Moses Murin.

While reading Leskov’s excellent 1879 novella Шерамур [Sheramur (i.e. cher amour, a distortion of the protagonist’s original nickname Chernomor, in Pushkin’s Ruslan i Lyudmila the dwarf sorcerer who steals Lyudmila)] I came across a reference to Моисей Мурин, which looked like “Moses Murin.” Upon googling, however, I discovered he’s known in English as Moses the Black, a fourth-century monk with a captivating life story (seriously, read that Wikipedia article). And мурин turns out to be an obsolete word meaning ‘Moor,’ from Church Slavic муринъ ‘αἰθίοψ,’ according to Vasmer borrowed from OHG môr < Latin maurus. An interesting word, applied to an interesting character, a sort of “holy fool” who is somehow involved in a student disturbance, flees Russia, and winds up in Paris living on the streets. The narrator takes an interest in him and tries to help him, but all his schemes fall through thanks to Cheramur’s stubbornness and prickliness (he walks out on one aristocratic lady who’s trying to help because she offers him Trollope’s comic novel Is He Popenjoy? to read). Then he’s saved by the Balkan conflict of 1876-77! For once Leskov manages to rein in his discursiveness and produce a compulsively readable narrative.

Comments

  1. Alexander Shtanko says:

    May it be that the Polish ‘murzyn’ (derogatory for ‘black person’) is related to that one?

  2. ‘Murin’ sounds cognate with Polish ’murzyn’, a word still in use today, meaning ‘black man, black person’, not with any particularly pejorative sense. The folk etymology is that the word is connected to ‘Moor’.

  3. He’s the holy protector from binge drinking and underage sex.

  4. ‘Murin’ sounds cognate with Polish ’murzyn’, a word still in use today, meaning ‘black man, black person’, not with any particularly pejorative sense

    I would be careful with that word. Much like “Neger” in German or “Negro” in English, older people may think it is a neutral word, but increasingly young people see it as pejorative, as do many Africans living in Poland. (According to Polish Wikipedia 19% of Poles consider the word pejorative, and I would guess that skews heavily with youth). Part of the reason, I think, is that “murzyn” tends to pop up in lots of old literature, including children’s books, where Africans are described in condescending/racist 19th century terms. There are, of course, many Poles of a more conservative bent who get outraged at the idea that “murzyn” could be considered offensive, but you can avoid the whole issue by just not using that word.

  5. David Marjanović says:

    Mohr in German is similar, but was already outdated/literary in the 19th century.

  6. PlasticPaddy says:

    https://de.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mohrenkopf_(Geb%C3%A4ck)

    Die früher traditionelle Bezeichnung in Österreich für derartige Backwaren war „Negerkopf“. Von dieser Bezeichnung ist man jedoch in den 1980er und 90er Jahren zunehmend abgekommen.

  7. May it be that the Polish ‘murzyn’ (derogatory for ‘black person’) is related to that one?

    Yes, Vasmer mentions that along with Ukr. му́рин and Old Czech múřín (modern Czech mouřenín).

  8. David Eddyshaw says:

    he walks out on one aristocratic lady who’s trying to help because she offers him Trollope’s comic novel Is He Popenjoy? to read

    That is perfectly understandable. Many of us would have done the same in his shoes.

  9. David Eddyshaw says:

    In Kusaal, Mɔr means “Muslim”; in the first instance, it may be borrowed from Mooré [no relation], but I’ve no clue as to where the word comes from ultimately. I think that the resemblance to “Moor” is probably just coincidental; synchronically, at any rate, the -r is a singular suffix, not part of the stem; the plural is Mɔɔm.

    It’s the sort of thing Lameen might well know …

  10. The exact origin of the term blackhead is unknown. The patron saint of the Brotherhood of Blackheads is the black Egyptian Christian Saint Maurice whose head is also depicted on the Brotherhood’s coat of arms. Whether the patron saint was chosen because of the name, or whether the saint precedes the name remains unclear.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brotherhood_of_Blackheads

  11. Stu Clayton says:

    Many of us would have done the same in his shoes.

    Have a care, Sir ! To revisit a haven in this heartless world, I have just ordered the few Trollope novels I had not read earlier. I don’t know Popenjoy, but Barchester Towers is always good for a laff. I’ve read it several times.

    One of my favorite expressions, I think from Framley Parsonage or The Warden: “the sweet bliss of connubial reciprocity”. Think what you will of real-life marriage, the phrase is turned to perfection.

  12. the sweet bliss of connubial reciprocity

    I know it well (not the phrase).

  13. David Eddyshaw says:

    I see that mórí is Bambara for “marabout”, and it would be a remarkable coincidence to say the least if it were not connected with the Mooré Mórè “Muslim.”

    The Mooré plural Moeemba “Muslims” is odd; however, Mooré has plurals in -mba for human-reference foreign words ending in a vowel like alfa “fellow-Muslim”, plural alfaamba, and it would be natural in Mooré to take the final re of Mórè as the singular noun class suffix; moreover, the short vowel before the re in native vocabulary would reflect a stem in *CVy, so there is a plausible analogical reason for the oee in the plural too. Presumably the stem of Moeemde “Islam” is extracted from Mooemba.

    The Kusaal plural Mɔɔm “Muslims” is extremely irregular; it would make sense if both the singular Mɔr and the plural were borrowed from Mooré, though (the phonology works for that.)

    Kusaal has given the English loanword lɔr “lorry” a plural lɔɔm modelled on Mɔɔm. (I conjecture that the Kusaasi became familiar with Muslims before they became familiar with lorries.)

    I don’t know if the Bambara mórí is in turn anything to do with “Moor”, though. However, I strongly suspect Lameen will know.

  14. David Eddyshaw says:

    @Stu:

    I was foolish to risk the wrath of the Trollopites. I repent in dust and ashes.

    (Eppur si muove)

  15. Ксёнѕ Фаўст says:

    “Murzyn” refers specifically to black African appearance. “Czarny” usually refers to Africans but it may be unclear if other peoples of dark skin (Dravidians, indigenous Australians) are to be included. “Murzyn” has some definite pejorative connotations in Polish (mostly of slavery or low-paid work). “Czarny”, “czarnoskóry” has them, too (“praca na czarno” is illicit, unregistered labour; cf. black economy; czarny is the colour of the devil; “czarnuch” is ‘nigger’). “Afrykanin” is absurd if they feel Polish (and it skips the visual part). It’s a pickle 😀

  16. Stu Clayton says:

    @David Eddyshaw:

    Trawling the internet, I was reminded that Trollope had it in for Calvinists. I beg to excuse my reproof.

  17. David Eddyshaw says:

    @Stu:

    I absolve you. Moreover, you have kindly supplied me with an excellent pretext for pretending that my failure to appreciate Trollope is in reality motivated by stern religious conviction. I thank you.

  18. Stu Clayton says:

    I have the distinct impression of having been bested here, or worsted. Wool is being pulled, at any rate.

    How can anyone not appreciate Mrs. Proudie and Mr. Slope ??

  19. Yes, Trollope is the bestest.

  20. David Eddyshaw says:

    How can anyone not appreciate Mrs. Proudie and Mr. Slope ??

    As I once remarked in the context of my Tolkien-blindness (much regretted by JC): I feel that I am more to be pitied than censured.

  21. Stu Clayton says:

    Disarmed by the force of convention ! Who would censure a fellow creature in distress ?

    But I agree about Tolkien. There, I’ve said it.

  22. David Marjanović says:

    praca na czarno

    Schwarzarbeit. Also: schwarzfahren “to use public transport without a ticket”.

  23. AmE nigger-work, though of course extremely taboo now.

  24. per incuriam says:

    Schwarzarbeit. Also: schwarzfahren

    Not forgetting schwarzwohnen. Nothing to do with skin colour by the way (though perhaps as Europe’s American makeover proceeds such terms will be retrofitted with offensive etymologies).

  25. Stu Clayton says:

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