Thanks to aldiboronti at Wordorigins, I have the pleasure of presenting to you the online Sardinian dictionary (I linked the English version, but you can get it in Italian, French, German, and Spanish as well—just click on the appropriate flag). They say:

The “Ditzionàriu Online” has a simple structure and it is easy to use. It is basically made up of two parts: one is the dictionary itself, which contains the words and their description (main database); the other is dedicated to the collection of new words or extra information on existing ones (temporary database). The dictionary may be freely consulted while the insertion of information may be done only after having registered oneself.

In other news, the Chabon serial I raved about here has finally ended (apparently it will be released as a book later this year); I guess I’ll have to assuage my grief by reading some of his other work. But I have a question. In the last couple of episodes, one of the characters is a jashivgar: “He turned to the jashivgar who stood by his side, a captain of archers in a scale-mail coat.” I’ve scoured the internet (where it occurs only here) and my reference works in vain. Anybody have any idea where this word comes from?
Also, don’t miss the Daily Growler’s latest post, a lament for the New York City he knew a few decades ago: “hell, I went to Carnegie Hall regularly in those days—Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony—Leopold Stokowski conducting his American Symphony Orchestra—… I was there when Bruno Maderno conducted Saint-Saens Organ Symphony and Stokowski in the balcony box across from mine put his fingers in his ears right at the moment the organ entered the orchestral picture with a punctuation heard ’round the world… There were jazz clubs all over town, uptown, Mikell’s up on Columbus, downtown, Slugs in the East Village, the Village Gate, the Vanguard, the Knickerbocker down near Washington Square had jazz—there was Sweet Basil over on Seventh Avenue South and up the street… the club owned by the Brecker Brothers, and on down on Hudson and Spring was the Half Note—even the Metropole was still a jazz club when I first walked through Times Square.” Wish I’d been there.


  1. It used to be when I had lived in NYC for only a short time, I had to hear it about “It ain’t what it used to be and never will be again you poor souls just won’t ever know” from the likes of Stephen Jay Gould and Spider Robinson and I just had to swallow it because I was new and what did I know.
    But now I’ve been here for nearly 30 years, and I get sooooo tired of this sort of self-indulgent rant, which is by no means to be found only from the Growler. The City keeps on changing but it never dies, and all that’s happened to the Growler is, he’s getting older (better than the alternative) and maybe not quite as easy-come-easy-go with money any more, with perhaps the steady support from the unloved spouse drying up. The hell with that. For the young it’s as new and exciting and adventure-making as it was in 1968 when I first started making short day trips here and never thought I’d live right in the heart of the heart of it one day.
    As for jashivgar, it looks sort of Hindi/Urdu to me; that might help someone look in the right place.

  2. I agree with John about New York, although I complain about the changes myself. I do suspect that New York is becoming more American, less differentiated from the rest of the country, but aside from the proliferation of chain merchants I don’t have much evidence for that.
    As for the jashivgar, since he is referred to as a captain of the archer in the Khazar army, I will posit a Turkic origin, & hope for the best.

  3. I suspect what Chabon means by javishgar is the Persian jaishgarSteingass gives the meaning as “jaishgar, A general; a maker of coats of mail.”
    As for New York, I don’t know.

  4. I just realized I did something kind of weird–I accidentally misspelled Chabon’s spelling and came up with a plausable looking correct spelling. But then I googled javishgar and came up with this, which, if you scroll down, lists the word javishgar under Chapter 3, “The Structure of the Khazar Government.” I still suspect jaishgar is the right word; Chabon is probably using “The Jews of Khazaria” as a source. Maybe the original misspelling is Brook’s?

  5. Brilliant! You must be right, and I hope Chabon will change the spelling in the final version of the book (surely he doesn’t prefer his misspelling to the actual title?).
    As for nostalgia, I guess I should have added a disclaimer to take care of such complaints. Yes, yes, nostalgia isn’t what it used to be, things were always better when we were young and full of beans, etc. I wasn’t recommending the post for the nostalgia but for the picture of what NYC was like 35-40 years ago. All those memoirs about Paris in the Twenties get pretty tiresome in aggregate, but would you really not want to know about what it was like to hang around the Montparnasse bars with Hem and Ez and the gang? And didn’t you enjoy the anecdote about Stokowski sticking his fingers in his ears?

  6. On the other hand, there are two kinds of people, those who think there are two kinds of people… I mean, those who are focused on the past and those who are focused on the future. I’m one of the former; I don’t want to preserve the world in aspic and am interested in what lies around the corner, but I love getting a detailed picture of what things used to be like. I can understand that someone who feels differently, who finds the past basically a drag on the necessary movement of the world into the future, would be impatient with recollections of how things used to be.

  7. I think it’s great that other Italian languages are gradually gathering recognition and respect, at least within Italy.
    Sadly though, this isn’t as true in other parts of the world in Italian immigrant populations such as in Sydney’s inner-west, which has a huge population of Italian-born people, who emigrated after WW2, and their Australian-born children. They left Italy when the linguistic situation was there is Italian, and anything that sounds different is ‘Bad-Italian’, we’ll call it ‘dialect’.
    This view still pervades among Italians in Sydney. Those who spoke only their own regional language, such as Calabrese or Sicilian, become almost looked down upon by those who spoke the standard and become self-critical.
    This happened to a bloke I worked with in particular (the huge generalisation above is based almost entirely on this one situation). He spoke Calabrese very well, but he had identity issues because he thought of Calabrese as inferior to Italian – mostly due to the boss, who, by sheer fortune of growing up in Toscano, spoke standard Italian and regarded any other Italian language as just a dialect.

  8. The Ditzionàriu is a great resource, all it needs now is some sample verb conjugations. And like Jangari, I’m pleased to see Italian (and other Romance) “dialects” getting more attention, largely thanks to the internet. Sadly, it looks like there are at least two competing orthographies for Sardu (k vs c(h); dd vs dh etc) – such a common problem among minority European languages.

  9. I’m not at all impatient with recollections, and have been known to buttonhole people with mine as well as other people’s. I just get tired of NYC-is-going-to-hell rants. I think it was Bill Labov who said that NYC provides the whole country, if not the whole world, with something to look down on, only he said it better — I just can’t remember quite how.

  10. stercus says:

    Nostalgia: be a condition [medical] of when all the neurons and other cells in the brain as they be used up and no space available to accept the present, because the genes start turning off.
    I suffer from it, canae ‘member ‘wot’ it be yesterday but fifty years past, be so clear, then if there be a mention of an recent event, it cannae be good as I dinnae ‘member.

  11. LH: much thanks for the info on Gentlemen of the Road – the first excerpt has been tantalizing me as I didn’t wish to subscribe for the rest. Within moments I’d ordered it from Amazon.UK. It will be a nice pre-Christmas gift to myself !

  12. As I remember, Sardinians are agreed that Sardinian is the oldest of the Romance languages, but two of the three dialects vie for precedence and agee only in their contempt for the third.
    And no, I didn’t entirely make that up.

  13. Etienne says:

    Nomis (and others who might be interested): at the Italian-language Wikipedia web page on Sardinian ( you will find sample verb conjugations (in the “grammatica” section).

  14. Michael Dunn says:

    I don’t have the Brook book, but take the following from D.M. Dunlop’s “The History of the Jewish Khazars” (1954, Schocken Paperback 1967), p.38 (leaving out a few diacritics here and there):
    “Again, among the high dignitaries of the Khazar state, according to ibn-Fadlan, we find the holder of the title Jawshygh-r [macron over the a]. It is possible that the last part of the term is precisely Uigur, and it has been explained as Chavush Uigur [macron over a], perhaps “marshal of the Uigurs.” The alternative explanations seem labored.”
    To this is appended footnote 33:
    “Zeki Validi (Ibn Fadlan, 261) suggests Jawishagir, a combination of two titles found among the Qara-Khanids, Jawli Bek and Jagri Bek. Zayaczkowski, Studies, 34, 35, 97 offers jarashgir, from yarash, jarash, “reconcile,”a nominal form in -gir in the sense of “arbiter,” “judge.””
    On p.111 the quote of ibn Fadlan about the ranks of the Khazar court is cited, the only other time the word appears in Dunlop’s index.

  15. Michael Dunn says:

    Let me just add to my previous posting that Zeki Validi’s suggestion of Jawishagir, mentioned in the footnote,could explain Chabon’s spelling. And of course Arabic w represents Persian/Turkish v.

  16. I’m not sure how Jawishagir could explain jashivgar, but thanks for all the detail — it’s clearly not a simple matter at all, and though I’m pretty sure “jashivgar” is wrong, I have no idea what’s right!

  17. Ah, should have known that google research wasn’t going to solve this one.
    Richard Frye (Ibn Fadlan’s Journey to Russia, 2005) transcribes the word as jaushighir and says it is a version of the Turkic title chavush. Sami Dahhan’s Arabic edition (Damascus, 1958) calls the word “kalima turkiya ma’rufa.” The Validi and Zayaczkowski versions seem too out there to be right, and I’m inclined to trust Frye anyway. Still, jaishgar looked so right, especially given Chabon’s armor reference!
    But yeah, I think it’s safe to say that Chabon’s spelling is definitely wrong.

  18. Siganus Sutor says:

    LH: I don’t want to preserve the world in aspic
    I knew of only two definitions for the word aspic:
    1) a venomous snake;
    2) a cold dish in which eggs, vegetables and other stuff are embedded in transparent jelly.
    Does your sentence refer to the second meaning or to another one that I don’t know? The New Penguin English Dictionary mentions the dish only, but the SOED has a few words about some type of lavender [‘The Great Lavender or Spike (Lavandula Spica.’)]. Since lavender is sometimes put amongst things (clothes only?) that are stored for a certain time, who knows what you meant.
    Ah, things of the past… Why do they usually look better than what they were when they took place? Indeed the aspic an aunt of mine used to prepare for some family gatherings was not bad at all, but I’m sure it tastes better in my memory now that she’s dead and that we don’t have it anymore.

  19. Good point — aspic doesn’t really preserve things, does it? And I wasn’t aware of the ‘snake’ definition, so thanks for that. (The OED takes it back to “Pr. aspic, unexplained derivative of L. aspid-” — I love it when they have to use words like “unexplained.”)

  20. Siganus Sutor says:

    3. Aspic.
    “1789. [adoption of French aspic, as in ‘froid comme un aspic’. Littré.] A savoury meat jelly, made of and containing meat, fish, game, hard-boiled eggs, etc.” — That’s what my old edition of the SOED says. Froid comme un aspic refers to the snake I presume. But Le Petit Robert suggests that it comes from the shape of the mould instead: “moule en forme de serpent roulé.”
    The OED takes it back to “Pr. aspic, unexplained derivative of L. aspid-“
    Dauzat seems less uncertain regarding the name of the snake: “lat. aspis, aspidis, du gr. aspis, naja d’Égypte”.
    However, I like your use of the image conveyed by the (edible) aspic: you can see what’s inside but everything is congealed… until you start eating it.

  21. marie-lucie says:

    la vipère aspic is the type of snake that caused the death of Cleopatra, in English asp.
    According to the Petit Robert the French word is from Provençal, in other words Occitan. My guess about the final -ic in the form aspic for this snake is that it is analogical with the same final in espic, the Occitan equivalent for épi “ear or spike (of wheat, corn, etc)” (cf. the French word porc-épic “porcupine”, lit. “spiky pig”).

  22. marie-lucie says:

    p.s. the type of lavender (spica) referred to by Siganus must have a particularly large/tall “spike” of flowers, with again a confusion between Occitan espic and the rather rare French word aspic.

  23. Is a lavender spice-this not on the word-nut!

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