SHZZYFEFYZ.

I could add some more letters and diacritics, but that gives the general idea; it’s my vague transliteration of what is apparently the Circassian translation of the title of Ostrovsky’s 1876 play «Правда – хорошо, а счастье лучше» [The truth is good, but happiness is better] as performed in a theater in Karachay-Cherkessia in the 2008-2009 season, as seen on the poster featured here. As one of the commenters on that thread says:

Какой емкий язык… Интересно, что там правда, что там счастье, что там хорошо и что лучше. Или у них там для описания и счастья и правды и хорошего и лучшего отдельный термин есть. Молодцы.

What a capacious language… I wonder what part of it is “truth,” what’s “happiness,” what’s “good,” and what’s “better.” Or whether they have a special term that describes all four at once. Good for them.

I suppose it’s unlikely that anyone here can explicate how Щхьззыфӏэфӏыжъ works, but just in case, there it is. I really have to try learning a Northwest Caucasian language one of these days.

Update. As pointed out by Rodger C, that title should be SHEZYFEFYZ — I mistook an Э for a З. Hey, you expect weird consonant clusters in Circassian!

Comments

  1. Rodger C says:

    Shouldn’t that be SHEZYFEFYZ? Or whatever.

  2. It’s also possible that the Circassian is not a full or direct translation of the Russian title.

  3. Shouldn’t that be SHEZYFEFYZ?

    Damn, you’re right — I didn’t look closely enough, and those letters are so similar…

  4. It’s also possible that the Circassian is not a full or direct translation of the Russian title.

    Oh, I’m sure that’s true, but one can’t help wondering what it means.

  5. SFReader says:

    Of course, I have a Kabardian-Cherkes dictionary and the word is there.

    It means “to be willful”.

  6. I had a closer look at the poster and it seems the 4th letter of the word is э, not з; and the online Kabardinian dictionary I found says щхьэзыфӏэфӏ means “своевольный, своенравный, эгоист”. Tantalizingly, щхьззыфӏэфӏыжъ is even listed a a keyword under that entry, but without further link or translation. So the title seems to have something to do with “wilful, headstrong, stubborn”, and not to be a direct translation of the Russian.
    EDIT: Ninja’d by SFReader.

  7. Excellent — thanks to both of you!

  8. SFReader says:

    Looking further in the dictionary, I discovered that щхьэ means “head, top, up, over” and many more similar meanings.

    зыфӏэфӏ means “smug, conceited, excessively proud of oneself”

    щхьэзыфӏэфӏ then is literally “over-the-top smug”

  9. I really have to try learning a Northwest Caucasian language one of these days.

    Try asking on the internet “Which Northwest Caucasian language is easiest to learn?” and go from there.

    (Or see which have a Berlitz phrase book available, complete with Englishized phonetic transcriptions, like “SHAY-zee-fay-fizz”.)

  10. Unless I missed something, the Cyrillic orthographies of Kabardian and Adyghe as shown in Wikipedia neither shows an <э>. Where does it come from then?

  11. Tim May says:

    Unless I missed something, the Cyrillic orthographies of Kabardian and Adyghe as shown in Wikipedia neither shows an <э>.

    It’s the second letter of the alphabet?

  12. Thanks! Right after the letter Duh…

  13. @Y: That phonetic transcription sounds like the name of an Imp noble from The Worm Ouroboros, like Fax Fay Faz, the overlord of Impland. Eddison apparently invented many of the names in the novel when he was a child, and for whatever reason he kept them when he wrote the story down and published it.

  14. [ɕχɑzǝf’æf’ǝʑ].

  15. Bathrobe says:

    Try asking on the internet “Which Northwest Caucasian language is easiest to learn?” and go from there.

    That takes all the fun out of it. Try asking “Which Northwest Caucasian language is hardest to learn?” That will really round out your bucket list.

  16. SFReader says:

    I think that was a joke.

    Because there aren’t any easy Northwest Caucasian languages.

  17. Or see which have a Berlitz phrase book available

    Or make use of Bible translations:

    http://ibt.org.ru/ru/media?id=ADG
    http://ibt.org.ru/ru/media?id=KBD

  18. A curious thing emerges if you look at the BT page long enough:

    The words for language in Northeast Caucasian languages form two clusters:

    1) мацI, мицци, миц, мез, мотт, маз, миз, мец
    2) чIал, чIал, чIел

  19. SFReader says:

    Lezgian still has “mez” for anatomic tongue, but uses “ch’al” for language.

    Suggests borrowing I think.

    Turkic “dil” would be a likely source.

  20. And speaking of Turkic, it has til/tel/etc where Finnic has keel/kiil/кыв. Also suggestive.

  21. Trond Engen says:

    I know nothing of Northeast Caucasian, but on the face of it, dil > ch’al looks implausible. How would a Magyar reflex of PU *kälä fit?

    Not that I think the face of it has any relevance in the Caucasus.

    Edit: Juha was there before me.

  22. On the other hand, the Chuvash language is Чăваш чĕлхи in Chuvash.

  23. SFReader says:

    That’s it exactly!

    Chuvash is from ancient Oghuric branch, so that’s where the Lezgians got it – from the Huns (or Avars, Bulgars, whatever).

  24. If we’re now counting everything that has stop + vowel + l for ‘language’, I’m somewhat fond of Haida (X̱aayda Kíl).

    There probably could be some sort of North Caucasic loanwords hanging out at least in Hungarian, or vice versa (most likely from Khazar Khaganate times), but the topic has been mostly in research limbo for 100+ years now, I don’t think I’ve seen almost anything more recent than Munkácsi (1901), Árja és kaukázusi elemek a finn-magyar nyelvekben.

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