Arnold Zwicky of Language Log posts a detailed exegesis of the words and phrases used in a recent Zippy cartoon: “Nov shmoz ka pop?” “Notary Sojac!” “Nize baby! Banana oil! Jeep!” “Potrzebie! Ferschlugginer! Axolotl!” I’m too young to remember The Squirrel Cage or Smokey Stover (though the phrase “Nov shmoz ka pop,” from the former, does ring a faint bell, so I must have seen it used somewhere by someone quoting it, perhaps in my days in science fiction fandom), but the Mad Magazine flashbacks were a nostalgic thrill. I remember how bamboozled I was when I discovered that potrzebie was an actual Polish word, pronounced po-CHEB-yeh rather than POT-er-zee-bee; I still, however, use the latter pronunciation, because I speak Mad but I don’t speak Polish.


  1. No one in this multiblog thread seems to have mentioned the Potrzebie system of measurement units, described by Wikipedia thus:

    In issue 33, Mad published a partial table of the “Potrzebie System of Weights and Measures”, developed by 19-year-old Donald E. Knuth, later a famed computer scientist. According to Knuth, the basis of this new revolutionary system is the potrzebie, which equals the thickness of Mad issue 26, or 2.263348517438173216473 mm. Volume was measured in ngogn (equal to 1000 cubic potrzebies), mass in blintz (equal to the mass of 1 ngogn of halavah, which is “a form of pie [with] a specific gravity of 3.1416 and a specific heat of .31416”), and time in seven named units (decimal powers of the average earth rotation, equal to 1 “clark”). The system also features such units as whatmeworry, cowznofski, vreeble, hoo and hah.

    I’m also interested in your use of bamboozle above. I (and both AHD4 and NID3) understand it to mean ‘deceive, hoodwink, mislead’, but you seem to use it to mean something like ‘startle’ or perhaps ‘baffle’. Checking, which is more up to date, I do find a second sense ‘confuse, frustrate’, but their citation-free example ‘a quarterback bamboozled by an unexpected defense’ strikes me as a better exemplar for the first sense, and I wonder if the supposed second sense actually exists. Wiktionary says there is an AAVE slang sense ‘defraud, trick, con’, which strikes me as indistinguishably close from the standard sense. But none of these senses seem to fit your sentence at all.

  2. Hmm… maybe “bamboozled” isn’t quite the right word. I love it so much I may use it as much for sound as meaning. But ‘confused’ works in my sentence, so I think I’ll leave it.

  3. See for an exhaustive background to the word’s usage in Mad.

  4. Is the complete Potrzebie System system online someplace? As opposed to just a summary? Or do I need to get the old issue or the appropriate anthology book from eBay?
    The entry appears to be the same as the Wikipedia entry.
    Axolotls aren’t just salamander-like, they are salamanders. And they’re neotenous, as the Wikipedia explains. We used to have a whole aquarium full of them.

  5. The article is a copy of the Wikipedia entry.
    BTW, the standard Polish pronunciation of potrzebie is closer to what Wikipedia gives, that is with a sequence of a stop and a fricative (or an affricate and a fricative) rather than an affricate.

  6. Stephen Mulraney says:

    And don’t forget the retroflex quality of that stop plus fricative!

  7. David Marjanović says:

    “BTW, the standard Polish pronunciation of potrzebie is closer to what Wikipedia gives, that is with a sequence of a stop and a fricative (or an affricate and a fricative) rather than an affricate.”
    How is that feasible — without releasing the /t/ and thus putting a schwa into the sequence?

  8. My Google-Fu is in better form this morning.
    Half the Potrzebie System is reproduced in Completely Mad. To be specific, in the lower-right corner of page 191 is a copy of page 36 from issue #33. This is all that is quoted on most sites that come up in search (or less if they just explain the Knuth connection).
    The whole is part of the compilation volume Like, Mad, originally from the 60s, but with relatively recent “Anniversary Edition” reprints.
    And here is a rec.humor posting from 1987 quoting from that. As you can see, pg. 36 more obsessively laid the foundation for the joke, which means that the joke density was higher on pg. 37.

  9. michael farris says:

    “How is that feasible”
    Good question, the difference between trz and cz is partly juncture and partly articulatory.
    For the juncture part, in English almost minimal pair
    catch it /kAtSit/ and cat shit /kAt Sit/
    gives some idea of the difference.
    Also, when I’ve asked native speakers the t in trz is dental and the sz further back (though not really retroflex for most speakers) and I think the t might be almost geminated.
    Cz is articulated further back alveolar or just post alveolar (not retroflex for most modern speakers AFAICT)
    Some speakers don’t clearly distinguish trz and cz but that’s considered a little sub-standard – okay in informal everday circumstances but in formal speech a person is expected to be able to differentiate them (and many speakers always do).
    The same pair also exists voiced with drz and dż (though sometimes some speakers pronounce dż like drz)

  10. Bravo and sincere thanks to Michael Farris for his response to the question, “How is that feasible?” I could taste it but needed someone to explain it.
    Since I already had learned some Polish by the first time I saw the word potrzebie in Mad, I never learned to speak it in Mad and am still not sure what it actually sounds like in that dialect. Still, I have always liked the taste of the word with its little spoon-shaped dip just behind the front curve of the tongue against the alveolar ridge.
    Thanks again for the explanation!

  11. “the former, does ring a faint bell, so I must have seen it used somewhere by someone quoting it, perhaps in my days in science fiction fandom”
    I certainly remember it being an intermittent catchphrase in SF fanzines, particularly the more humorous and fannish sort. I’m pretty sure I recall it appearing in cartoons by Steve Stiles or Dan Steffan or maybe both.

  12. Aha—thanks for the confirmation!

  13. “Nov shmoz ka pop” is from Gene Ahern’s 1930’s era newspaper comic THE SQUIRREL CAGE
    Don Markstein’s Toonopedia entry

  14. “Nov shmoz ka pop?” It’s a question. It’s being spoken by a hitchhiker. What do hitchhikers say?


    It’s not a substitution cipher. It’s just unrelated, but pronounceable, letters put together in the same pattern.

  15. David Eddyshaw says:

    This now cries out for a conlanger to create the rest of the language, a la Okrand.

    OSV but with considerable freedom of placement non-core elements; “nov” genitive of “na” 1st sg personal pronoun (genitive rather than dative because “route” is treated as *inalienably* possessed in Hičajqri except in cases of abduction); “šmo:z” perlative case of “šmoɣ” “route”; “qa” absolutive 2sg pronoun; “pʰop” imperfective interrogative form of the highly suppletive verb zbap “go by vehicle with a set purpose [not joyriding.]”

  16. David Eddyshaw says:

    (I have omitted tone marks for simplicity.)

  17. Trond Engen says:

    (I have omitted tone marks for simplicity.)

    Oh, right. You almost confused me there.

    The sentence is still highly unusual. The use of šmoɣ “route” rather than the more informal a-qiĥ “way, direction” suggests a sense of public commitment, but to what? It’s borderline ungrammatical without an incorporated allative, so what empowered na to invoke that sense of commitment to an unknown and unknowable cause? The ambiguity is taken one step further by the set purpose implied in the verb, but the imperfective would suggest an ongoing effort. Pragmatically, I’m tempted to translate it as “Who are you to ever find my true pupose?”, though that misses the whole question of class. All in all the comic reads as a strangely clairvoyant prelude to the endless debate over the abolishment of titular poetry.

  18. David Eddyshaw says:

    It *is* unusual. It makes one wonder whether the Hitchhiker is perhaps a native speaker of one of the more distant Sqərəli languages, lacking the throroughgoing grammaticalisation of control so characteristic of core Hičajqri and its closest relatives. He is not represented as wearing traditional Hičajqri clothing, after all. There are evidently multiple layers of meaning in this apparently simple yet anthropologically sophisticated bande dessinée.

  19. David Eddyshaw says:

    I thought you might pick me up on my description of the relationship of pʰop and zbap as “suppletive”; while I would concede that historically the perfective form reflects the proto-Sqərəli inchoative prefix *dz-, from a synchronic standpoint it is surely best to take this as suppletion, especially when you take into account that all the optative forms are based on an entirely different root in any case. The vowel alternation – historically umlaut – is regular, of course, reflecting the Middle Hičajqri interrogative flexion -u (with H tone), still preserved as such in some contemporary rural dialects, and in the prerevolutionary orthography.

  20. David Marjanović says:

    Day saved.

  21. I love you people.

  22. Trond Engen says:

    a native speaker of one of the more distant Sqərəli languages

    Of course! That makes this a social commentary. Highly disturbing yet typical of its time. The scholarly shirt, the beard, the travel, the vaguely Sqərəli features*, and, indeed, the lack of the “proper” obedient form of the 2pp. Of course, indenture had been abolished decades earlier, but the Nʰo:bʰodí were still not allowed to set up their own businesses, study the important literary sciences, or travel internationally.

    So much for ignoring the question of class. And think that I mentioned the debate on titular poetry without considering the influence of Anti-Nʰo:bʰodísm of much of the traditional poetic meritocracy.

    *) modern lingusitics rejects the Sqərəli substrate hypothesis, instead seeing it as shared retentions.

  23. And shared retentions, as we all well know, are worth absolutely nothing.

  24. David Eddyshaw says:

    I should here point out that the name “Skoobozia”, still found in most reference works, is an exonym of unclear origin, and is now strongly dispreferred by most Fu:z Sqərəli, who prefer the neologism “Skirilia” (itself unfortunately controversial, as minimising the considerable linguistic and cultural diversity of a region which was never a political unity before the twentieth century.) The traditional derivation of “Skoobozia” from the Hičajqri “skrəv bałz” “unsound mind” is almost certainly a mere folk etymology, however: the deverbal adjective skrəv is only ever found in genuine Hičajqri sources in the literal sense “made of pastry leftovers” and the expression as it stands is in any case ungrammatical, as lacking ezafe.

  25. Spa Fon! This is ridiculous.

  26. Surely you mean Squa Tront.

  27. Trond Engen says:

    Ironically, in a recent article in Hičajqr Sqajd Tuudə Ghələq-xi (“Hičajqri Journal of Ethnography and Linguistics”), Miiðə Wonəbi makes a strong case that Skirilia is derived from a lost Old Western Hičajqri *skərəl “residual”, a straightforward cognate of skrəv! The intended meaning, however, was probably “indigenous”.

  28. David Eddyshaw says:

    I think this is simply accidental homophony; the pastry-making sense is surely primary in skrəv, which is transparently derived from krəv “make pastry unintentionally, at random”, corresponding to the [+ control] verb krav “make pastry deliberately, with full attention.” The verbs are certainly ancient, unsurprisingly in view of the central role of pies in prehistoric Sqərəli culture, revealed clearly in their predominence as grave goods.

    The native grammatical tradition recognised the ə~a ablaut early, as is hardly surprising given its pervasive role in the verbal system; the native terms are respectively vəyq “pathetic, servile” and zdarq “manly, overbearing, pungent.”

  29. David Eddyshaw says:

    Tonal evidence is against the identification, too: skrəv has the Middle Hičajqri “excited” tone, whereas sqərəl- had two “bored” tones. They were tonally distinct as late as the transcriptions made by Gerulaitis in the early part of the twentieth century. (These have not been used as extensively as might have been expected, given their importance for skirilology. It is unfortunate that Gerulaitis’ work has never been translated from his somewhat idiosyncratic Lithuanian.)

  30. [vfǝ̋ɘ̏ hːh ʏy], as they say.

  31. David Eddyshaw says:


    Of course. Nobody would dispute that.

  32. Thanks to this discussion, I’ve sent off for Wonəbi’s historical grammar of Hičajqri. I just hope it’s not too out of date; clearly, the field is a fast-moving one.

  33. David Eddyshaw says:

    Although much of the detail in Wonəbi’s classic 1984 work has been improved upon by subsequent scholarship (not least her own extensive fieldwork with several highly aberrant dialects of the Fu:z Highlands), it can still be confidently relied upon as a solid introduction; indeed all subsequent work is greatly indebted to her magisterial insights. (My nit-picking over the etymology of “Skirilia” should not in any way be taken as detracting from my admiration for this profound scholar – she herself is famously immune to odium academicum and a generous and perceptive critic of others’ work.)

    Wonəbi’s analysis of the Hičajqri verbal system has never been superseded, and has transformed the study of the modern language itself, for too long forced into inappropriate frameworks drawn from Welsh and Ingush.

    The Historical Grammar is also by far the best extant introduction to skirilology in general. The weakest parts of the older work in this respect relate to supposed wider linguistic relationships. No serious skirilologist (including Wonəbi herself) now accepts the Sqərəli-Dene hypothesis, still unfortunately presented as fact in Merritt Ruhlen’s works; indeed it is Wonəbi’s own mature work which has shown beyond doubt that the many superficial similarities which so impressed Greenberg (and Sapir in his day) cannot reflect a common origin.

    It is much to be hoped that Wonəbi’s political activities will allow her sufficient respite for the completion of the long-overdue revised and updated edition, eagerly anticipated as the crown of the linguistic career of this remarkable polymath and patriot.

  34. David Marjanović says:

    The Historical Grammar is also by far the best extant introduction to skirilology in general.

    …not least because its treatment of morphonological haplogy puts the LOL in skirilology.

  35. Trond Engen says:

    I’ve sent off for Wonəbi’s historical grammar of Hičajqri. I just hope it’s not too out of date; clearly, the field is a fast-moving one.

    The delivery may take some time. One reason for the almost legendary status of the first edition of the Historical Grammar is that it has been out of print since, well since before its release, because of a copyright conflict with her academic publisher, widely suspected to be politically motivated. Instead Ms. Wonəbi personally type every new copy on the same typewriter she used for the original manuscript, adding diacritics and underscores by hand, so that every new copy of the book can be treated as a revised preliminary copy of the manuscript. For legal reasons she also made slight modifications of her reconstructions from one copy to the next, a practice that may sometimes confuse those not intimately familiar with the field.

  36. Trond Engen says:

    Incidentally, the typewriter plays a role in the discovery of morphophonological haplology. Ms. Wonəbi reconstructed the process for Proto-Hajwé-Hičajqri to explain the irregular outcomes of the reduplicated oblique stems in the non-present antimirative. The idea is that doubled syllables were lost immediately before long syllables with primary stress and were later reinstated by analogy. Her critics say this.was just done to save typing time. While she doesn’t deny this as an “inspiration”, she also says the evidence speaks for itself.

  37. Trond Engen says:

    the non-present antimirative

    … of denominal deponent verbs in the third class. obviously. Sorry for the confusion.

  38. it has been out of print since, well since before its release

    There is a cheap reprint available from Ulaanbaatar University Press, but it unfortunately contains numerous printing errors; for example, every sixth page has been inadvertently replaced with the equivalent page of the original edition of Heidegger’s Einführung in die Metaphysik (as I realized halfway through the book).

  39. Dammit, I think it must be the cheap reprint I ordered. Oh well, I’ll get a little Heidegger along with my Hičajqri.

  40. David Eddyshaw says:

    The Hičajqri version of Sein und Zeit, translated by none other than President Wonəbi’s erstwhile partner in struggle (and more) in the early days of the People’s Philological Party, Nikyto Nymən-Persón, is commonly held to improve greatly on the original in lucidity. Patriotic Sqərəli philosophers have not been slow to assert that their languages are particularly suited for the expression of existential ontological truth, a claim which has been memorably described as “running-dog revisionist Sapir-Whorfism” by the hardline Welsh-Ingush fraction.

  41. David Eddyshaw says:

    It was actually Nymən-Persón who originated the famous slogan “the philological is the political; without truth there is no etymology.”

    It is ironic, in the light of his political views (especially after his definitive rupture with the PPP) that he always maintained the prerevolutionary spelling of his given name Nikyto, with its purely graphic y.

  42. If anything, David downplays Ms. Wonəbi’s graciousness towards interested laypersons. We corresponded briefly some years ago when she was taking the waters at Bad Reiniger, and she was extremely patient when I made a fool of myself by confusing the Proto-Hajwé-Hičajqri hyperactive prefix *wʲjʷ- (which regularly yields Hičajqri ɱ-) with the passive-aggressive prefix *w̥ʲjʷ- (which yields erk-).

  43. By the way, the retained spelling of Nymən-Persón’s given name is presumably in homage to the Hičajqri folk hero / trickster figure Nikyto, among whose exploits is blinding a one-eyed giant with his massive thumb after lulling it to sleep with pies.

  44. Erk indeed.

    Isn’t conlanging fun? It’s not all expressing the accusative case by a prefix, you know.

  45. David Marjanović says:

    which yields erk-

    Hey, something has to.

  46. David Eddyshaw says:


    Your “confusion” may have been prophetic! Bomhard and others have objected cogently to the typologically remarkable contrast of *wʲjʷ versus *w̥ʲjʷ-, which also cannot be paralleled in any extant Sqərəli language for which we have adequate phonological information. The consensus of modern scholarship is that the ɱ-/erk- split is better explained by the atonic nature of passive-aggressive forms in main clauses, which, though not a feature of modern Core Hičajqri is still seen in all other Sqərəli languages where a synthetic passive-aggressive form still survives; it was undoubtedly a feature of the protolanguage. The late recognition of this conditioning factor is yet another consequence of the Hičajqri-centric bias of early Skirilology, inevitable at the time when information on even Hajwé was scarce, and other Sqərəli languages were typically regarded as mere jargons or corruptions of Hajwé, unworthy of scholarly attention.

    Perhaps it was your very correspondence that ultimately led to this insight on the part of Wonəbi, who as you rightly say has never been disdainful of the ideas even of amateur investigators. (I do not think it is altogether fanciful to link this democratic strain in her linguistic work to her lifelong political commitment.)

  47. David, it’s kind of you to suggest it and I would like to think so, but if memory serves Wonəbi was already moving toward the correct solution at the time based on her frankly brilliant work on Θəməlift logophors, which of course begin in erk- (or its New Θəməlift reflex d-) and are, uniquely in Sqərəli if I’m not mistaken, atonic. This was at the time of her very public spat with Bomhard over his Hajwé-Yukaghir hypothesis (since quietly discarded), which distracted her unpardonably from this important work and may even have contributed to her illness, but she was characteristically fair-minded in her comments to me; the furthest she went was to describe him, in her idiosyncractic English, as having “a thumb in every pie”.

    This was actually something of a eureka moment to me as I realized that the English idiom she was approximating was a straightforward calque of Hičajqri bəz: ə-bʰodí, where be- ‘obviative inalienable’, z: ‘thumb’ (note that this word, unlike the other finger names, is always marked for inalienable possession), and bʰodí is the indefinite pluractional of bʰəd- ‘be located in a pie (permanently or inherently)’.

  48. David Eddyshaw says:


    By a remarkable coincidence, the current HSTG is a special edition given over to a surely definitive account of “thumb” metaphors in Hičajqri, by the acknowledged doyen of Sqərəli sociolinguistics Mu:ča Šnorrə! I’ve only been able to glance at it so far, but It looks likely to be a godsend not only to those of us whose interest is primarily linguistic, but to those of a more cultural and folkloric bent.

    Talking of which, your mention of Nikyto/Mikitu the Pieman reminds me of the controversy over Brənoɬ’s audacious attempt to locate the origins of the Gilgamesh story in ancient Sqərəli griot culture. It’s always seemed a pity to me that he undermined a fascinating and well-researched account of remarkable cultural diffusion by an all-too-transparent ethnocentrism. His identification of the Sumerian “pie” logogram remains a classic of pure scholarship, however.

  49. David Eddyshaw says:

    The Hajwé counterpart of Nikyto, Lyłʒaqo:nɘ, was adopted as a Christian saint during the Nestorian period. A half-serious belief in him still lingers in rural areas, as a benign supernatural figure who protects good children who eat pies in secret.

  50. The recent Hičajqri contributions to surrealism are, I must say, wonderfully expressive.

  51. That’s good to know about HSTG, David — I eagerly await my copy! (It may be a while, though, as their delivery schedule is notoriously flexible — the Autumn 1993 issue arrived just last week.) Speaking of Nikyto, one thing someone should look into more deeply is the extraordinarily divergent version of the Old Hičajqri Song of Mikitu recorded by Ħobō in West Fu:z some time in the 1930s. Ħobō himself of course never made it back, but his notebooks turned up in Dharmsala after the war and have only been partially published; the fragments I’ve seen contain some remarkable prima facie evidence of early contacts with West Asia, which line up neatly (perhaps too neatly?) with the famous reference to the Isaecri crustipollices in Tacitus.

  52. (I made a typo above — the New Θəməlift reflex of erk- is of course dw- not d-, as was already recognized by Yɘm:é in 1896.)

  53. David Eddyshaw says:

    “their delivery schedule is notoriously flexible”

    The online version is perfectly satisfactory so long as you have the correct fonts installed. Admittedly it is awkward that login passwords can only be obtained by visiting the Foreign Ministry offices in Splint in person, but that’s a once-off thing.

    The Ħobō business is probably never going to be clarified at this stage. Although it’s scarcely a novel observation, I must say that Dharmsala is surely improbable given that virtually all Sqərəli Buddhists are Theravadin.

    I think it’s clear in the light of the recent manuscript discoveries that the famous passage on Corbulo’s delayed return from Armenia is (more’s the pity) an ingenious forgery, though one must admire the interpolator’s mastery of the Tacitean style. (I imagine that’s what you’re implying. I agree; sad but true.)

  54. David Marjanović says:

    a benign supernatural figure who protects good children who eat pies in secret

    That’s all. Please carry on.

  55. I can’t agree about the a priori improbability of Dharamsala. Buddhism by whatever path was fairly irrelevant there in 1945, and according to the records of the LWTA, the so-called “fragments”, which came into their hands in 1972, are in fact palimpsestic in nature, being heavily overlaid with Modern Tibetan inscriptions anent laundry.

  56. David Eddyshaw says:


    Fair point. The whole matter of Ħobō is in need of further investigation, ideally by someone without a vested interest; unfortunately this seems unlikely given the current geopolitical situation.

    @David M:

    It has been suggested that the cult of the adventitious St Lyłʒaqo:nɘ was not confined to Hajwé or indeed to the Sqərəli cultural zone: Bar-Hebraeus cites, as the source for an unusual ethpa’al, a hymn praising a Mar Zaqurnios “the Lesser” and invoking his intercession on behalf of indigent orphans. The attribution to St Ephrem is, however, certainly spurious.

  57. It certainly is, considering that /efrem/ is nearly homophonous with a deeply tabooed term in most variants of Hajwé. Just another scribal jest.

  58. David Eddyshaw says:

    “/efrem/ is nearly homophonous with a deeply tabooed term in most variants of Hajwé”

    Indeed, yes! Nor is this accidental; across Hajwé, the unfortunate Ephraim is always associated with the curious fable of “The Patriarch and the Prostitute”, undoubtedly of pre-Christian origin. Brənoɬ makes a fascinating (if ultimately unconvincing) attempt to link it with the story of Enkidu.

    The patriarch, and the Syriac hymnist, are always “Jipʰrajm” in Hajwé, of course, contrary to the usual pattern of borrowing the Syriac form as closely as the very different phonological systems permit. The forms are usually held to be loans from Old Hičajqri, though there is some difficulty regarding the initial /j/.

  59. David Eddyshaw says:

    In both Hičajqri and Hajwé tradition, the legendary Founder Twins Vro:mɘl (of Hičajqri) and Ne:muč (of Hajwé) were identified with Ephraim and Manasseh very soon after the first arrival of the Nestorians. Significantly, while both traditions state that Vro:mɘl “Pious” was the younger, the Hajwé tradition rejects the Hičajqri claim that their grandfather Žaqo:nə declared him the heir in place of his elder brother Ne:muč “Worthless”; indeed in Hajwé the brothers appear respectively as Vɘru:m “Reckless” and Ne:məs “Renowned.”

  60. David Eddyshaw says:

    The ancient pagan tale which appears in superficially Christianised form as “The Patriarch and the Prostitute” (sometimes rendered “The Actress and the Bishop”) is almost certainly also behind the secret doctrine of the “Osculated Imam” (“The Struggle for the Eurasian Borderlands”, Rieber, CUP 2014), attributed to the historically powerful heretical Shi’a offshoot of the ‘Attali-Mahdists. Nowadays virtually all Hičajqri Highlanders who do not belong to the Eglwys Fethodistaidd are orthodox Sunni Muslims. Only a few elders remember any Ingush.

  61. Ephraim and Manasseh

    This makes me wonder if anyone has explored a possible Samaritan connection.

  62. Admittedly it is awkward that login passwords can only be obtained by visiting the Foreign Ministry offices in Splint in person, but that’s a once-off thing

    That’s too far of a trek (another Hičajqri loanword!) for me at the moment, unfortunately. If there was still a consulate in Hav, I might be tempted to make the trip, but that was closed early in the Intervention.

    The point about Buddhism is well taken. I’ve often wondered, though, if the Mahayana did not survive longer among the Sqərəli than is usually thought, but of course there is no real evidence. For what it’s worth, Čapatí and La Vache have recently argued that the lama in Kipling’s Kim is intended as Hajwé; Kipling would surely have been familiar with the itinerant pastry chefs of the hill stations.

    (Doesn’t Mu:ča Šnorrə go by Šnorrə-Shturlushin these days? I believe she’s married to the Russian-American oil oligarch, Rick Shturlushin.)

  63. Trond Engen says:

    the Mahayana did not survive longer among the Sqərəli than is usually thought, but of course there is no real evidence

    It’s been suggested that Mahayana Buddhism survived as the core element of Ŵŋ Calvinism. I’m not in a position to judge that, but it certainly makes sense both geographically and theologically.

  64. David Eddyshaw says:

    “This makes me wonder if anyone has explored a possible Samaritan connection.”

    Although there is no evidence, of course, for a historical connection, it was apparently taken for granted in premodern times. The Syriac “Mirror of Haywe” (now extant only in an Arabic version) records that this was in fact the pretext for the refusal by Queen Miiðə (“the Intractable”) of an alliance with the Khazar Khanate. On this point, at least, there is no reason to doubt the celebrated lady’s sincerity.

    “doesn’t Mu:ča Šnorrə go by Šnorrə-Shturlushin these days?”

    No, the … successful businesswoman, let’s say … is unrelated to the linguist. Šnorrə is a common surname in the Hičajqri Banat; it is thought to be of Viking origin.

    “Mahayana Buddhism survived as the core element of Ŵŋ Calvinism”

    I too, am no expert. However, there would be a pleasing irony in the Ŵŋ owing their origin to the Mahayana, given their incessant self-proclaimed rigour in adherence to the teachings of their “Imam of Geneva.”

  65. David Eddyshaw says:

    The best English-language single-volume introduction to Sqərəli history up to the nineteenth century is probably still “Fuz and Scobozia from the Earliest Times to the Union of Splint”, E L Ahern, Hav University Press, 1963. It covers the ground thoroughly from the first appearance of the Baguette People through to the first great nation-building achievements of the Wordmen. It is also beautifully illustrated.

    It’s harder to recommend any single work covering the period from the Revolution to the present. Partisanship is sadly inevitable, given that we are still very much working through the consequences. I would suggest as a starting point Mehmet-Morgan ap Morgan-Mehmet’s “The Yeast and the Rising”, Splint Internationalist Library, 2004. While Morgan-Mehmet makes no bones about his Qalwiniya sympathies, he is fairminded and scrupulous in his presentation of the facts, and gives the careful reader quite enough information to draw her own conclusions. The Bibliography is comprehensive and admirably free of bias.

  66. I remember reading a review of The Yeast and the Rising when it came out; unfortunately, what I remember about it is that the reviewer called it “half-baked,” which of course put me off. It occurs to me that the review may have been written solely for the sake of that zinger, and may not reflect the actual beliefs of the reviewer (who, for all I know, may have been a virulent anti-Qalwiniyan — what did I know from Sqərəli philologico-political infighting?).

  67. David Eddyshaw says:

    “Half-baked” is certainly suspicious; the corresponding term (“hamskrəv”) is much more offensive in Hičajqri than its literal translation might suggest, implying as it does a negligent and irresponsible attitude to deeply cherished cultural norms. I doubt whether its use was accidental. You may well be right that the reviewer had Armini connections.

    I’d say the work is far from being “half-baked” in the English sense.

  68. Hajwé tradition rejects the Hičajqri claim that their grandfather Žaqo:nə declared him the heir in place of his elder brother Ne:muč “Worthless”

    This surely must be a reflex of Isaac vs. Ishmael in the Jewish and Arab traditions respectively. By the way, surely “Fethodistaidd” is a typo for “Fethodistiadd”? (Damn Welsh spelling, anyway: just too many vowels for comfort.)

  69. David Eddyshaw says:

    I hope the reviewer had the sense to at least use a pseudonym. Even in these days when the blood-feud (always frowned on by the Eglwys) is forbidden by civil law, it is still probably inadvisable to describe a Hičajqri Highlands Qalwini as “hamskrəv.”

  70. David Eddyshaw says:

    “By the way, surely ‘Fethodistaidd’ is a typo for ‘Fethodistiadd'”

    Nid felly:

  71. David Eddyshaw says:

    Although the spoken Welsh of the Hičajqri Qalwiniyu:n has diverged more than far enough from the Welsh of Wales that it would be reasonable on purely linguistic grounds to describe it as a distinct language, the written standard remains Cymraeg Llenyddol. The totemic and cultural status of this purist language causes considerable problems in practice; it has to be learnt essentially as a foreign language in the madrassa, and there are no standard conventions for representing the many Ingush, Arabic, and Hičajqri words which have long since become an essential part of the spoken language. Few young Qalwini Methodists are nowadays literate in their own language, and the seemingly unstoppable spread of Standard Hičajqri continues to extinguish the historical linguistic diversity of the Highlands. (Many of the divergent Hičajqri dialects described by the future President Wonəbi just thirty years ago are already effectively extinct.)

  72. I am hesitant about asking this, since I am not at all an expert, and I know this is an extremely controversial topic. However, if I can’t get a well-considered, dispassionate explanation at Language Hat, I probably won’t find one anywhere. So here goes:

    I recall that, back in the 1990s, there was a theory floating around that the Pəeəs massacre, which occurred in 457 (Alte-Neue Chronology), was actually committed, not by Hičajqri locals, but by Khmer mercenaries. Is this theory still taken seriously? Or, for that matter, was it ever taken seriously? It seemed pretty far-fetched, but I admit that I was still drawn to the idea. That was probably because the traditional explanation for the atrocity (with the conflict having begun out of a dispute between the clans over the tribal waters used for dudong hunts) did not seem especially plausible either.

  73. I am thoroughly humbled by so much scholarship, and blush to admit that in North Dakota I learned to spell Hičajqri with an extra ‘h.’ I stand corrected. Of course we aspirate many words here, perhaps for sheer pleasure.

  74. Hičhajqri. Isn’t it just more fun that way? But of course right is right and wrong is wrong. I can see how č might elide and eliminate the h.

  75. David Eddyshaw says:

    @Phil Jennings:

    There’s no mystery: Hičajqri (unlike Hajwé) lacks the unaspirated palatal stop [c]; the modern convention is thus simply to write ‘č’ for [cʰ], but you will still see ‘čh’ in older materials.
    The sound is not quite the same as English ‘ch’, of course, which is an affricate. Nevertheless, you’ve basically heard it correctly. (The haček symbol is a somewhat unfortunate legacy of the spelling reform of 1890; the sound is of course not the same as in Czech!)

    In both Hičajqri and Hajwé, the symbol ‘q’ in fact represents a voiceless uvular affricate [q͡χ], which gives an impression of aspiration to an untrained English speaker; it sounds quite different from the Arabic [q].

  76. David Eddyshaw says:


    I note the date on your question. However, not all Hičajqri highlanders would appreciate the joke.

  77. David Marjanović says:

    This seems to be the best thread to mention the Shatner-Worf hypothesis.

    Damn Welsh spelling, anyway: just too many vowels for comfort.

    Welsh does not have a Gaelic-style spelling system or consonant palatalization; the written vowels are all real, diphthongs included, AFAIK.

  78. David Eddyshaw says:

    Written i w can represent [j] [w] as well as [i] [u]. Also ‘si’ is used for [ʃ] in loans from English like ‘siop’ but also, at least nowadays, in native vocabulary like siarad “speak.”

    Still, Welsh has much the most sensible spelling system of the indigenous languages of the British Isles (against stiff competition …)

  79. David Eddyshaw says:

    “Siarad” is an odd word in Welsh phonological terms, now I think of it. I just looked it up and find that it’s supposed to be a loanword.The Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru says ‘?Occitan charrado “chat”‘, which looks a bit hand-wavy, but there you are.

  80. Occitan charrado ‘chat’ is the source of English charade, apparently.

  81. Mentioning the hoopoe in a recent thread has reminded me of a well-known fact that the Ingush for ‘hoopoe’ is тушолкотам (tusholkotam), aka Tusholi‘s chicken. IIRC, there used to be – still is? – a syncretic cult of Tusholi/Rhiannon, but that’s about it as far as I know. Could someone enlighten me on this obscure aspect of Skirilian religion?

  82. BTW, April is Тушоле бутт, ie, Tusholi’s month.

  83. David Marjanović’s link takes me to a page asking for a login, so for the benefit of those without an LSP account, here’s Gretchen McCulloch report.

  84. David Eddyshaw says:

    “Mentioning the hoopoe”:

    As far as the Ingush of the Hičajqri Highlands are concerned, the difficulty is that Ingush has never been a written language in Fu:z; such information as we have about the ‘Attali cultists is filtered through the Arabic accounts of their Sunni opponents (and successors) who do not seem to have been averse to adding the accusation of shirq to their reports (or calumnies) of the secret doctrine of the Osculated Imam.

    On the Welsh side, although the People of the Migration were already ostensibly Calvinist, this would appear to have been a folk Calvinism far removed from the true doctrine of Geneva, which has never, for example, taught the double predestination of household pets. (It is interesting to speculate on the course of history had the People had access to the Instititutes in Latin, rather than the beloved but inaccurate Arabic translation of Abu: Qalwi:n.) Although any mention of pagan practices has been rigorously expunged from the record (if it ever existed) it is not inconceivable that the cult of Y Gopog Fawr, either under her exoteric name Rhiannon, or another, would have survived long enough for syncretism with the secret worship of Tusholi among the ‘Attali following the Compact.

    Alas, we shall probably never know.

  85. David Eddyshaw says:

    Shirk شرك‎‎ , sorry. I was thinking of the Hičajqri form širq (which of course reflects the historical loss of word-final velars and subsequent rendering of word-final velars in loanwords by uvulars.)

  86. January First-of-May says:

    At least modern linguists had apparently largely abandoned Galgey’s theory that Ingush is an appropriate language to translate Sumerian texts from.

    That said, while the famous joke about the two Akkadians and the donkey can probably easily be of Ingush origin (and Welsh is only unlikely on chronological grounds), I doubt that it could be Hičajqri. Not enough pastry.

  87. David Eddyshaw says:

    The donkey was Ass-yrian.

  88. David Marjanović says:

    That’s strange about the login page… I get it too now. It was simply a description of the book.

  89. Fooling aside, I hope everyone is au courant with the astonishing recent discovery of new Linear B tablets from Athens(!), as detailed in this post from a couple days back. It’s the first time Mycenaean tablets have been dug up in Athens. The texts haven’t yet been published, but based on the description, they seem strikingly relevant to the topic of this thread: the ritual in which participants “receive varying quantities of barley” and “compete to tell the most outrageous stories in honour of the trickster god Hermes” sounds to me basically the same as the traditional Hičajqri potluck-cum-storytelling contest marking the birthday of Mikitu, described in the Encyclopedia of the Brethren of Purity as the ʻabr il-fūl or “Passing of the Broad Beans”. More coincidence?

  90. With Prof. Apriliou, it’s always about Hermes.

  91. In case anyone’s interested in the history of Ingushetia: Ġalġai history (alas, no Ingush, only Russian!)

  92. David Eddyshaw says:

    In the same spirit, Johanna Nichols’ excellent Ingush Grammar is not only worthy of great praise, but available for download at (readily googleable.)

    Unfortunately there is no single work on Welsh which is similarly comprehensive …

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