The University of Cambridge news service has a story (no author credit given) about an endangered dialect of Pontic Greek called, for some reason, Romeyka (a general Greek term for Modern Greek; the local name for the dialect, according to Wikipedia, is Rumca, ‘the language of Rûm,’ which is also the original meaning of Romeyka). The story, being the product of a publicity department, is overhyped (the lead implies it’s some sort of new discovery, whereas it’s been known for ages, and in fact the researcher, Dr. Ioanna Sitaridou, was told about it by Peter Mackridge, who’d written about it back in 1987) and occasionally misleading (they call the infinitive “the basic, uninflected form of the verb”), but it’s got enough interesting material to be worth a read. An excerpt:

“Although Romeyka can hardly be described as anything but a Modern Greek dialect, it preserves an impressive number of grammatical traits that add an Ancient Greek flavour to the dialect’s structure – traits that have been completely lost from other Modern Greek varieties,” Dr. Sitaridou said. “What these people are speaking is a variety of Greek far more archaic than other forms of Greek spoken today.” …
Despite millennia of change in the surrounding area, people in the isolated region still speak the language. One reason is that Romeyka speakers are devout Muslims, and were therefore exempt from the large-scale population exchange between Greece and Turkey that took place under the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923.

There’s also a brief video where you can hear a few snippets of the dialect (and see some gorgeous scenery).
Addendum. An excellent discussion, with appropriate debunking, at Hellenisteukontos.


  1. Hellenisteukontos gave the facts behind this fantasy in January:

  2. loredana says:

    This article is mostly misleading, there are so many lexicology works written in the 18th-19th centuries by the scholars about romeyka, which is an unifying dialect of all emmigrants emerging from greek lands, who were especially devoted to the byzantine traditions and values.The creed is conserved by the `greeks` of roman origin, merchants spread all over the world,the vlachs/aroumanians, untill half of the 19th cent. This language variant is mixed with many latin, italian, turkish and slavic words,and collateral with standard attic ellinika till the beginning of the 19th century.

  3. loredana says:

    sory for posting twice…
    errata> …collateral with standard attic ellinika till the beginning of the 20th century.
    And I am convinced that Mrs. prof. Sitaridou is not aware of the rich bibliography (lexicology, history etc.) and archival corpora that could help her not to launch such misleading idea. Grammar is not enough in founding such a theory.

  4. Thank you for the information, loredana. I did not know Romeika was a “lingua graeca” for the emigration; I have always thought it was a general term for the Pontic Greek dialects (especially those still spoken by Muslim Greeks).
    As to this story, it has been in fact circulating on the web since the end of the last year as a fundamental discovery, in spite of the fact that there is indeed abundant literature on living (and slowly dying) Pontic Greek dialects. Besides Mackridge’s own work, Özhan Öztürk has recently summed up the literature in the Karadeniz Ansiklopedik Sözlük (2005), and Ömer Asan, himself a native of the Greek-speaking Pontic village of Of, has published a monograph that is available both in Turkish and Greek.

  5. loredana says:

    Well, I keep monitoring all these posts about romeyka since the 4th of January and it’s so amazing that the linguists and historians (at least the greeks) did not reject them. As working at my PhD thesis – based on a large archival testimonial corpus of romeyka, also called `apla ellinika` (the simple greek) – it is very frustrating to see a wrong direction growing so fast by strident publicity.
    I’m afraid the traces of this variant have been deliberately erased from the history of the Greek language since the `glossiko zitima`(the linguistic problem/polemic, from the 17th to the 20th cent.!)debates, when the purists blamed romeyka for soiling the greek language (finally, they succeded in eliminating it, but, beeing so demotic, it has structures preserved in the systemic standard neogreek, unless the foreign words).
    The purists also blamed the Byzantine Imperium and all the `romeyosini`(romanity), as political regime and linguistic habit. Despite all these, the vlach-greek merchants, beeing found of their latin origins, kept calling themselves `romeyoi`long after the death of the Byzantine Empire, and kept naming their language romeyka.

  6. dearieme says:

    “devout Muslims” is presumably akin to “devout Catholics” and a contrast to “staunch Protestants”. Is there a name for the business of certain nouns attracting particular cliched adjectives? Further, is there a name for the odd habit of certain surnames being complemented with unusually high frequency by particular Christian names? I have in mind examples such as “Colin Campbell” and “Norman Macleod”: is it solely a Highland habit, or does it occur elsewhere, and in other tongues?

  7. dearieme: “Is there a name for the business of certain nouns attracting particular cliched adjectives?”
    This would fall under ‘collocation.’

  8. Rodger C says:

    Surely “Rumca” is a Turkish word?

  9. rumca, romey, Rûm must be a cognate of Rome.

  10. Or plain Homeric epithet? Swift-footed Achilles or the polyphloisboisterous sea?

  11. There may be some semantic reasons: to me at least, “devout Catholic/Muslim” suggests the image of an ancient and timeless religion, always guiding the lives of the followers. While “staunch Protestant” suggests an image of rebels, the hero having consciously chosen their faith, being prepared to defend it with their life.

  12. Gary and John: Thanks, I should of course have thought to check Opoudjis! I’ll add the link to my post.
    Surely “Rumca” is a Turkish word?
    Yes. I assume it’s what they call it when speaking Turkish, and/or what the local Turks call it.
    Rûm must be a cognate of Rome
    Yup, same word. The name “Byzantine Empire” is a nineteenth-century invention; in its day, it was called the Roman Empire, or simply Rome (Rûm in Arabic), and after the West got separated the word referred mainly to what we now call Turkey. (Hence, among other things, Rumi’s cognomen.)

  13. yes, and apparently the Turks didn’t change the name Constantinople, but continued to use it and it only became Istanbul officially in 1930, says wiki.

  14. rumca, romey, Rûm must be a cognate of Rome.
    (Greek) Orthodox Arabs in Israel, if asked, will tell you that their religion is “Rum.”
    To avoid confusion with Eastern Catholics, the highest-ranking cleric in Jerusalem whose boss sits in Rome is known as the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem.

  15. J. W. Brewer says:

    See also “Rumelia” as now-mostly-archaic name for the southern part of the Balkans after they passed from Roman/Byzantine rule to Ottoman control. His All-Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch, one of the few ethnic Greeks who still lives in Constantinople/Istanbul, is called the “Rum Ortodoks Patriği” by the Turkish-speaking regime presently governing that city.

  16. Minus273: Devoutness is a religious virtue, staunchness a quasi-military one, I think. One may be a staunch Catholic against the Protestants (or the Greek Orthodox, or whatever) without being all that devout. Because AFAIK there is nowhere that Protestant sects now face off against one another, we do not hear of “staunch Baptists” or “staunch Lutherans”, but “staunch Calvinists” certainly existed in the past as against Lutherans and Anglicans.
    Paul: Oh, it gets worse than that. The five ancient patriarchates of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem are divided up among the major branches of Christianity (excluding the Protestants, who don’t play the patriarch game: the head of the Anglican church of Jerusalem, e.g., is a mere bishop) thus:
    Rome: Latin Patriarch = the Pope.
    Constantinople: Greek Orthodox Patriarch = the Ecumenical Patriarch; Latin Patriarch merely titular since 1423, abolished 1964; Oriental Orthodox (Armenian) Patriarch.
    Alexandria: Greek Orthodox Patriarch; Latin Patriarch always merely titular, abolished 1964; Coptic Catholic Patriarch, Melkite Catholic Patriarch (= Melkite Patriarch of Antioch) report to Rome but use Eastern rites; Oriental Orthodox (Coptic) Patriarch/Pope.
    Antioch: Greek Orthodox Patriarch; Latin Patriarch merely titular since 1268, abolished 1964; Melkite Catholic Patriarch, Maronite Catholic Patriarch, Syrian Catholic Patriarch all report to Rome but use Eastern rites; Oriental Orthodox Patriarch (Syrian).
    Jerusalem: Greek Orthodox Patriarch; Latin Patriarch, merely titular 1291-1846; Melkite Catholic Patriarch = Melkite Catholic Patriarch of Antioch; Oriental Orthodox (Armenian) Patriarch.
    There are now many other patriarchies of more recent origin, some divided among the churches, some not. The Assyrian Church of the East (“Nestorian”) has only one patriarchy, that of Seleucia-Ctesiphon, but as it was outside the Roman Empire, it was not counted in the original Pentarchy.

  17. J. W. Brewer says:

    “Since both men were staunch Baptists, I suspected them of wanting to immerse the pretty Presbyterian missionary kid from China!” — from Billy Graham’s autobiography, describing an incident in which a canoe carrying the future Mrs. Graham overturned. One could in principle do some controlled corpus study to see if certain adjectives (“devout” v. “staunch” v. “observant,” for example) occur more frequently with some religious identifiers than others, but I would be careful of purely impressionistic data.

  18. Awhile back I did something about the names “Rome” and “Turkey”. At my URL. The most interesting thing to me was that in Romanian, “romanian” and “rumanian” have very different meanings.
    The Pontic Greeks are probably also descendants of the Crimean Goths (though not only them). There was a Russian bishopric named “Gothia” into the 19th century. These Goths were gradually absorbed by neighboring peoples.

  19. There are also the Romaniotes, Jews who lived in Greece since antiquity and who are now almost completely assimilated into the Sephardic Jews of Greece.
    @John Cowan: Yes, I’m aware of the many patriarchs, titular and otherwise. Hard to avoid when you live less than an hour from Jerusalem.

  20. The Crimean Goths, at my URL.

  21. marie-lucie says:

    One of the things I remember from reading Le Comte de Monte-Cristo as a child is the mysterious woman who sometimes appears at the Opera in the Comte’s loge, dressed in a kind of harem costume. She is known as Haydée, a woman indeed rescued from a harem, and it is impossible for other men to get to know her since “elle ne parle que le romaïque” (which the Comte, of course, can speak). Until today I had never encountered that language name, much less known what it referred to.

  22. marie-lucie says:

    JC, thank you for the list of the patriarchates. We tend to forget how varied organized Christianity has been in the Mediterranean and the Middle East.

  23. There was a news photo once of five different patriarchs (I think) gathered in Jerusalem on Christmas, each identifiable by his confessional hat.

  24. No matriarchs, huh.

  25. Move over the Romeyi, now the mass media will predictable start a fest over this piece (I linked to the supplemental data rather than tp the paper itself because that’s where the table of 500 languages can be found). 100 millenia of language evolution uncovered, really? For the language evolution which we *can* actually trace, what do we know about temporal rates of phoneme acquisition? Are the splinter migrant groups (or remnant groups like Romyeka) known to loose phonemes? Atkinson’s gain/loss rates would be on the order of 1 phoneme / millenium, pretty hard to detect and measure with the historical data, I’m afraid.

  26. 100 millennia of language evolution uncovered, really?
    *groans, rolls eyes*

  27. marie-lucie says:

    MOCKBA: Summaries of the article have just appeared in the Wall St Journal and the New York Times (both online editions).

  28. *groans…
    sounds like a new phoneme being born LOL

  29. In 2004, I became obsessed with the idea of Greek-speaking Muslims in Turkey, so I decided to visit the area on vacation.
    Before leaving the US, I did quite a fairly significant amount of research on the status of the language and its speakers and discovered that, like a lot of minority languages in Turkey, it inspires quite a bit of fear in some circles. For examples, a pair of Greek documentarians looking into Rumca in 2003 (I think) were detained when some locals accused them of spying. A member of the Greek-speaking community wrote an ethnographic book about his people, which was denounced in parliament and became very difficult to find (I don’t know if it was actually banned or not). And I was personally threatened after asking “too many questions” on a regional message board while trying to research my trip.
    I managed to find a place in the valley where I wouldn’t stick out too much (a tourist town call Uzungol) and hear some of the language spoken, which was a wonderful experience. I was told by locals that “everyone” there speaks the language, including young people. This contradicts the dire predictions of imminent death, but then again people tend to overestimate their knowledge of language and its transmission rates.
    Turkish speakers who are interested can find more info on Rumca (and many other things) at, a website dedicated to this endlessly fascinating corner of Turkey.
    The Of valley is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, as is amply evident in the video.

  30. 1-Marie-Lucie: actually, I believe the first grammar of the Modern (as opposed to Ancient/Classical) Greek language in French was simply called “Grammaire romaïque”.
    2-At Jabal al-lughat there’s a posting on Child triglossia (October 11 2007) that seems to indicate that “rumiyaa” is used in Algerian Arabic with the meaning “French”. The word definitely travelled far and wide. And its travels are often surprising: Romanian “rîm”, for instance, is a Slavic loanword.
    3-A word that has likewise travelled a great deal is “vlach” and its relatives: while its etymon (Volca) originally designated a Celtic-speaking tribe, it later came to refer to Celto-Romance bilinguals (hence “Welsh”), then Romance speakers who had once been Celtic speakers, and later to Romance speakers without any qualification (such as the Vlachs of the Balkans, who are Romance speakers whose ancestors almost certainly never spoke a Celtic language). Loredana: I think it is a little anachronistic to refer to them as “Vlach-Greek”: being Orthodox, Vlach speakers made heavy use of Greek, but for most of their history they had no way to predict that a majority of Vlach speakers would end up within a national Greek State (a concept that would have been difficult for anyone in the Middle Ages to comprehend).
    4-Speaking of the “extreme isolation” of various dialects seems DE RIGUEUR, but is ridiculous in the case of Pontic: until the fall of Constantinople in 1453 (and for a long time afterwards) the entire Black Sea Coast was a Greek-speaking dialect continuum, and it is clear that innovations spreading from Constantinople reached most of the Black Sea Greek-speaking communities. Indeed, a number of Latinisms (which must have spread out of Constantinople), which have been lost in the standard, were alive and kicking in Pontic well into the twentieth century.

  31. marie-lucie says:

    Etienne, thank you for all this information. Knowing hardly any Greek, until now I didn’t know about “romaïque” as an older synonym for Modern Greek.
    “rumiyaa” is used in Algerian Arabic with the meaning “French”
    I seem to remember seeing the word roumi to mean “French person” in an Algerian or at least North African context, many years ago – sorry I can’t be more precise – it was not in the context of language.

  32. loredana says:

    I used the vlach-greek as a late (19th cent.)politonyme, equal to makedonovlachoi/vlachophonoi/ellinovlachoi/aroumouni/armani – as they are called or call themselves in the postbyzantine period and nowadays (earlier: vlachs, exonym

  33. Fortunatus: No matriarchs, huh.
    Crocodile tears ! We still have Angela Merkel, and y’all had Mrs. Thatcher – a rum character if there ever was one.

  34. loredana says:

    my late post appears truncated, so I have to complete:
    …vlachs, exonym

  35. dearieme says:

    “Mrs. Thatcher – a rum character if there ever was one.” More of a whisky girl, actually.

  36. Michael Dukakis is a Greek Vlach and knows some of the language:
    “Frank” (Ferengi) is another wandering name.

  37. @John Emerson: “Frank” (Ferengi) is another wandering name”
    In Arabic ‘firanja’ is Europe (land of the Franks) although it is, I think, a little archaic. The denominal verb is ‘tafarnaja,’ to become Europeanized or Westernized.

  38. loredana says:

    ‘Duka’ from dux, -cis, certainly…(leader, diminutive: dukakis). Duca is a common aromanian family name.

  39. “Michael Dukakis is a Greek Vlach”: thank goodness no one said so at the time. Mind you, once I’d seen John Kerry, Michael Dukakis didn’t seem so hapless.

  40. I was living in Astoria, Queens at the time (the capital of Greek America), and let me tell you, you couldn’t throw a Kalamata olive without hitting a Dukakis poster. Telly Savalas showed up at a local venue to do a fund-raiser. Opa! (Which reminds me, Anatoly has a discussion of the Russian exclamation “опа!”; he wonders where it came from, how long it’s been around, and how to translate it, all of which is being discussed in the thread.)

  41. Needless to say, no one mentioned the Vlach part.

  42. only became Istanbul officially in 1930, says wiki
    That same article seems to also imply that in Turkish they started calling it Istanbul at the Fall in 1453, which is unlikely. It’s the same word, really, and possession wouldn’t change the form used instantly. Renderings like Stamboul and Stambola, reflecting the Turkish form, were already or shortly appeared in European languages.
    I seem to remember seeing the word roumi to mean “French person” in an Algerian or at least North African context
    European or Christian or French, depending on context, in Algerian Arabic and Kabyle, I think. You see it in Victorian travel tales.
    A recent translation of The Wretched of the Earth translated “les Arabes et les Roumis” as “Arab versus Infidel.” The translator discusses some of these choices in an essay appended to the book. The old Black Cat edition that we read back in the day just had “Arabs and Christians.”

  43. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    The Turks didn’t change the name Constantinople, but continued to use it and it only became Istanbul officially in 1930
    Despite its authentically Turkish look (that is, to anyone who doesn’t know any Turkish and hasn’t heard about vowel harmony) the name Istanbul is, I believe, Greek, derived from the signs stin Polin[1] (“to the City”) that the invaders saw on their way to conquer it. As Turks share with the Spanish a conviction that it’s impossible to pronounce a word that begins with st they added the initial I: it’s not a survival of the ei that would have been in the Ancient Greek.
    If that is true and not just an old wives’ tale I read once, then the name must have ben in popular use before 1930.
    [1] I’m too lazy to write this in Greek or check which vowels to use: I think that the first i is an eta and the second an iota, and that the o is an omicron, the consonants being what you’d expect them to be.

  44. Κονσταντίνου την πόλην (the town of Constantin). Arabs cannot pronounce p/π.

  45. or εις την πόλην (in the town/city)

  46. ‘is tin polin’, so ‘i’ is not prothetic, it’s the trace of the archaic εις (is). ‘ Στην’ (Stin) is neogreek.

  47. >> Arabs cannot pronounce p/π.
    But Turks can.
    >> ‘is tin polin’, so ‘i’ is not prothetic, it’s the trace of the archaic εις (is). ‘Στην’ (Stin) is neogreek.
    Both way we can’t tell. It was impossible to have st- in Turkish, before the large modern inflow of Western words made it graphically necessary.
    BTW, when was the earliest attestation of unstressed bare vowel deletion in Greek?

  48. By the way, the European form “Stamboul” might be a proof that posh Turks actually pronounced it “stanbul”. Better see how it was written in old texts, with an alif or not. Being no Ottomanist, I’ll just go look at funny pics on 4chan, and hope that someone will enlighten me one day on this matter.

  49. loredana says:

    ‘Εις’ is still attested in demotic (popular spoken greek) documents after 1870, and preserved in katharevousa (clean, elevate, litterate Greek)till the present. I’m not awared of this phonetic incapacity of the turks (I sort of doubt it, and I don’t have time to search), but I am convinced that the great city could not be officialy named by regular folk people, but by some cultural distinguished turk authorization (able to pronounce I). However, most of the documents name Constantinople simply ‘Η Πόλη’ (The City), meaning the one, only and sacred City, so εις την πόλη would have been clear for everybody where it was.

  50. loredana says:

    as about turks being able to pronounce /p/ (unlike arabs), they used to write in arabic alphabet (osman turk palaeography) till 1928 (Kemal Ataturk), so could not write the letter properly.

  51. The Ottoman alphabet included a letter for the “p” sound: پ

  52. Wow, a Purist! Please accept my most profound respects for the purists.

  53. loredana says:

    I think most of the balkan people used to pronounce ‘Stanbul’, at least in my people’s folk (oral tradition) litterature this is the term for Istanbul.
    Note: my country was suficiently lexically ‘turkished’ and ‘grecized’ and has no phonetic limits…

  54. will tell you that their religion is “Rum.”
    Thatcher – a rum character if there ever was one.
    aha, this explains the origin of ‘rum’ as strange, weird, so beloved of Dennis Thatcher, at least if one is to trust ‘Dear Bill’! ‘it’s a bit rum’ must be the same as ‘it’s Greek to me’.

  55. “Frank” (Ferengi) is another wandering name.
    Where is that from, John?
    Frank – Ferengi – Verengi – Varangi – Varyagi?
    The people who gave Russia Ryurik (Rurik, Truvor and Sineus), the legendary founders of Russian statehood and the name itself (rus – redhaired, rusty-haired)?

  56. So y’er not Greek, loredana? Interesting!

  57. loredana says:

    no,I’m not greek.

  58. What is your country, then? Sorry for the excessive curiosity though.

  59. loredana says:

    It’s not relevant. I have tattar ethnic origins and I studied classical languages. Orthodox christian, not found of church as institution.

  60. The fact that Istanbul’s name is as-Stambuli in Arabic tends to undermine the “to the city” explanation.
    Ferengi in all its variants starts as ‘Frank’, then ‘Westerner’, then ‘trader’, then ‘European’, and is even applied to the non-human capitalists in the Star Trek universe.

  61. @Sashura
    Frank – Ferengi – Verengi – Varangi – Varyagi?
    Not likely, Frank => Фрязин in Russian (generally Romance speaking European, most commonly Italian / Genovese, often used as a surname of Italian architects and engineers working in old Russia) (by the way of Novgorod фрягъ, pl. фрязи

  62. Sure, but your sequence obviously refers to 1400-1500 (Genoa), while John’s goes back to 800-1000s (Rurik, varyagi)?

  63. loredana says:

    I don’t believe that the progressist age in Turkey, after renouncing the arab script, would have conserved an arab article for denominating the city.
    This could be told only by a linguist who knows if the evolution of the vowel /a/ next to /s/ in turkish (or the fact of preserving this article from arabic in turkish), if it could close to /i/ (to become is-stanbul). Seems to be something like ‘Al Exander’ evolved in ‘Is Skander’, /al/ being sensed as an article?
    The greek etymology is obvious, why bother?

  64. Sashura, the Novgorod reference is to the 1st Chronicle and the term фрягъ is used there e.g. under 1204; the term варягъ is also used all over this Chronicle. Both words were distinct in Greek sources as well, from where фрягъ seems to have been borrowed. Its meaning may have narrowed to refer, mostly, to the Genovese in the following centuries, but originally, it’s just Frank transmuted by the way of Greek.

  65. Quoth Etymonline:
    Varangian: ‘one of the Northmen who founded a dynasty in Russia,’ 1788, from M.L. Varangus, from Byzantine Gk. Βαραγγος, a name ultimately (via Slavic) from O.N. væringi ‘a Scandinavian,’ prob. ‘a confederate,’ from var- ‘pledge, faith,’ related to O.E. wær ‘agreement, treaty, promise,’ O.H.G. wara ‘faithfulness’ (see very). Attested in O.Rus. as variagi; surviving in Rus. варяг ‘pedlar,’ Ukrainian варяг varjah ‘big strong man.’

  66. 1-Marie-Lucie: my first encounter with the word “roumi” was in a TINTIN story, I think LE CRABE AUX PINCES D’OR.
    2-Loredana: we know far too little about the Vlachs to say with any assurance who their ancestors were: *some* *may* have had Roman legionaries and/or Thracians as ancestors. We known nothing more.
    What we *do* know is that, linguistically, their language and Romanian have a common ancestor distinct from Vulgar Latin, which is referred to as “Proto-Romanian”. The chief consequence of this fact is that the thesis of the “inherent Greekness” of the Vlachs or the “Dacian ancestry” of the Romanians, or indeed any thesis stressing the autochthonous roots of Vlachs or Romanians, is nonsense.
    Indeed, the evidence to my mind is quite clear: the original homeland of Proto-Romanian was located in present-day Serbia, and later migrations (between the fifth and tenth centuries AD) carried this language North and South, while in its original homeland it was replaced by the Slavic dialect which was to become Serbian.
    (To any offended nationalist who might read this: I can supply scholarly references).
    3-Loredena and others: Calling Constantinople “i poli” sounds suspiciously like the Roman custom whereby “urbs” was often used to designate Rome. I suspect the former usage is an imitation of the latter, but can anyone confirm this?

  67. loredana says:

    Indeed, the Romanian and Aromanian sound so close that no dictionnary needed for written production. Scholarly references (historical) do not fill the lacks, since they do not agree in this point and serve the immigration theory developped by the Sulzer-Engel-Roesler thesis (from the 19th cent.), which stresses that romanians (aka vlachs) are not autochtonous. The historical bibliographical insight says that they are different thraco/daco/getic tribes, assimilated by romans (thracians first, then the getic dacians), highly influenced by barbarian and slavic migrations (starting from the 3rd cent.), but not moved and dispersed to the north and south of Danube, where they were indigenous. But it’s true that there are documentary gaps from the 6th to the 10/11th cent. Anyway, a large area in actual Greece appears in the 11-12th cent. geo-ethnic byzantine maps specifically called Vallachia, the same it was described the actual Romania.
    …And yes, the custom of calling ‘Η Πόλη’ the capital of the Byzantine Empire is in reply to the Roman custom ‘Urbs’.

  68. @John Cowan: “The fact that Istanbul’s name is as-Stambuli in Arabic tends to undermine the “to the city” explanation”
    It is ‘istanbul’ in Arabic. There is a kasra with the initial alif. And, it has a nuun not a miim.
    (But, there is a wonderful restaurant in Beirut named Istambuli).
    I have wondered if the name could have been derived from the Arabic verb N.B.L. (to be noble or high-minded) in the Form X which would give a causative meaning (ista-NBL) ‘to make noble’. It would then need a little vowel modification. But, I have never looked into this and it is probably wrong and coincidental.
    (This is the first time I have mentioned this speculation out loud).

  69. The Encyclopedia of Islam, which is in for reasons that are not clear to me, but for which we can be grateful, has a couple columns on the name Istanbul summarizing current understanding rather more clearly than Wikipedia. Among the 10th Century uses (mentioned without reference by the latter) is al-Masʿūdī, in Tanbīh and evidently some MSS of Murūj, where he makes clear his understanding of the Greek.

  70. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    The fact that Istanbul’s name is as-Stambuli in Arabic tends to undermine the “to the city” explanation.
    Does it? Why? Isn’t it possible that Arabic adopted the name used by ordinary people in Turkish (i.e. not worrying about its official name)?

  71. John Cowan:
    variagi; surviving in Rus. варяг ‘pedlar,’
    Etym should probably be advised to change that bit. Varyag a pedlar is an archaic meaning. The widely used modern idiomatic meaning is an outsider, stranger, newsomer. ‘They’ll call in a varyag’ means that the authorities or the company board are to bring in someone from outside an organisation to run it or sort out a crisis.

  72. Michael gold says:

    We have been trying to remember to complete children’s 🎶 wee song/poem told by a Greek great grandma.
    She told it in her country in her ‘ language’ ,when we went to Greece to meet family and introduce new baby.
    She sang this along with hand motions (we remember them) and kinda the story the others told us in English about it. It has been decades and daughter wants to teach her child… aauugh. We just can’t remember it all, and the story. No internet back then. Also nothing written down, so we are sounding out and writing out several ways, looking up what may make sense😩.
    Any ideas.

    It was about a bird in the hand-up in by God… a tree .. land
    The child holds hand up -fingers up and kinda rotates back and forth slowly singing this…
    1st verse-
    ei le le ei le le etsi gabi do polio (ei li le ei li le) maybe?
    Since you have Knowledge of OLD GREEK think you can help find this?🎶

  73. David Eddyshaw says:

    Re: Stambul

    The business about Arabs allegedly being unable to pronounce p is irrelevant. The Greek pronunciation in στην Πόλη “in the City” is [b]; this is a perfectly familiar Modern Greek sandhi phenomenon np -> mp -> mb, applying across word division.

  74. January First-of-May says:

    The widely used modern idiomatic meaning is an outsider, stranger, newsomer. ‘They’ll call in a varyag’ means that the authorities or the company board are to bring in someone from outside an organisation to run it or sort out a crisis.

    If this sense ever ends up in a dictionary, I propose Kir Bulychov’s Mystery of the Third Planet for one of the quotations: Не помогли фиксианцам варяги с Марса!

    Funnily, the modern term for this particular sub-meaning (outsider player in a sports team) is now usually легионер, i.e. “legionary”. I have no idea why this word specifically.

  75. David Marjanović says:

    It’s used in soccer, probably derived from the Légion Étrangère.

  76. GT makes that “The Varangians from Mars did not help the Meskhetians!” The Meskhetians, I learn, are Turks from Georgia, now widely dispersed thanks to Stalin’s paranoia about peoples with relatives across the USSR border.

  77. But why on Earth is GT equating фиксианцы with Meskhetians??

  78. “I live in Hell.”

    When I pass the single word фиксианцы to GT, it simply transliterates it as fiksiantsy. In pages about them, it varies between Fixians and Ficians.

  79. In “Alice: The Girl from the Earth” translation by John. H.Costello, the aliens are called Fyxxians (and their planet is Fyxx).

    The phrase in question is translated as “Those mercenaries from Mars didn’t help the Fyxxians one bit.”

  80. Well, in any case the Fyxxians are unlikely to be Turks from Georgia.

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