Lopokova.

I imagine I first knew of Lydia Lopokova as the wife of John Maynard Keynes, and I probably said her name mentally as “Lo-POCK-ova.” Eventually I learned that her actual (Russian) surname was Lopukhova (la-pu-KHO-və), but I never really adjusted my mental audio file, because the two versions were too different to reconcile and I never had any reason to think about her. Now John Freedman of Russian Culture in Landmarks has posted about her, and the first paragraph both explains how the renaming came about and exacerbates my feeling that something went terribly wrong:

Most of the world knows her as Lydia Lopokova, although she was born and grew up in St. Petersburg as Lidia Lopukhova. The “pseudonym” (if you’re generous) or the abomination of her real name (if you’re honest) was visited upon us by Sergei Diaghilev. When he hired Lopukhova to join the Ballets Russes in 1910, he resolved that the world would not know what to do with the “Lopukhova” configuration… as though “Lopokova” were a great improvement. But history is what it is (just for the record, Russian folk wisdom calls it a turkey) so we have what we have: Lydia Lopokova (1892-1981), one of the stars of the Ballets Russes. She never again lived in Russia and, for many years, lived at this house at 46 Gordon Square, Kings Cross, London, with her husband John Maynard Keynes, the famed economist and member of the Bloomsbury group of intellectuals.

I simply can’t imagine how Diaghilev could have come up with that; I can see simplifying the kh to k for Anglo-French consumption, but the rest… Anyway, now I want to know how English-speakers familiar with her say “Lopokova,” since she’s not in any of my biographical reference works and Wikipedia doesn’t give a pronunciation. Anybody know?

Comments

  1. Oh, what a wedding of beauty and brains—
    The fair Lopokova, and John Maynard Keynes!

    That anonymous couplet circulated since their wedding, and the meter indicates stress on the -ko-.

  2. Keynes’ biographer Robert Skidelsky can be heard saying her name at about 07:20 here with stress on the third syllable.

  3. SFReader says:

    I put unfamiliar names and words in Google Translate and click Listen.

    Usually it’s pretty correct (Lopokova sounded exactly how a native English speaker would pronounce)

  4. And wikipedia also dubs her … Lapopka??
    BTW how do you explian the differences in suffixes of the two Russian surnames, Lopukhov cs. Lopukhin? If both are derived from lopukh plant, which is masculine, then presumably only Lopukhov is grammatically correct in mainstream Russian?

  5. SFReader says:

    Common sense tells me that Lopukhin is derived from lopukha (feminine) and Lopukhov from lopukh (masculine).

    Why Russian language needs to have both masculine and feminine versions of the same plant, I don’t know.

    Perhaps the plant name was feminine in some dialects, but the masculine won in the literary standard.

  6. That anonymous couplet circulated since their wedding, and the meter indicates stress on the -ko-.

    Keynes’ biographer Robert Skidelsky can be heard saying her name at about 07:20 here with stress on the third syllable.

    Thanks to both of you; that settles that, and I will adjust my mental audio file accordingly.

  7. Perhaps the plant name was feminine in some dialects, but the masculine won in the literary standard.
    That seems to be what happened – Dal’ notes the variants lopuga, lopukh, lopukha; his main entry is actually lapuga,

  8. January First-of-May says:

    But history is what it is (just for the record, Russian folk wisdom calls it a turkey)

    To the best of my knowledge, it is fate – not history – that Russian folk wisdom calls a turkey.
    (Not that this particular example is especially unapplicable to either.)

  9. Dal’ notes the variants lopuga, lopukh, lopukha; his main entry is actually lapuga,
    Thanks, now it makes much better sense!

    Re: possible 2nd syllable stress… it would have been impossible in a Russian name, because it would have to be derived from a hypothetical noun “LoPOK” with a diminutive suffix -ok, where the vowel is reduced in Genitive, and, consequently, in surnames:
    TsveTOK -> Tsvetkov, VolCHOK -> Volchkov etc. So we wouldn’t end up with LoPOkov, but rather with LopKOV.

  10. Now I’m wondering: Are there any languages that have separate masculine and feminine names for plants (such as holly) that are not hermaphroditic? Probably not.

  11. Re: possible 2nd syllable stress… it would have been impossible in a Russian name

    Sure, I was wondering only about the Anglicized form.

  12. I was wondering only about the Anglicized form
    I wonder if the Anglo forms all stick to stressing the penultimate “o” regardless of the Russian pronunciation – as in Pavlova the cake.

  13. That appears so (and the same for -skaya as well). I mentioned here a few days ago that I saw a YT video in which a Russian woman living in the US pronounces her name as Ignatóva, even though it should be Ignátova. I can only imagine that she’s doing it to placate the anglophone preference for penultimate stress. (She’s also using an English first name, I guess for similar reasons.)

  14. SFReader says:

    – So we wouldn’t end up with LoPOkov, but rather with LopKOV.

    Vladimir Nabkov would disagree…

  15. How do English speakers who do not know Russian accent the name Akhmatova?

  16. Y: How do English speakers who do not know Russian accent the name Akhmatova?
    I have always pronounced it as AkhmaTOVa (and I have heard other speakers pronounce it the same way). But I’ll be changing to AkhMATova now that your query has prompted me to look it up!

  17. That video is indeed interesting. Although Mary Ignatóva may have adopted an Americanized pronunciation of her surname, she hasn’t done the same for her birthplace, which remains Chelyábinsk when she says it, despite the juxtaposition of the news clip with the American anchor saying Chélyabinsk (as is usual, I think).

  18. Now I’m wondering: Are there any languages that have separate masculine and feminine names for plants (such as holly) that are not hermaphroditic? Probably not.
    I would doubt it. David M. probably knows that better, but I’d assume extending the idea of biological gender (as distinct from grammatical gender) to plants is a relatively recent development of modern botany, perhaps since a couple of centuries.

  19. “I simply can’t imagine how Diaghilev could have come up with that”

    The English have a tendency to pronounce U as “yoo.” For example, in England you hear Pyoo-tin for Putin fairly often. It’s possible that Diaghilev changed the U in Lopukhova to an O in order to avoid “Lo-pyook-ova.” And you’ve explained the reason for the change from KH to K.

  20. That makes a lot of sense.

  21. Indeed, “lo-PUKE-ova” would be a terrible name for a dancer in England, because of the association with puke ‘vomit’. Though I wonder if her name went through a French Lopoukova stage without phonemic stress, which might have been wrongly simplified to Lopokova and then re-stressed in English, like the terrible fate of Polish surnames in America.

  22. David Marjanović says:

    the idea of biological gender (as distinct from grammatical gender) to plants is a relatively recent development of modern botany, perhaps since a couple of centuries

    Yes; basically, Linnaeus introduced it, and his colleagues were scandalized (to say nothing of the religious establishments).

  23. a Russian woman living in the US pronounces her name as Ignatóva, even though it should be Ignátova

    The last name of a young Polish woman who lives in the same house as I is Lyasovskaya. She pronounces it Lyasovskáya.

  24. The last name of a young Polish woman who lives in the same house as I is Lyasovskaya. She pronounces it Lyasovskáya.
    While her name isn’t Polish in origin (my guess would be Belorussian or from a Russian dialect with yakanye), penultimate stress is the norm in Polish. There are also suffix-stressed adjectives in Russian and Belorussian, for which -áya would be the expected form in the female nominative singular, but some quick googling seems to indicate that the surname Лясовский does not have final stress (because it would be Лясовской in that case).

  25. Wait a second – if it were Polish, it would end in -ska: Lasowska, and the stress would be penultimate: Lasowska. It would seem to be an adjective derived from Lasowiacy, the name of a subethnic group in Poland. In Russian, Lyasovskaya is possible if the male form is Lyasovskoy rather than Lyasovsky/Lyasovskaya.

    Change the root vowel, and you get Lisowski (Lisovsky), a common Polish and Russian name.

  26. Wait a second – if it were Polish, it would end in -ska
    That exactly is the strange thing – she seems to use the Russian ending, but Polish accent rules. As I said, when I googled I didn’t find any case of a surname Lyasovskóy, only Lyasovskij, so the accent doesn’t seem to be original Russian or Belorussian.
    I also have frequently heard Germans pronounce Moskóvskaya vodka as Moskovskáya, so perhaps that Polish lady simply doesn’t know better. Or Stu misheard?

  27. So it’s a Russian surname as pronounced by a Pole. Nothing strange about that.

  28. perhaps that Polish lady simply doesn’t know better

    It’s fair to assume that she knows how her own name is pronounced. I asked her a second time long after the first, because I forgot what she said the first time. Every time I look at the doorbell console and see her name there, I think Lyasóvskaya and then “but didn’t she pronounce it the other way when I asked ?”.

    So it’s a Russian surname as pronounced by a Pole. Nothing strange about that

    Just so. But even more so, she and her family can pronounce their name however they like, linguistic analysis be damned.

    she seems to use the Russian ending, but Polish accent rules

    She doesn’t “use” the Russian ending in her name, it’s just the name she has. It’s her official name, on the doorbell of a house in Germany, where all those Slavic alternatives (Kosenamen etc) are not countenanced. You have an official name, which is un-play-withable according to the rules of this country.

    I should add that she does speak Polish. I’ve heard her in the stairwell talking with a friend on several occasions.

  29. I also have frequently heard Germans pronounce Moskóvskaya vodka as Moskovskáya

    Maybe she says Lyasovskáya to Germans because they expect it, but Lyasóvskaya when in the bosom of Polish society in Cologne !

  30. Trond Engen says:

    There’s some tradition in Norway for pimping up a pedestrian -sen surname by writing it -sén and stressing the final syllable. It’s been mocked since the invention of mockery, but it’s still being done. The model is transparenty Swedish clerical latinate surnames in -enius, often shortened -én.

  31. I had a perfectly modest and unpretentious Norwegian colleague some years ago whose name was Pedersen, and although he would answer to “PED-er-sen,” if you asked him he would tell you that it was pronounced “Pyed-er-SEN.”

  32. SFReader says:

    There was significant ethnic Russian diaspora in Poland, dating since days of the Russian empire.

    Their descendants appear completely assimilated by now, keeping only their Orthodox faith (Polish Orthodox Church boasts 600,000 faithful in Poland) and occasionally, non-Polonized surnames.

  33. Trond Engen says:

    a perfectly modest and unpretentious Norwegian colleague

    Most -sen names with final stress were formed generations ago, and it’s now just like any other part of family history. But I, too, had a modest and unpretentious colleague of the kind, now retired, and I was told he made the change himself when starting his own business.

    Final stress on Pedersen sounds odd, though. Meaning: I haven’t seen it for that particular name. But Google tells me it exists.

  34. Trond Engen says:

    … most of them Swedish, actually. I’m pretty sure the first -sén names were coined in Sweden as part of the Swedish flair for latinisms. I said “clerical names”, but “academic” might be better, since I think it typically happened when enrolling in university. But as soon as some of these names arrived in Norway, and their bearers joined the budding middle class who for a great part had German family names, they provided a model for aspiring Norwegians.

  35. The moral equivalent in Danish are people with a double -sen surname, with or without hyphenation. There is no stigma attached to -sen names, and people don’t usually try to get rid of them (though surname-like middle names are often pressed into use — when we had three (different) Prime Ministers Rasmussen in a row, everybody but newsreaders just called them Anders Fogh, Poul Nyrup and Lars Løkke).

    But back at the point, -sen names aren’t exactly the marker of old status either since they are largely the result of an 1828 law mandating family names, and everybody who was somebody at that time already had non-patronymic surnames; pretending that not just one, but two of your -⁠sen ancestors were so important that their names must be preserved in a double barrel is seen as, well, pretentious.

    (This has nothing to do with the illogic of having two patronymics in your name, -sen names are not felt as such. In fact the most recent (2006) Danish law on the subject does allow metro- and patronymics, but in -søn and -datter).

  36. Stephen C. Carlson says:

    The model is transparenty Swedish clerical latinate surnames in -enius, often shortened -én.

    When I lived in Uppsala, my home was on a street called Noreensväg, named after the great linguist of Old Swedish and Uppsala professor Adolf Noreen. I understand the -een ending to be an orthographic variant of -én. I don’t know anything about Noreen’s background, but based on this comment, I wonder if there’s a Norenius lurking somewhere in his ancestry.

  37. Sometime around 1600, Erland Gudmundsson, the son of an immigrated Walloon tower builder, ended his clerical career as the pastor of Nor parish (10km from Karlstad) and styled himself Erlandus Gudmundi Norenius. His son inherited the job and surname, and his children again took Noreen (not Norén) as their family name.

    Adolf Gotthard Noreen’s father (Erik Adolf) was born in Karlstad in 1826, but had moved 40km north to Östra Ämtervik by 1854 when Adolf was born (and a further 12km to Sunne by the time of the 1890 census, listed as an associate surveyor and farm owner).

    As a place name Sw Nor is to the same root as E narrow, and sadly has nothing to do with norrœnt mál.

  38. Stephen C. Carlson says:

    That’s very helpful, Lars. Tack!

  39. Trond Engen says:

    Yes, parish names as base of latinate family names. I don’t know (but Lars’ source probably does) if all Noreen’s and Noréns in Sweden are named after the Värmland parish. There are other parishes in Sweden that may have spurred Norenius names of their own.

    As a place name Sw Nor is to the same root as E narrow, and sadly has nothing to do with norrœnt mál.

    Not so fast. There’s a respectable minority theory that derives Nor(v)egr from nór, not norðr. I learned this from my father when I was a boy, but it’s much older than that. The theory seems to have gained ground again recently, with reassessment of the evidence as part of the groundwork for the new Norsk språkhistorie. The philological reason is that the ð isn’t found even in the oldest runic inscriptions, that the word is rhymed with e.g. stór in skaldic poetry, and that the name of the mythological founder of Norway, the dwarf king Nóri, is transparently formed from nór. This would mean that forms with ð or d are folk etymologies, even when they are older than the runic inscriptions. Of course, whether or not norrœn is derived from nór or norðr is another matter.

  40. Trond Engen says:

    Also, the above mentioned professor Noreen was one of the early proponents of the nór etymology.

    For those who read Norwegian there’s an interview with professor Michael Schulte at the Universitetet of Agder here, surprisingly well-written and even-handed to be written by University staff.

  41. Lars’ source was actually the writeup of the Nordenfalk noble family in the Adelskalender, and the author couldn’t care less about the branches of the Noreen family that didn’t get ennobled.

    There are three different Nora parishes (near Västerås, Uppsala and Härnösand) that might well have produced Norén families, but Noreen is a rarer spelling and since our Noreen’s father was born 10km from Nor parish, it’s a pretty good bet that it’s that family.

  42. She doesn’t “use” the Russian ending in her name, it’s just the name she has. It’s her official name, on the doorbell of a house in Germany, where all those Slavic alternatives (Kosenamen etc) are not countenanced. You have an official name, which is un-play-withable according to the rules of this country.
    It’s interesting that she registered her surname with the female ending. In my experience, Slavic names with male and female forms (based on standard or on possessive adjectives) normally default to the male form when they become “German” surnames; e.g. in Poland a couple would be pan Kowalski and pani Kowalska, but in Germany they’re Herr Kowalski and Frau Kowalski, or take the tennis player Sabine Lisicki, who would be Lisicka in Poland. But there are exceptions; my wife’s maiden name is written using the female form -ova, not the male form -ov, in all German documents where it is mentioned, as that’s the way it was written in her Kazakh passport, and the German media normally use the female forms for prominent personalities from Slavic-speaking countries, like Sharapova or Navratilova. So I assume your neighbour immigrated to Germany; if she’d be born to Polish parents in Germany, her name would be Lyasovskij.

  43. Sure. The question isn’t about her at this point, it’s about her East Slavic ancestors in Poland: why didn’t they give their surnames a Polish form, like all the immigrants to America who changed or translated their names? The former would have been a much easier transition than the latter.

    “Many a Pennsylvania Carpenter, bearing a surname that is English, from the French, from the Latin, and there a Celtic loan-word in origin, is neither English, nor French, nor Latin, nor Celt, but an original German Zimmermann.” (S. Grant Oliphant in 1906, whose obviously Dutch family didn’t change their names.)

  44. I do find this case of Lyasovskaya a bit puzzling, because it appears that even Russians from Russia have their names adapted to Polish orthography and morphology: for example, Polish Wikipedia refers to the Russian figure skater Irina Slutskaya as Irina Słucka, and the cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya as Swietłana Sawicka. So I would think that the name would be rendered as Lasowska even without a conscious assimilationist choice.

  45. Yes, I had the same reaction. Are there other examples of this stubborn Russification?

  46. Trond Engen says:

    Could it be that the way Russian names got adapted to Polish has changed over time? Could e.g. surnames of Russians who came to Poland during the 19th century Russian rule have been kept in Russian form, leading to a pronunciation with Polish stress?

  47. @ Lazar: “…appears that even Russians from Russia have their names adapted to Polish orthography and morphology…” It’s the way the Polish language works, apparently. The Russian approach is similar if not identical. Male Polish surnames ending in -ski are treated as if they were Russian/Ukrainian/Belarusian surnames ending in -sky. However the female -ska ending sounds like a short-form adjective in Russian and has been treated as such in the past four-five decades, I think. There’s no general rule on this, however, so Russian has Barbara Brylska alongside Ioanna Khmelevskaya (i.e., Joanna Chmielewska).

  48. Is it possible Ms. Lyasovskaya is an ethnic Pole from somewhere in the former Soviet Union? That seems more plausible to me given that spelling.

    I agree with Lazar, in my experience in Poland pretty much all foreign names are assimilated. It would be very surprising to find anyone from a Russian diaspora before WWII preserving a Russian spelling, especially with “v” instead of “w”.

  49. But if so, then why not an ethnically Polish name? No, something is funny somewhere.

    Still, consider the actress Helena Modjeska, born Jadwiga Benda. Her first (and in fact bigamous) husband was a German actor named Sinnmayer, who polonized his surname as Zimajer, but used the stage name Modrzejewski, which she also adopted as her working name in feminine form. When acting outside Poland, she simplified this to Modjeska. Their son Rudolf Zimajer/Modrzejewski/Modjeski became in America Ralph Modjeski, the famous designer of bridges, despite the difficulty to the American official eye of a mother and son with “different” surnames. (Modjeska had since married a certain Chłapowski, who used the name Bozenta in America because it was easier for Americans to say, but remarriage with or without name change was far more familiar than gendered surname endings.)

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