesn’t destroy anyone’s liver, at least most of it doesn’t.

  72. David Marjanović says:

    Hasse

    Oh, that could explain the German name Hasso, borne by a WWII general and the most stereotypical German Shepherd dogs. It looks like it’s from Hass “hate”, but that seems anachronistic…

    Hans has a long “a” (long vowel)

    Huh. How did that happen?

    at least most of it doesn’t

    I’ve been exposed to music that physically shook my liver… but that kind probably damages the ears much earlier than the liver.

  73. That is the first time something has been brought up in connection with these “music helps me focus / calms me” explanations that clearly distinguishes them in type from those proffered by alcoholics for their drinking, and by heroin addicts for their consumption. In these last two instances, the calm is never switched off willingly.
    I assume with those people it starts off like this – I noted for myself that my tolerance for boring work increases when I had a glass of beer or champaign. But that’s a road I don’t want to go down because addiction will kick in when you make that a habit. And then you won’t be able to function without at all. Music is a much more harmless narcotic.

  74. January First-of-May says:

    Bo – Bosse

    Oh, that‘s where “Bosse” from Karlsson-on-the-Roof comes from.

    Now I’m wondering which full name did Betan Bettan have…
    (Google suggests “probably Elizabeth, or whatever the Swedish cognate is”.)

  75. I am one of these people. Music in the background helps me stay focused with repetitive and boring tasks

    Sure, I like to have music while I’m washing the dishes. But that has (as far as I can see) nothing to do with the phenomenon of music playing behind people talking on the radio, unless the people who put the program together assume that the actual talk is boring so they need to provide distraction.

  76. “Bosse” from Karlsson-on-the-Roof

    Yeah, it seems fro Astrid Lindgren was fond of that name:

    Linda Bergström as Lisa
    Crispin Dickson Wendenius as Lasse
    Henrik Larsson as Bosse
    Ellen Demérus as Britta
    Anna Sahlin as Anna
    Harald Lönnbro as Olle
    Tove Edfeldt as Kerstin

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Children_of_Noisy_Village_(film)

  77. BTW, it’s Буссе, not Боссе.

  78. fro

    Ursäkta, fru!

  79. David Marjanović says:

    The_Children_of_Noisy_Village_(film)

    Huh, it got translated. The German translators figured that the sound symbolism worked well enough, so Bullerbü just got transcribed. (The name is explained near the start of the book & TV series.)

    BTW, it’s Буссе, not Боссе.

    There goes my childhood. (The German translators kept his o.)

  80. @David Marjanović: That general’s full name was “Hasso von Manteufel,” which is a running joke between me and one of my German-born friends at work. My colleague joked about von Manteufel trying to convince the American MPs after the war that that was his actual name, not an obviously fake alias. He was later elected to the Bundestag, and even later he taught at West Point.

    As to listening to music while working, my teenage daughter insisted that listening to K-pop improved her efficiency. Her mother and I pointed out that listening to music with lyrics was almost certainly slowing her down and interfering with her commiting material to memory. She refused to believe that was possible, so we tested empirically how productive she was with and without music. Indeed, she was quite a bit worse while listening to singing, even though she had thought it actually helped her work.

  81. Lars Mathiesen says:

    His mom, being Danish, would much prefer Robert. I was only an ignorant bystander to Swedish onomastic sociodynamics, though.

    IIRC Hans does have a long vowel in Swedish (not in Danish), making an overlong syllable which is normally not allowed. I’m pretty sure Mats has a short vowel, at least my colleague’s version, and nobody called him Matte, by the way. Karl and Lars can go either way, I think, but then /rl/ and /rs/ can be short [ɭ] and [ʂ] in Stockholm so length is not violated. I introduced myself as [lɑːʂ] but at least one of my colleagues called me [lɑʂː] — once I made her stop saying Lasse.

  82. January First-of-May says:

    BTW, it’s Буссе, not Боссе.

    In the newer translations, possibly (also Беттан, apparently). The translations I grew up with definitely had Боссе and Бетан.

  83. I introduced myself as [lɑːʂ] but at least one of my colleagues called me [lɑʂː]

    There is an episode in Hævnen, aka ‘In a Better World’, where Anton, a Swede, calls Lars [lɑːʂ], and everybody laughs, saying that nobody will understand him there [=in Denmark].

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