SLAVONIAN.

A story by Peter J. Boyer about the Mississippi Gulf Coast in the latest New Yorker says “the seafood industry attracted an ethnic mix that was sharply distinct from the Mississippi norm” and gives as an example “Slavonian immigrants, dislocated by the First World War.” When I read this, I thought “I’m probably one of the few readers not of Yugoslav background who knows where Slavonia is without looking it up,” and then “I wonder if it’s a misprint?”—my thought being that they surely wouldn’t casually mention “Slavonian” without identifying it for the 99.99% of their readers who would confuse it with Slovenian and Slovakian if it registered at all. But I googled and discovered that that’s exactly what they did, because articles like Aimee Schmidt’s “Down Around Biloxi: Culture and Identity in the Biloxi Seafood Industry” make it clear that the Slavs in question were indeed Slavonian. So, since Slavonian is in neither Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate nor even the Encyclopedia of the Peoples of the World, let me remedy the laziness of the magazine’s editors and tell you that Slavonians are from Slavonia, a region of eastern Croatia well known in Zagreb and Belgrade but not, I fear, among the readership of the New Yorker. And I will add that Slavonia/Slovenia/Slovakia is at least as confusing a set of terms as Galatia/Galicia/Galicia (Halicz).

Comments

  1. Not to mention language codes that get confused between Slovak and Slovenian. At least they speak Croatian in Slavonia (I’m not commenting on that dire “Serbo-Croatian” issue).
    Exercise: go to the Wikipedia page titled “Europe” (any sufficiently general topic will do, in fact), scroll down and look at the list of links to the equivalent pages in languages other than English. Which one is Slovak and which one is Slovenian?

  2. “And I will add that Slavonia/Slovenia/Slovakia is at least as confusing a set of terms…”
    Especially when the name of Slovakia in Slovakian is “Respublika Slovenska”. I hear that there’s a big problem with mail being misrouted between the two countries.

  3. Slovenská republika, not what Christopher says above. Luckily, at least their immediate neighbours don’t find the two countries confusing. :-)

  4. I was surprised to read in a magazine a few years ago that some Yugoslavian primarily Croatian immigrants settled in Mississippi and Louisiana at the turn of the 20th century. All told, the American South received fewer immigrants than the northern American states did. Catholic nationalities and Jews were especially reluctant to move there because of the strong prejudices against them.
    In researching some information on actress Yvonne Suhor (born in New Orelans, 1965) of the TV show “The Young Riders”, I found that she came from a Croatian-American background from that area.
    The Yugoslavs are another example of where people are not always related to the languages that they speak. Cavalli-Sforza’s data indicates that there is relatively little Slavic blood in the Yugoslavian population and that some of their nearest relatives in Europe are the Greeks and the Sardinians. Some of this was suspected even before Cavalli-Sforza did his studies of human geneaologies in the 1980′s and 1990′s.

  5. Previous post by Brian 9/22/05

  6. Slavonian grebe is the European common name for Podiceps auritis, what North Americans call Horned grebe. A beautiful little bird whatever you call it. Do you know anything about the origin of the name? They seem to nest all over the nearctic and palearctic, not just Slavonia.

  7. I think former Yugoslavia was so often in the news a couple of years ago, that this name does at least ring a bell with a lot of people.

  8. I think Croatia, Serbia, and maybe Slovenia ring a bell (though the latter fought off the Serbs early and avoided the prolonged war, so it probably didn’t register as much). Slavonia? I seriously doubt it.

  9. In fact, I have no idea how widely the wars were covered in American press at that time. Also, I don’t know what type of audience the New Yorker focuses on.
    Slovenia did some good PR for themselves here by qualifying for a major soccer tournament twice. Also, Latvia succeeded in this once, much to the frustration of Ukraine, which only now managed to reach the world cup.
    This reminds me, two of the Baltic states are also quite close in, among others, French: la Lettonie et la Lituanie.

  10. Yes, Latvia and Lithuania are easily confused in English as well, and when you throw in the historic region of Livonia in the same region it gets much worse. Personally, I regret that the Duchy of Courland (now part of Latvia) didn’t survive; it’s one of my favorite forgotten entities (they had colonies in Africa and the Americas in the 1650s and looked to be headed for great things but were ruined by the Swedish war).

  11. Slavonia/Slovenia/Slovakia = very confusing :)

  12. Zoltan Kodaly says:

    Quercus robur slavonica
    Fajváltozataiból sok található erdeinkben, mert könnyen kereszteződik a többi tölggyel. Erdőgazdaságaink legfontosabb fajváltozata a későn fakadó tölgy (Quercus robur ssp.tardissima). Egy hónappal későbben fakad, mint a főfaj, ezért a kései fagyok sem lombozatát, sem termését nem károsítják. Fagyveszélyes helyeken ezért célszerű ezt a fajváltozatát telepíteni. Értékes fajváltozata még a szlavontölgy (Quercus robur f. slavonica), melynek törzse egyenesebb, a csúcsig követhető.

  13. Slavonia.
    Interesting region.
    And very beautiful.
    There’s a cosiderable ethnic Czech minority centred on the Daruvar-Pakrac area.
    And the Starocesko pivo in Daruvar isn’t bad either!

  14. In Biloxi, Mississippi (my hometown), there is, or was, rather, a Slavonian Hall in which all of the descendants of the Slavonian immigrants still get together for cultural activities. It’s one of those great little bits about Mississippi that are often overlooked.

  15. Actually, the article states that these “Slavonians” came from Dalmatia. this makes sense because Dalmatians have a maritime heritage. Slavoania is landlocked.
    Slavonia is actually the eastern and southern parts of Panonnian Croatia with a very specific local identity and culture. Dalmatia is separated from it by Bosnia mountains and connected to the rest of Croatia by the -again culturally and geographic distinct – region of Istria. Dalmatian is a pretty specific dialet of Croatian, with lots of Italian loanwords and remnant vocabulary from old Vegliot/Ragusan Dalmatian, which is now extinct. Slavonian is straightforward Hrvatsko spoken in eastern Croatia – Osijek, Vikovar, Slavonski Brod.(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavonia)

  16. John Salmon says:

    I’d heard of a Slavonic language, I guess now called Chuch Slavonic because it’s not used elsewhere (?) because I have friends who go to an Eastern Rite Catholic Church. These Catholics use an Orthodox Liturgy but their allegiance is to the Western Church. They’re called “Byzantine Ruthenian Catholics”, who trace their heritage to the Carpathian Mountain area in, I guess, old Czechslovokia (sic).

  17. Gene Fellner says:

    And the Czech name for Slovenia is Slovinsko, compared to Slovensko for Slovakia.

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