Mina nusi.

I’m reading Saltykov-Shchedrin’s brutally funny Современная идиллия [A contemporary idyll], in which the hapless narrator and his pal Glumov get caught up in the intrigues and corruption of the Petersburg police, and they’ve just discovered that a magazine editor visiting a sleazy lawyer in an office that used to be a whorehouse they visited in their youth was the piano player in that very whorehouse, and he’s telling them of his adventures in the intervening years; at one point he says:

Вы знаете, ведь я, было, в политике попался… как же! да! Ну, и надобно было за границу удирать. Нанял я, знаете, живым манером, чухонца: айда́, мина нуси, сколько, шельма белоглазая, возьмешь Балтийское море переплыть?

So you know I managed to get myself involved in politics back in the day… yup, you bet! Well, one time I had to skip town, leave the country. So quick as a bunny I hired this Finnish guy: Let’s go, mina nusi, how much do you want, you white-eyed rascal, to take me across the Baltic Sea?

I have a Finnish dictionary, of course, but I don’t actually know the language, and the Russian form could conceal so many possibilities involving umlauts and double letters that I thought I’d turn to the Varied Reader in the hopes that one of you might know what this “mina nusi” might mean.

Also, and this is a long shot but it’s driving me crazy so I’m hoping someone might know, there’s a scene in Dostoevsky (I’m pretty sure it’s Dostoevsky — The Idiot, maybe?) where a man sees a young woman being accosted (in Petersburg, I think in the Admiralty/Winter Palace area) and rushes up to protect her, almost getting into a fight with the accoster, but then is distracted by someone or something and rushes off, leaving her to her fate. Does this ring any bells? It’s not the kind of thing you can easily search for.

Comments

  1. Mina nusi parses maybe best as some kind of grammatically clipped rendering of minun nussija ‘my copulator’ (well, ‘fucker’, but without the English generic curse word tinge).

  2. Most likely minä, a first-person pronoun.

    I think what happened to this guy is slightly different BTW. He’s got in trouble while in politics / his past caught up with him, and for this reason he had to flee abroad (“Nu” ~~ “And therefore”) (And “white-eyed” is an archaic references to the Finnic people, BTW)

  3. Lars (not the original one) says:

    Could be “minä nousi”? Problem being, Google seems to indicate that phrase is not actually used in Finnish. (and I’m not a native speaker)

  4. In Estonian, mine nussi – go fuck

  5. SFR’s explanation makes the most sense to me. In the rhythm of the sentence the “Mina nusi” fits right where you would expect a «ёб твою мать» in colloquial Russian.

  6. AJP Crown says:

    ‘fucker’, but without the English generic curse word tinge
    On the contrary that’s exactly what it does seem to have, just not literally ‘fucker’:
    https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/nussia

  7. Another phrase in Saltykov is anna mina nusi (broken) ‘let me ???’, so nusi must be a verb.

    Чтоб быть ей приятным, он даже выучился говорить «по-ейному» и так чисто произносит: «анна-мина-нуси», что Лотта не может удержаться,

  8. Anna minä – let me in Finnish

  9. Anna minUN

  10. BTW, Sveaborg pops up a few words later. There was a movie by that name in Russian, and it was—of course—pronounced SveAborg, although it should have been SveabOri.

  11. I think what happened to this guy is slightly different BTW. He’s got in trouble while in politics / his past caught up with him, and for this reason he had to flee abroad (“Nu” ~~ “And therefore”)

    I’m not sure what you mean by “slightly different”; that’s exactly what I understood from the passage, and I don’t think my translation means anything else.

    SFR’s explanation [go fuck] makes the most sense to me. In the rhythm of the sentence the “Mina nusi” fits right where you would expect a «ёб твою мать» in colloquial Russian.

    Excellent, that makes perfect sense, and it is just the kind of thing Saltykov would enjoy slipping past the censors!

  12. January First-of-May says:

    BTW, Sveaborg pops up a few words later. There was a movie by that name in Russian, and it was—of course—pronounced SveAborg, although it should have been SveabOri.

    I personally would probably have expected (and said) SvEaborg.

  13. It seems -borg is the stress attractor in such names, eg, Göteborg:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gothenburg
    (click the sound file)

  14. David Marjanović says:

    As in the Viennese pronunciation of Hainburg, a place halfway between Vienna and Bratislava.

  15. I don’t think that в политике попался means that the guy got involved in politics in a sense close to modern. I don’t see how it was even possible in Russia at that time. He got mixed up in politics in a sense that he knew someone who was in some group discussing politics or maybe himself participated in such a group. But the latter is unlikely because as we learn later, everything cleared up. Or maybe he was more involved, but managed to buy his way out of trouble.

    In any case, “got involved” is an acceptable translation.

  16. Re Dostoevsky, are you thinking of the young drunk girl in Crime and Punishment?

  17. I don’t think so, but refresh my memory: what happens in the scene you’re thinking of?

  18. The Crime and Punishment scene is not quite what languagehat described, but it was nevertheless the first thing I thought of as well. The SparkNotes summary of what happens seems pretty accurate:

    The sight of an older man pursuing a drunk young woman interrupts his thoughts. Disgusted, he confronts the older man. A policeman shows up, and Raskolnikov explains the situation, giving the policeman some money for a cab to take the girl home. The girl goes, followed by the stranger and the policeman. Raskolnikov grows annoyed at this waste of money. The policeman, he thinks, will let the man have the girl as soon as Raskolnikov is out of sight.

  19. анна-мина-нуси ‘anna mina nusi

    Give me (a pinch of) snuff (snus -> nusi)?

  20. The SparkNotes summary of what happens seems pretty accurate

    Ah, I’ll bet that’s what I was thinking of! Thanks very much to both of you; that itch is now officially scratched.

  21. Finländare says:

    mina nusi

    There are two ways I’d read this: minä nussin (“I fuck”) or mene nussii (“go fuck”). Neither really makes sense as an interjection in (modern) Finland Finnish, though I suppose the latter phrase would sound better as one. I’m fairly sure Saltykov was copying what he’d heard coming from the mouths of actual Finnic people, so maybe the boatman was an Ingrian Finn.

    The Kaakkoismurteet article on Finnish Wikipedia tells us (without any citations) that “[c]enturies of cohabitation with Russian speakers has brought into the Ingrian dialects [of Finnish] a great number of loanwords. These relate to many facets of daily life, from commerce and agriculture to everyday objects. In the course of the 20th century, this influence even reached other levels of language: idioms, syntax, and word order.”

    (Vuosisatoja jatkunut rinnakkaiselo venäjän kielen naapurissa on tuonut inkeriläismurteisiin huomattavan määrän lainasanastoa. Sanasto kattaa monia elämän osa-alueita, kaupasta ja elinkeinoista ja arkipäivän esineistöön. 1900-luvun kuluessa venäjän vaikutus ulottui myös kielen muille tasoille: idiomeihin, syntaksiin eli lauserakenteisiin ja sanajärjestykseen.)

  22. So it might have been some sort of Finnic adaptation of ёб твою мать (then distorted by Saltykov’s hearing and reproduction in Cyrillic). Thanks!

  23. Or it might have been Swedish, after all:

    Нет Агатона! Он поселился в четвертом этаже, во дворе того самого дома, где живет и бывший его патрон, и прозябает под командой у выборгской шведки Лотты, которая в одно и то же время готовит ему кушанье, чистит сапоги и исполняет другие неприхотливые его требования. Лотта безобразна, редковолоса, лишена бровей и ресниц и за всем тем с ожесточением упрекает его в том, что он загубил ее молодость. Чтоб загладить этот поступок, он старается исполнить малейший ее каприз. Сначала она варила ему кофе, пока он нежился на постели, теперь — он сам варит кофе, пока она, неопрятная и сонная, барахтается в пуховике. Чтоб быть ей приятным, он даже выучился говорить “по-ейному” и так чисто произносит: “анна-мина-нуси”, что Лотта не может удержаться, чтоб не дать ему за это пинка.

    http://az.lib.ru/s/saltykow_m_e/text_0020.shtml

  24. “Vyborg Swede” = Finn

  25. Finländare says:

    “Vyborg Swede” = Finn

    Right.

    As a side note, it’s impressive how Saltykov’s spelling retains the geminated n of anna in aнна-мина-нуси, because otherwise the phrase sounds exactly like it was filtered through Russian ears.

    Anna [kun] minä nussin (“let me fuck”) is definitely the kind of low-class Finnish you might hear coming from a brash no-chocolate no-frills no-flower-bouquet type of man wanting some, so I wonder where Saltykov picked it up. A brothel?

  26. Very likely; he clearly had intimate acquaintance with brothels.

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