U-rid: Russian County Fair?

Frequent commenter pc writes:

I’m doing some research on a relative of mine and she participated in a “U·rid”, which the papers described as a “replica of a Russian county fair”. In Googling around, in English and in my very limited Russian, I can’t find anything that would indicate what a “urid” actually is. Do you have any thoughts?

I am equally at a loss, so I turn to the Varied Reader in hopes of enlightenment.

And pc adds:

Additionally, this may be of interest to you and some readers: CeLCAR at Indiana University has finished Season 1 of their podcast exploring the languages and cultures of Central Asia. The host’s pronunciation is insufferable, but the experts she brings on are fun to listen to — many recite poems or sing songs demonstrating the various Turkic and Persian languages of the region.


Salford Twinky Ban Revoked.

Claire Burke reports for the Guardian about what is apparently a phenomenon, British cities banning swearing:

When Salford ditched its ban on swearing last week, Mark Thomas’s reaction was apt. “Hoo fucking ray” the comedian tweeted, shortly followed by a “Whoo- fucking -hooo”. Introduced by the city council in 2016, the public spaces protection order (PSPO) outlawed “foul and abusive” language in Salford Quays, the former site of the Manchester Docks that has now been transformed by upscale developments. Offenders faced an on-the-spot fine, which could increase to £1,000. The order immediately alarmed critics and free speech campaigners. What, after all, constituted foul language? Would a “bloody hell” get you into trouble? Could you be fined for a “damn”?

Thomas was due to perform at the Lowry theatre when the order came down in 2016, and has been known to “drag audiences through the streets” on post-gig demos. “In the interests of remaining within the law, I sent Salford City Council a list of words I’m considering using, and asking which are permissible and which are not,” he wrote at the time. “The list runs to 425 words, in alphabetical order, starting with ‘arse’, ending with ‘winnit’ and including the term ‘cat twinky’. I have no idea what that last one means but thought we should check nonetheless.”

Green’s Dictionary of Slang tells us that winnet is “a piece of excrement adhering to the anal hairs”; the “cat twinky” may involve twinkie n. (also twinky):

1. (US gay) a young, inexperienced homosexual man.
2. a young (underage) sex object, whether male or female and seen as suitable for exploitation.
3. anyone considered odd or eccentric.
4. the penis.

In any case, I’m glad the ban is ended. (Thanks, Trevor!)

Two Glossaries.

Courtesy of John Cowan, two more online treasures:

1) Du Cange, et al., Glossarium mediæ et infimæ latinitatis. Niort : L. Favre, 1883-1887. JC says:

This edition is about twice as long as the original and insanely comprehensive: 10 volumes in print, who knows how many lemmata. The site itself is in (modern) French, but easy to follow with or without GT; the glosses are of course in Latin.

I occasionally consulted Du Cange (as everyone calls it) in grad school, and it’s great to have it available at the touch of a cursor.

2) Lyle Campbell, A Glossary of Historical Linguistics. JC again:

It’s from 2007, so no entries for “Dene-Yenis(s)ean” or “Trans-Himalayan”, and there are a fair amount of Campbell-type opinions: “However, since not even Na-Dené has been satisfactorily demonstrated, Na-Dené could hardly be shown successfully to be connected to these various Old World groups.” But still, a damn useful resource. Searchable PDF.

Thanks, John!

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.

Norwegian or Swedish?

An amusing passage from Kropotkin’s Memoirs of a Revolutionist (he has escaped from a Petersburg prison in mid-1876):

When I landed at Hull and went to Edinburgh, I informed but a few friends in Russia and in the Jura Federation of my safe arrival in England. A socialist must always rely upon his own work for his living, and consequently, as soon as I was settled in the Scotch capital, in a small room in the suburbs, I tried to find some work.

Among the passengers on board our steamer there was a Norwegian professor, with whom I talked, trying to remember the little that I formerly had known of the Swedish language. He spoke German. “But as you speak some Norwegian,” he said to me, “and arc trying to learn it, let us both speak it.”

“You mean Swedish?” I ventured to ask. “I speak Swedish, don’t I?”

“Well, I should say it is rather Norwegian; surely not Swedish,” was his reply.

Thus happened to me what happened to one of Jules Verne’s heroes, who had learned by mistake Portuguese instead of Spanish. At any rate, I talked a good deal with the professor, — let it be in Norwegian, — and he gave me a Christiania paper, which contained the reports of the Norwegian North Atlantic deep-sea expedition, just returned home.

On the fictitious nature of the Swedish language, see this post.

Sakha Lessons.

Justin Erik Halldór Smith (who has appeared before at LH under the alias Justin E. H. Smith, e.g. here and here) has done a wonderful thing:

I began studying Sakha using L. N. Kharitonov’s Soviet-era textbook, the Самоучитель якутского языка. This is an excellent resource for learning Sakha, indeed I think the best in existence, and it occurred to me as I was working through it that it would be useful to make it available in English. At present, there are virtually no resources for learning Sakha that are accessible to non-Russian speakers. I therefore began systematically translating into English not only the Sakha exercises, but also the Russian explanatory apparatus, the remarks on grammar, and the Russian texts intended for translation into Sakha. This took a considerable amount of time, but I worked slowly and steadily and now have a fairly polished translation of Kharitonov’s great work, which I am making available here in a set of pdf files. At present I am only posting Part One (Lessons 1-40), as I am still polishing and correcting the second half. I am certain there are many errors in Part One that I have not caught, and I would be grateful to any reader who draws them to my attention. […]

It would be fairer to describe what I have done as an adaptation of Kharitonov’s work, rather than as a translation. I have made a somewhat inconsistent effort to de-Sovietize the work. In the Soviet period there were generally more unaltered Russian loan words in Sakha than today, and I have changed the spelling of most such words to reflect current usage. This includes both common and proper nouns: I have, e.g., changed врач (doctor) to its Yakutized form, быраас; and Лена (the Lena river) to Өлүөнэ. I have also systematically changed the names of people from typical Russian names (e.g., Вася, Пётр, Мария) to traditional Sakha names (e.g., Ньургун, Кэскил, Сайаана). In a way this adaptation is also a distortion, as even in the post-Soviet period most Sakha people continue to have Russian names, and my uneasiness about such distortion is what explains the inconsistency in the alterations. A greater challenge than proper names was mounted by the particular themes of the lessons. In the early lessons I systematically changed references to, e.g., working at the kolkhoz, to, e.g., working at the hospital. But as the lessons grew more complex, it became clear that the thematization of Soviet realities was ineliminable. And arguably it is wrong to eliminate it: even if the Sakha language has evolved significantly in the past half-century, and most of all since the fall of the Soviet Union, any learner of Sakha will inevitably find herself reading a good number of Soviet-era texts, and so must become familiar with the orthographic and grammatical conventions and with the subject matter of the period.

The result, then, is a hybrid of adaptation and fidelity, and a sequence of difficult judgment calls. I have corrected some small errors in Kharitonov’s work, and have moved the ‘Remarks on grammar’ section from the end to the beginning of each chapter. Kharitonov frequently introduces vocabulary items without providing a translation for them, where a Russian-speaker would easily understand their meaning but a non-Russian speaker would not. In these cases, I have included a translation or explanation, and have added the word to the dictionary (the third of three pdf’s here). Kharitonov sometimes does the same with the introduction of new elements of grammar, relying on a coincidental (or perhaps artificially constructed) similarity between Russian and Sakha. In such cases, I have also provided more explanation, for the non-Russian speaker, than he has given. In general, my interest is to provide access to the Sakha language without having to pass through Russian. The relationship between the two languages is complex and deeply rooted over the past five centuries, but in its earlier development and in its deeper structure Sakha is entirely unrelated to Russian, and decoupling the two is an important part of studying the language on its own terms.

Go to Smith’s site for the links; I confess his alterations make me uneasy, especially the haphazard attempt to eliminate Soviet realities, but that is a minor matter beside having the material available in English. (Thanks, Trevor!)

French Simpsons.

This Twitter thread begins:

So, each episode of the Simpsons is dubbed into two different versions for French markets. There’s a Quebec French version, and a France French version.

Fans of the Quebec dub hate the European dub, and vice versa.

In the France dub, the Simpsons all speak in typical Parisian accents. A few other characters have regionalized accents, like the Van Houtens who speak with a Belgian accent, but it’s mostly Parisian, and they don’t try to regionalize the US-specific jokes.

In the Quebec dub, the Simpsons family speaks with a thick working-class dialect of Montreal French called joual. They also do something the France dub doesn’t do: they regionalize the scripts, subbing in Quebecois politicians or places for the more US-centric references.

There are illustrative clips and discussion of details, such as:

Classic episode, season 1’s “The Crepes of Wrath”, Bart goes to France and foils an antifreeze wine scam by learning French. There’s no way to dub around it being some other language Bart learns, it’s very clearly France. Seems impossible to translate into French, right? In the Quebec dub, Bart starts speaking to the French police officer in Quebecois slang, and can’t be understood. (Bart: “I thought they spoke French in France”). It’s only when he learns to talk like a stereotypical Parisian that he can get through to the cop. Perfection.

Via this MetaFilter thread, with more links and discussion and links, including one to Justine Huet’s dissertation Dubbing The Flintstones and The Simpsons in French: A Comparative Perspective between France and Québec.

The Language of Wool.

I’m reading Leskov’s «Некрещеный поп» (The Unbaptized Priest, translated by James Y. Muckle as “The Priest Who Was Never Baptized”), which uses a great many dialectal and Ukrainian words, and one of them is the extremely interesting волна ‘lamb’s wool.’ One point that struck me is the uncertainty as to stress; Dahl, and following him Vasmer, give initial stress, vólna, and so does my 1908 11th edition of Makaroff’s Russian-French dictionary, but both my Словарь ударений [Dictionary of stresses] (1984) and my three-volume Russian-English dictionary (1997) give it with final stress (volná). The Wiktionary entry gives initial stress (вóлна, вóлны)… but the audio file has end stress! Clearly it historically has initial stress, but being a dialectal word and probably obsolete to boot, my guess is that it’s been assimilated to the far more common end-stressed волна ‘wave.’

It’s the etymology that’s worth noting, however; it’s a basic Indo-European word, given by Wiktionary as *h₂wĺ̥h₁neh₂ and widespread in the major branches: Hittite ḫulanaš, Old Armenian gełmn, Ancient Greek λῆνος, Latin lāna, and many descendants in Balto-Slavic, Celtic, Germanic, and Indo-Iranian. Slavic vьlna survives as the basic word for ‘wool’ in all branches but Russian, where for some reason it’s been replaced by шерсть (and here one feels the lack of a Russian equivalent of the OED). One of the Germanic descendants is, of course, English wool, so I looked that up in the AHD… and was astonished to find for an etymology only “[Middle English wolle, from Old English wull.]” Surely they didn’t dispute the Indo-European origin of that word? I checked the Indo-European Roots Appendix and found that there was nothing corresponding to *h₂wĺ̥h₁neh₂. I looked up words like vellus (“[Latin, wool.]”) and lanugo (“[Middle English, pith, from Latin lānūgō, down, from lāna, wool.]”); there was no indication that they were in any way related. The whole Indo-European cluster appears to have been inadvertently ignored and omitted; you’d think by the fifth edition they might have noticed!

An interesting factor in the Leskov story is that the brutal Dukach, disliked by everyone in the village and therefore unable to find godparents for his newborn son there, tells the equally disliked Kerasivna (the villagers think she’s a witch) to take him to a nearby village to have him baptized, adding that she should make sure the priest there doesn’t spoil the boy by naming him Ivan or Nikola. She says of course she won’t allow a Christian boy to be called by a “Moscow name” like Nikola, and Dukach agrees: “Никола самый москаль.” He winds up being called Savva. I hadn’t realized there was such a sharp geographical division of acceptable names (at least in the late 1820s, when this is supposed to have occurred).

The Worst There Is.

Back in January I posted about Dorothy Richardson and her sequence of semi-autobiographical novels; my wife and I are now up to Revolving Lights (#7), and for obvious reasons I have to quote the following passage from Chapter II (the first speaker is Miriam’s semi-boyfriend Michael Shatov; they are in a London café with two other Russians, the Lintoffs, in the years before WWI):

“Lintoff says that he understands not at all the speech of these young men who were only now here. I have not listened; but it was of course simply cockney. He declares that one man used repeatedly to the waiter making the bill, one expression, sounding to him like a mixture of Latin and Chinese—Ava-tse. I confess that after all these years it means to me absolutely nothing. Can you recognise it?”

She turned the words over in her mind, but could not translate them until she recalled the group of men and the probable voice. Then she recoiled. Lintoff and Michael did not know the horror they were handling with such light amusement.

“I know,” she said, “it’s appalling; fearful”—even to think the words degraded the whole spectacle of life, set all its objects within reach of the transforming power of unconscious distortion….

“Why fearful? It is just the speech of London. Certainly this tame boor was not swearing?” railed Michael. Lintoff’s smile was now all personal curiosity.

“It’s not Cockney. It’s the worst there is. London Essex. He meant I’ve; had; two; buns or something. Isn’t it perfectly awful?” Again the man appeared horribly before her, his world summarised in speech that must, did bring everything within it to the level of its baseness.

“Is it possible?” said Michael with an amused chuckle. Lintoff was murmuring the phrase that meant for him an excursion into the language of the people. He could not see its terrible menace. The uselessness of opposing it…. Revolutionaries would let all these people out to spread over everything…. But the people themselves would change? But it would be too late to save the language….

“English is being destroyed,” she proclaimed. “There is a relationship between sound and things…. If you heard a Canadian reading Tennyson…. ‘Come into the goiden, Mahd.’ But that’s different. And in parts of America a very beautiful rich free English is going on; more vivid than ours, and taking things in all the time. It is only in England that deformed speech is increasing—is being taught in schools. It shapes these people’s mouths and contracts their throats and makes them hard-eyed.”

“You have no ground whatever for these wild statements.”

“They are not wild; they are tame, when you really think of it.” Lintoff was watching tensely; deploring wasted emotion … probably.

On the one hand, since Miriam is based on Richardson herself, she presumably had felt such horror, but on the other hand, she’s presenting it in such an over-the-top fashion (and having it countered by Michael’s amused objections) that she seems to be distancing herself from it. At any rate, I have rarely seen such a fine specimen of outraged peevery.

The junkfrouwe and the fud.

Kate Connolly reports for the Guardian about a newly discovered parchment fragment:

It has been called the earliest form of the Vagina Monologues – an argument in verse between a woman and her vulva, originating in the Middle Ages. Now a fragment of the text, about who gives more pleasure to men, dates the poem to 200 years earlier than previously thought.

Medievalists are thrilled by the find, in the archive of an Austrian monastery, which rewrites the history of sexuality in medieval literature. Fragments from 60 lines of The Rose Thorn (Der Rosendorn) were discovered on a thin strip of parchment in the library of the baroque Melk Abbey on the banks of the Danube in Austria’s Wachau Valley. The abbey find means that the poem can now be dated to about 1300. Until the parchment discovery it was believed that Der Rosendorn had not been composed until the end of the Middle Ages, about two centuries later. Two existing versions of the poem, known as the Dresden Codex and the Karlsruhe Codex, are a constant fascination for medievalists who consider it one of the first ever erotic poems.

In the poem, a virgin woman (junkfrouwe) argues in a free-flowing, often witty dialogue, with her speaking vulva (fud) about which of them is held in the higher regard by men. The virgin argues that it is by her looks that men are won over, whilst the vulva, accusing the virgin of putting too much stress on her appearance, says it is she who provides the true pleasure. The two decide to part company, but find themselves deeply unhappy and so reunite to allay their suffering. They conclude that they are better together, as a person and their sex are quite simply inseparable.

It is not known who the poem’s author was, or whether male or female.

The word fud is ancient; the Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture (edited by J. P. Mallory and Douglas Q. Adams) has this entry:

*putós ‘± vulva, anus’ [IEW 849 (*pṹ-to-)]. ON fuð– ‘vulva’, MHG fut ‘vulva’, Grk(Hesychius) πύννος (< *pútno-) ‘anus’. OInd (attested only very late) putau (dual) ‘buttocks’. Sparse but widely attested. The best candidate for a word with this meaning having PIE status.

Though I’m not sure what “this meaning” is. (Thanks, Trevor!)