The Linguistics of Odessa.

My Odessa reading program continues with Jabotinsky’s novel Пятеро (The Five, published in 1936 like the Katayev novel I wrote about here), which has already made me unreasonably happy. The narrator has gone down to the sea and met a young man named Seryozha, who takes him under his wing and fixes the broken oarlocks on his boat; Seryozha asks who’s been hired to watch the boat, and when told it was Chubchik, says (you can read the Russian here, starting with “— Оттого и беспорядок, Чубчик! Его и другие рыбаки все за босявку держут”):

“That’s why it’s such a mess, it’s Chubchik! Even the other fishermen hold him as a bosyavka.”

I raised my head joyfully. Linguistics has always been the true passion of my life, and living in an enlightened circle where everyone tried to speak in a correct Great Russian style, it had been a long time since I had heard the real dialect of the Fountains, Lanzheron, Peresyp, and Dyukovsky Park. “Hold him as a bosyavka” — lovely! “Hold” means “consider.” And bosyavka — to translate it is unthinkable; in that one word is a whole encyclopedia of disapproving judgments. He continued in the same style, but unfortunately I’ve forgotten my native speech, and I’m forced to reproduce his words by and large in official language, acknowledging sorrowfully that every phrase is wrong.

* * *

We set off in respectable fashion; he was a fine rower, and knew the names of things in the boatmen’s language. That day the wind would rise around five o’clock, and not just wind, but the tramontano. “Back water on the right, or we’ll run into that dubok [a local name for a small boat].” “Look, that porpoise has bought it” — pointing at the corpse of a dolphin, thrown up yesterday by a storm onto the lower platform of a breakwater not far from the lighthouse.

In the intervals between nautical remarks he gave me a good deal of fragmentary information about his family. His father “dashed to his office on the horse-tram” every morning, which is why he was so dangerous when you wanted to skip school — you had to leave the house together with him. In the evenings there was a “crush” at home (in other words, what Russians call a flea market): his older sister’s “passengers” came to visit her, mostly students. Then there was his older brother Marko, not a bad fellow, “portable,” but a tyuntya (I didn’t know that term, but it obviously meant something like “dimwit” or “scatterbrain”). Marko was “a Nietzschean this year.”

I’m glad I don’t have to translate the novel; I have no idea what I’d do about words like bosyavka and tyuntya. Michael Katz, who did translate it, used “deadbeat” for the first (a wild guess, I presume; current meanings I can find are ‘prostitute’ and ‘woman who gives tips to the police,’ neither of which is applicable) and simply omitted the second; he rendered dubok as “little oak rowboat,” which is silly — in the first place, just because it looks like the word for ‘little oak’ doesn’t mean the boat is made of oak, and in the second place, the whole point of using the Russian word is to give another example of local language. Why not find a similar local word from the bayous of Louisiana or somewhere? Also, it irritates me that Katz uses “Serezha” and “Alesha” for Seryozha and Alyosha — it gives an entirely false idea of how the names are said.

I was struck by the word лингвистика ‘linguistics’ and wondered how far back it was used; it turns out it’s much older in both Russian and English than I would have guessed. The earliest citation in the National Corpus of the Russian Language is from 1850 (Buslaev in «Москвитянинъ»: “Поприще лингвистики такъ широко, и дѣла, недавно еще только початаго, такъ много, что историку нѣтъ никакой возможности спеціально заниматься этой наукой; въ противномъ случаѣ ему слѣдовало бы отказаться отъ Исторіи” [The field of linguistics is so broad, and it covers so much despite its recent origin, that the historian cannot possibly deal with it as a specialist; if he tried, he would have to stop doing history]), and the OED takes it back to 1837 (N. Amer. Rev. Oct. 379 “Even supposing it possible for the knowledge of one man to comprehend every class of natural history, astronomy, linguistics, &c., the shortness of time allowed him would render thorough observation in more than one impossible” — a strikingly similar sentiment!). Furthermore, the singular form linguistic (presumably straight from French linguistique) goes back to 1825 (Asiatic Jrnl. 1 Dec. 648 “The science of the general comparison of languages, now developing itself under the name of linguistic, has, within a short period, made a very remarkable progress”); oddly, Jonathan Culler chose to use it in 2002 in his The Pursuit of Signs (new ed.): “Ferdinand de Saussure..had argued that linguistic would one day be part of a comprehensive science of signs.”

Comments

  1. G. Ginat says:

    Don’t know if the novel is autobiographical, but Jabotinsky was, among many other things, something of a linguistic virtuoso. I’d guess that his use of the Russian equivalent of “linguistics” refers to interest in, and mastery of, languages, rather than to the discipline of linguistics proper.

    Jabotinsky wrote extensively in Russian and Hebrew. Hebrew Wikipedia also cites his mastery of Yiddish, German, and French and his partial mastery of Italian, Latin, and Esperanto (he wrote Esperanto poetry in his youth). English Wikipedia credits him with fluency in Russian, Yiddish, Hebrew, and Italian.

    When he was 17, he translated world poetry, including Poe, into Russian. His translation of “The Raven” so impressed the writer Fyodorev (?) that he submitted it to an Odessa journal, but it wasn’t published.

    His Hebrew translations of Poe’s poetry are marvelous.

  2. Looks like my comment got eaten – is Cyrillic still a problem?

  3. G. Ginat says:

    Also mastered English, per Heb Wikipedia.

  4. G. Ginat: Thanks for all that! The novel is definitely autobiographical, and in fact has been said to be more reliable on his life than his autobiography.

    e-k: Cyrillic shouldn’t be a problem; your comment is neither in moderation nor in the spam queue, so I don’t know what happened to it.

  5. Trond Engen says:

    Interestingly, there’s a type of small Norwegian rowing boat called eike “oakie”.

    I’m sure the translator could have found all the equivalents he’d need in New Orleans and thereabouts, but that opens the discussion of dialect translation. It would be odd doing picking a distinct regionalism for one word and not the others.

  6. босявка from the relevant time period is probably (even more downgrading) form of босяк/tramp, literally “barefoot” Here’s Alexander Kuprin. EDIT: Just in case it’s not obvious, here босявка is just a pejorative, not pointing out an actual real life tramp.

    тюньтя is probably otherwise known as тютя (tyutya).

    Translating толчок (tolchok) as “crush” is possible, but I would say “jostle” is better. Translation is a bad word here, it’s a wannabee calque.

  7. Thanks for босявка and тюньтя! But “jostle” is only a verb, so I think “crush” works better here.

  8. Holy cow! The same chapter quote above (Seryozha), uses the word кандибобер which caught fire on the Russian Internet a few years back when a crazy lady used it to describe her headdress. Nobody knew what it meant.

  9. As a noun, jostle is attested back to 1607, although the verb sense is certainly much more usual than the verb. The word originated as joust with a frequentive suffix, and joust is equally natural as a noun or verb—more than crush even.

  10. Man, I feel like I’m always complaining about translators, and I apologize to all the hard-working translators out there — I really do respect what you do, and by and large this is a fine translation, but sometimes I just can’t stay silent: to render “логарифмы сторчат, как облупленные!” (Seryozha’s description of the girls at a local high school) as “their ‘boobs’ stuck out like jumbo eggs!” is horribly misguided. The whole point is that he’s not using ordinary vulgar slang, he’s inventing his own; it should be, e.g., “their logarithms stuck out like nobody’s business!”

  11. As a noun, jostle is attested back to 1607

    You can find all sorts of things in the OED, and I was going to complain that the most recent citation was from 1881, but I see M-W has it as a noun too (with a quote from DFW!), so fair enough. Толчок is (or was) the usual colloquial Odessa name for the market, so whichever word is chosen for the translation has to be plausible in that use.

  12. I forgot to mention that at when the narrator says to Seryozha “Shouldn’t you be at school?” the latter answers “Le cadet de mes soucis” [That’s the least of my worries]; later, the narrator, admiring the way Seryozha eats, says “Великое дело то, что англичане называют: table manners,” and when Seryozha introduces an acquaintance “я невольно подумал по-берлински: «So siehste aus».” That’s three foreign languages in one chapter, not counting the Odessa dialect — what fun!

  13. The third chapter, В «Литературке», starts: “На субботнике в литературно-артистическом кружке, после концерта…” What is this use of субботник?

  14. What is this use of субботник?

    Just a Saturday meeting.

  15. Oh, OK. I didn’t realize it had prerevolutionary uses.

  16. David Marjanović says:

    тюньтя

    Now I wonder about the German insult Tunte f. “male crossdresser”.

  17. PlasticPaddy says:

    @hat
    Look at definition 2. But I don’t think the literary circle was that unpleasant☺
    https://ru.m.wiktionary.org/wiki/%D1%81%D1%83%D0%B1%D0%B1%D0%BE%D1%82%D0%BD%D0%B8%D0%BA

  18. My first thought was, surely a contemporary of Jabotinsky would have translated this into Hebrew. And so they did, and the translation, published in 1947, is online, at the Ben Yehuda project, kind of like a Hebrew equivalent of the Gutenberg project.

    Two names (which is unusual) are signed off on this translation. Both were born in Ukraine, though neither was from Odessa. Hananiah Reichman (1905–1982) was a famous and beloved poet and translator (his translation of the complete Krylov’s fables was a favorite book of mine as a kid.) He was born in Grishino (now Pokrovsk) in the east end of Ukraine, and moved to Yekaterinburg before emigrating to Palestine. Yehoshua Heshl Yeivin (1891–1970), a political leader in Jabotinsky’s Revisionists — I imagine he served more as a political editor than a translator — was from Vinnytsia in the west. So neither had direct experience with Odessan slang, though I am sure Reichman (who must have done the bulk of the translation) would know who to ask in 1940s Palestine. (Reichman had previously translated a collection of poems by Jabotinsky, and that must have recommended him as an appropriate translator in those politically extremely polarized times.)

    Reichman invents for bosyavka the word יַחֲפוּף yaxăfūf, which appears in a few other places in the novel: the end of the poem in c. 14, and in the middle of c. 10 (“go on, yaxfufim, what are you standing there for?”).

    Reichman did a marvelous job inventing a one-of-a-kind slang to match the Odessan. The poem in c. 14 is at points barely intelligible, and I say it as a compliment to Reichman. In the poem, the writer bemoans how his childhood friend, later his youthful crush, has abandoned him for a series of richer boyfriends, while he remains a yaħăfūf, a penniless loser. yaħăfūf is a diminutive of יָחֵף yāħēf ‘barefoot’. This meaning fits well with the description of Chubchik.

    Reichman translates tyuntya as חוּשָׁם ħūšām, which was already in use as a literary slang word (I don’t know how much it was actually used in speech), meaning something like ‘dope’.

    P.S. ħūšām, lemex, and terāħ are all figures from the book of Genesis which inexplicably (to me) became bywords for various shades of fool. I need to investigate the when and why of that further. I will report if I discover anything.

  19. Bathrobe says:

    So what exactly is кандибобер?

  20. Ushakov’s dictionary says: Только в выражении: с кандибобером (простореч. шутл. фам.) – лихо, отлично, на славу. Проплясал с шиком, с кандибобером./ Only in the expression “with kandebober” (coll., jocular, familiar) – daringly, well-done. “Danced with chic, with kandebober”.

    But Russian national corpus quotes expressions where it couldn’t possibly mean that.
    1. ― козлом проблеял архиерей и замахал руками. ― По синодскому приказу сейчас начнется кандибобер! Он круто повернулся, поправил митру: ― Рработай!..
    Key phrase: by the order of Synod there will be kandebober [upheaval, as far as I understand]
    2. Мы ведь вот уж неделю, как скотинку на лужок выгнали!.. ― Уж как ни верти, один кандибобер выходит… ― похохотал на высоких нотах Иван Иваныч. ― Да как же это так?..
    Here it means just something bad.
    Those are early 1920s quotes.
    There are a few examples from the second half of 20th century, but for slang it is a long time to keep consistence. But anyway it means something unpleasant. It clearly not Jabotinsky’s meaning, who is closer to Ushakov’s

  21. Jabotinsky famously waged a never-ending campaign for different Hebrew phonetics than the language ended up adopting. Written Hebrew eschews vowels, and it’s no wonder than its vowels were pronounced quite differently in different regions. The now-standard Sephardi-style vowel pronunciation was anathema to him. But he also wanted to make the consonants of Hebrew sound like Italians, correctly, in hindsight, insisting that the hub from which both Sephardim and Ashkenazim radiated was Rome. Yet Sepharad had a mythical significance of “the other, greater Jewish culture” in the Zionist conscience, so Jabotinsky had no chance.

    I had a personal run-in with his legacy more recently, scouring the impenetrably messy website of Jabotinsky Museum for the traces of my great grandparents, who, according to the family lore, met each other while attending the Helsingfors Conference of Russian Zionists in 1906 (which famously rejected the Uganda plan, and demanded that the Zionists work in their home regions to educate and organize wide popular masses for the future move to Palestine, deemphasizing the perceived need for an immediate escape from the Czar). There was an interesting linguistic consequence of all this, which I should, perhaps, mention here.

    My granny, Shifra Bogina, the only child of her Zionist idealist parents, was 6 when Great Britain got its Palestine mandate. The education-and-preparation meant, for her, intense training in English, then (and even now) a rare skill among the Russians. This unique skill saved her more than once, and propelled her into strange adventures too. As a teenager she was sent to the Urals to teach English in a technical school. The hardship was unbearably extreme but Shifra escaped by getting herself a job at a school for international Communist cadres in Moscow (where she met her husband, a German and French translator there). Then in 1941, on a month-long railroad ride in cattle cars to Turkmenistan (where her grad school was being relocated), she used an extended stop in Kuybyshev, then the diplomatic capital of the USSR, to get herself a news job (and to save my dad, then one year old, from the unsanitary slog across Central Asian deserts). In 1942, she managed to get the first-ever eyewitness account of the Holocaust into the English-language media. After WWII, she escaped the brunt of Stalin’s anti-Semitic campaign by using her English skills to find a sheltered academia job, studying US immigration. And then it miraculously helped her reconnect with a cousin in Ann Arbor (who was a librarian who once decided to look up her surname in the UMich catalog, and discovered Shifra’s publication). By the late 1980s, the branches of the Bogins from Russia to Australia got reunited due to the searches which started from a library catalog lookup!

  22. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DmmFBm4oWVg

    This woman (who is clearly not in her right mind) says of her hat – “And if I wear a kandibober on my head, it doesn’t mean that I am a woman or a ballerina”.

  23. Reichman, it turns out, used lemex as well, to translate balda in the first chapter.

  24. Y: Thanks very much for those gems from the Hebrew translation!

    Dmitry Pruss: A remarkable story, and your grandmother was clearly a remarkable woman.

  25. a remarkable woman

    Granny Shifra’s bookshelves of Вопросы этнографии were my fav stuff to read and of course I dreamed about following in her footsteps, and she responded rather sharply, that I got a wrong personality for kissing all the asses it’d take to pursue a career in humanities in Brezhnev’s USSR 🙂
    Molecular anthropology was already a thing then, though, so I still hoped to return to solving puzzles of the origins of peoples after majoring in chemistry. My chemical molecule of choice happened to be DNA, and I gotta admit that the plan worked, even though it took a while 🙂

  26. “Dubok” is also Russian intelligence slang for what we’d call a dead drop or dead letter box – a little hiding place where one can conceal messages or other items for someone else to pick up later.

    (It is “dead” because it’s unattended. A live letter box would be a place where one operative meets another to pass objects or messages directly from person to person. Both have their advantages and drawbacks.)

    Perhaps the derivation is from the idea of leaving things in holes in tree trunks? Or it’s from the sense of “dubok” as a little boat, because it’s also a small improvised box?

  27. tyuntya

    тентек

    тинтәк

    Cognates exist in many Turkic languages.

  28. PlasticPaddy says:

    Re дубок
    I think looking at oak is wrong for the dead-drop meaning. There is a PS root *dubus “deep” which would harmonise better with dead drop (deep > buried/hidden), as well as the camouflage jet and clothing, to which the word is also applied.

  29. Well, given that duba means ‘pontoon; barge; ark’, I believe it’s the most probable source.

  30. AJP Crown says:

    I’m always complaining about translators…but sometimes I just can’t stay silent

    Don’t look at it like that. Alternative translations is one of the most interesting topics at Language Hat even when the reader (me) doesn’t know much about the language in question.

  31. SFReader says:

    Dub or dubok was a name for a specific type of small boat – dugout canoe made from a single hollowed tree trunk (sometimes from oak tree, but not always).

  32. Thanks! So “dugout” would have been an appropriate translation.

  33. Zhitkov describes travel on a dubok in Джарылгач, another favorite childhood read of the era. No dugout, it’s a full size cargo sailboat with multiple rooms and a large crew. Maybe a corrupted Greek or Turkish word of sorts?

    PS wiki describes it as Дуб — парусное грузовое судно для прибрежного плавания на северо-западе Причерноморья и в устье Днепра. Apparently a smaller size vessel. One of them, a 1953 sail and diesel dubok, is moored in Yalta as a tourist attraction, having been modified into Hispaniola for a 1970s movie.

  34. SFReader says:
  35. Ukrainian wikipedia suggests that dubok in the meaning “dugout” was lost after XVI c., when the seafaring Cossacks switched to a far larger chaika, a rowboat with 10 to 15 pairs of oars and also sails.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaika_(boat)
    By XVIII c. chaika was superseded by an even larger dub, with three masts. The article claims that the name meant to underscore mighty size and tonnage of these boats ( https://uk.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%94%D1%83%D0%B1_(%D1%81%D1%83%D0%B4%D0%BD%D0%BE) )
    By XIX c. they were no longer big and mighty compared to newer open-seas vessels, and that’s when, I assume, proud “dub” morphed into diminutive “dubok”.

  36. Fascinating! So the best thing to do, if you don’t want to use a Cajun term, would be to just use dubok, the same way you call a samovar a samovar.

  37. “Man, I feel like I’m always complaining about translators, and I apologize to all the hard-working translators out there…”

    Citing a boobish example needs no apology. A jumbo size lack of erudition, as such, should put into question the whole translated edifice.

  38. This thread is great!

    Босявка “deadbeat” < босяк "barefoot", дубок "a kind of boat, dead drop" < дуб "oak", but what is the etymology of кандибобер? Polish kandybura “flowery percale”? But where is that from?

  39. SFReader says:

    As far as I can tell, in Don Cossack dialect it originally used to mean an exaggerated dance move and then it came to encompass other kinds of eccentric behavior or dress.

    Don’t know if it’s related or not, but in my Don Cossack dialect dictionary, the word “kandibober” is followed by verb “kandybit’sya” (“to tumble, perform a somersault”).

    Kandibober could have formed from this verb.

  40. Andrej Bjelaković says:

    Btw, in BCSM ‘dubak’ is used to refer to baby walkers, which used to look like
    this

    Etymologically it comes from dubiti, ‘to hollow out’, which is also how you make a small wooden boat, I suppose.

  41. Trond Engen says:

    Does the word for oak come from “hollow” too?

  42. PlasticPaddy says:

    Vasmer associates dub with cognates meaning dark or wood (or Greek demo “to build”), so I think his idea is “tree with dark-coloured wood (or bark?)”.

  43. Andrej Bjelaković says:

    Well, contemporary BCSM oak is hrast (Wiktionary says from Proto-Slavic xvorstъ, Proto-Balto-Slavic *kšwáršta perhaps cognate with Proto-Germanic *hurstiz (“thicket; wood; grove; nest”).

    Whereas dubiti is from Proto-Indo-European *dʰlbʰ-. Cognate with Proto-Germanic *delbaną (“to dig, hollow out”).

    Dub for oak is thoroughly obsolete in BCSM AFAIK (I first heard of it this morning); ( Proto-Slavic *dǫbъ, from Proto-Indo-European *dʰanw-.)

  44. I don’t think anyone mentioned above that Zhabotinsky was a close friend of Chukovsky, and an inspiration to him. Korney Chukovsky featured on Languagehat many times before

  45. In Russian, дуб of course means oak when it doesn’t mean dimwit. There is a host of meanings pertaining to coldness, hardness, or stiffness. Whether dub-oak gave those extended meanings or that was the other way around (oak got it’s name as a typical hardwood), alas, we do not know.
    For example, дубить/tan (skin->leather), задубеть/get cold, дать дуба/kick the bucket.

    While looking it up, I came up with the following quote from Stanisław Jerzy Lec (who is always worth quoting, no matter the subject) His obituary could have been a great calling-card.

  46. I don’t think anyone mentioned above that Zhabotinsky was a close friend of Chukovsky, and an inspiration to him. Korney Chukovsky featured on Languagehat many times before
    They were brothers-in-law, too. (Their wives were sisters)

  47. And two other Odessites, Eduard Bagritsky and Yuri Olesha, were as well — they both married Suok sisters (we never did figure out the origin of that odd name).

  48. Trond Engen says:

    Andrej B.: Etymologically it comes from dubiti, ‘to hollow out’, which is also how you make a small wooden boat, I suppose.

    Me: Does the word for oak come from “hollow” too?

    PlasticPaddy; Vasmer associates dub with cognates meaning dark or wood (or Greek demo “to build”), so I think his idea is “tree with dark-coloured wood (or bark?)”.

    Yes, the Germanic “timber” word. But I don’t get the “dark” part. Surely, renaming a tree for its use for planks is more probable than naming the process of building after the type of wood.

    Andrej B.: Whereas dubiti is from Proto-Indo-European *dʰlbʰ-. Cognate with Proto-Germanic *delbaną (“to dig, hollow out”).

    Dub for oak is thoroughly obsolete in BCSM AFAIK (I first heard of it this morning); ( Proto-Slavic *dǫbъ, from Proto-Indo-European *dʰanw-.).

    The nasal does seem pretty conclusive, but what is *dʰanw- supposed to be?

    D.O.: In Russian, дуб of course means oak when it doesn’t mean dimwit. There is a host of meanings pertaining to coldness, hardness, or stiffness. Whether dub-oak gave those extended meanings or that was the other way around (oak got it’s name as a typical hardwood), alas, we do not know.

    So “timber”, “deep”, “dark”, “hollow”, “hard”, “cold”. The whole etymological complex around the Russian “oak” word is messy and could take some serious untangling. The idea of a “hollow” tree was a shot at that, but it doesn’t get us anywhere without the nasal.

    Andrej B. again:contemporary BCSM oak is hrast (Wiktionary says from Proto-Slavic xvorstъ, Proto-Balto-Slavic *kšwáršta perhaps cognate with Proto-Germanic *hurstiz (“thicket; wood; grove; nest”).

    That’s per some very small haps. The two look related, but how do you make them cognates?

  49. Re: Suok sisters

    Their father was Austrian. We should page DM. I found at least one Austrian by the name Josef Suok.

  50. I don’t suppose it could be from Sůk…

  51. Trond Engen says:

    FWIW, I see that Suk is a Czech surname.

  52. I only know the name because I once read about the composer Josef Suk.

  53. There is a decent number of people going by the last name Schoeck and it wouldn’t shock me if some combination of peculiar pronunciation with mishearing lead to Suok from there.

  54. Gustav Suok tree(with the literary daughters) on Myheritage is maintained by a Czech but it isn’t easy to lift any details from there without a paid account

  55. Also you can check record #105 in this Hungarian book of births (Kalocsa, Pest-Pilis-Solt-Kis-Kun, 1743)
    https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:939J-FC9Z-ZS?cc=1743180

  56. for G. Ginat
    /His translation of “The Raven” so impressed the writer Fyodorev (?) /
    Alexander Fyodorov (Александр Митрофанович Федоров, 1868-1949) was a major figure in Odessa literary circles. Himself a prolific writer, poet and playwright, he brought together other prominent people. Along with Bunin he was an early mentor of Kataev and introduced him to Bunin.
    He is little known today, largely because he emigrated at the end of the Russian Civil war.

  57. SFReader says:

    Everything there is to know about Alexander Fedorov is right here
    http://languagehat.com/discovering-real-poetry/#comments

  58. I didn’t want to post links for fear of the spam filter, and now I see SFReader has beaten me to it. “Discovering real poetry” is a good primer on Fedorov indeed!

    Boris Zhitkov was also a good friend of Zhabotinsky and Chukovsky from the gymnasium. Zhitkov completed his Viktor Vavich about the same time as Zhabotinsky wrote The Five.

    I must admit that I have tried Viktor Vavich but haven’t gotten far. I started The Five years ago but wasn’t drawn in, but this post of yours made me go back to the book. I swallowed it, as Russians say, in two days. And as you say, it can make you unreasonably happy. I doubt any translation can do it justice. On the other hand, it was definitely worth trying to translate it, especially into a language that was simultaneously ancient and very young and fast developing, like Hebrew.

  59. David Marjanović says:

    what is *dʰanw- supposed to be?

    And why is it reconstructed with *a and not simply *o, and are there any other examples of *nw > *b?

    We should page DM.

    I have no clue. I can say, though, that ů has been a plain [uː], identical to the much rarer ú, for quite some time.

    That’s per some very small haps. The two look related, but how do you make them cognates?

    Well, from a zero-grade *kʲwrst-, whatever that might be, you’d get to PGmc *hurst-, and in the o-grade you’d get from *kʲworst- to PBS *śwaršt-, and Lithuanian, where > š, has a weird habit of inserting k before š at random… though I don’t know if that ever happens word-initially.

    That said, *kh₂ famously becomes *x in Slavic (while *ph₂, *th₂ boringly end up as *p, *t). Does anybody know its Baltic outcome?

    There is a decent number of people going by the last name Schoeck and it wouldn’t shock me if some combination of peculiar pronunciation with mishearing lead to Suok from there.

    I find that hard to imagine, because this oe is [œ], or perhaps [ɛ] or [e] dialectally.

  60. SFReader says:

    I think it’s very likely to have been originally Suk – Czech surname with the same meaning as in Russian.

    However, first contact with Russian speakers would have told our Austrian emigrant that Russians would tend to confuse his surname with a very common Russian expletive.

    You know, Cyka Blyat.

    So he probably changed it to Suok just to make life of his daughters a bit easier.

  61. Does the word for oak come from “hollow” too?

    I guess the development went something like this: dolbiti -> dowbiti -> dubiti, analogous to volk -> vowk -> vuk.

  62. David Marjanović says:

    Polish dąb makes this impossible.

  63. gwenllian says:

    Dub for oak is thoroughly obsolete in BCSM AFAIK (I first heard of it this morning); ( Proto-Slavic *dǫbъ, from Proto-Indo-European *dʰanw-.)

    In the spoken language definitely (well, with the usual disclaimer that I don’t actually know anything about the situation in most of the bazillion dialects). In Croatia at least, I do see it very occasionally pop up (as markedly old-timey) in text. Out of such thoroughly archaic words, dub and dubrava would probably be some of the more widely understood here, due to the meaning being included in the curriculum several times throughout primary and secondary school (e. g. studying the work of Gundulić and Brlić Mažuranić, or the history of Dubrovnik). Of course, going by the annual controversy following standardized exams over graduates being expected to understand some excerpts of any kind of non-modern texts they’d studied, probably still not too widely.

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