THOSE INSUFFERABLE PRONOUNS.

I wrote here that I enjoyed Bestuzhev-Marlinsky’s short novel «Испытание» [The test], and I went on to read his most famous work, «Аммалат-бек» (translated as Ammalat-bek: A Caucasian Tale); it tells of the tragic results of the passionate love of young Ammalat, the nephew of the Kumyk shamkhal, for Sultaneta, the daughter of the Avar Sultan Akhmet Khan, who forces him to fight the Russians, and it’s quite good in a ripping-yarn sort of way, even if weighted down with too many ethnographical notes and excursuses. But now that I’ve moved on to Osip Senkovsky‘s best-known work, «Фантастические путешествия барона Брамбеуса» [The fantastic journeys of Baron Brambeus] (1833), I feel (as I did with Veltman) that I’m breathing the air of modernity. No transparent storytelling here—it opens with a narrator whose crazed ranting is more than a little reminiscent of Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground (“I am a sick man…. I am a spiteful man. I am an unattractive man. I believe my liver is diseased”), and the best part of it (from a LH point of view) is that he focuses his wrath on a couple of archaic pronouns, сей [sey] ‘this’ and оный [onyy] ‘that,’ which clung like barnacles to the literary language of the early nineteenth century. I’ll translate a chunk of the opening section to give you an idea (Russian below the cut). He’s been complaining about the wet, dirty autumn weather:

So do you know what I’m going to say? I’m sure you’ll accept my proposition with enthusiasm: let’s go throw ourselves into the Neva! Quickly, before it freezes!

Really, why should we live in this world? The weather is awful, our mustaches are drooping, there’s no news in the newspapers, black ties threaten to fall and carry side-whiskers in their entirety along with them into a common ruin, the theaters show nothing but scenes and fantasies, the scenes represent almost nothing, in literature you don’t know where to hide from all the prefaces, in drawing rooms from lottery tickets, in your own home from untimely guests and historical novels, on the street from the successes of industry. The river carries ice for a whole week; prose carries nonsense for a whole year; here in Russia its best pages are covered with a thick layer of the sharp, rough, greasy pronouns sey and onyy, which while you’re reading you don’t even dare to pronounce in honest company, which tear up your tongue and hands until they bleed while you force your way through them to something elegant. Do you call that living? Better for us to go to the Neva; let’s all drown together, and that way at least there will be an end to this misery.

And if you don’t feel like it, I’ll go alone. I’ll go! Look at me, admire my decisiveness! When I’m no longer here, tell my acquaintances that I drowned from dejection, from despair: because in both the world and literature it was very boring this year, because Russian belles lettres of the nineteenth century did not want to speak with the Russian language of the nineteenth century, that it secretly bought from civil servants, among other things, the pronouns sey and onyy, stoked its works with them as if they were firewood and tastelessly spotted all its lines of poetry, because it refused to shake off the dust of chancery forms, describing even love and its delights in the style of some old-style council clerk Vlas Afanasiev and forcing unlucky me to think in one language, the one in which I speak to decent respectable people, and to write in another, one which is spoken by nobody on earth. Tell them openly — why hide the truth? — that once, in deep autumn, in wet weather, when a dark and doleful air generally brings people to melancholy, I suffered from spleen and wanted to make an author of myself; I sat down to write — don’t forget to add: in elegant prose — I thought up the first sentence, which in my mind began with the words “This fool…” and, forced to write, against my own conscience and ear, yon fool or the aforesaid fool, ran to the Neva and threw myself in. Tell them all that — and goodbye.

Goodbye forever! In a half hour, no more, I will part irrevocably from this perfidious and hypocritical world and remove to a better one, where people write as they speak. Goodbye! I’m off!

He then decides not to kill himself but rather to live philosophically, perhaps to become a judge—but no, not a judge; he’ll get married to a beautiful blue-eyed woman with a sweet, fresh mouth that never utters words like sey and onyy… no, because they’d probably quarrel if it rained too long, it’s dangerous to get married in such a changeable climate as Petersburg’s.

I know from having read descriptions of the book (not to mention the title) that it will turn into a succession of fantastic stories, but I’d be happy to read a novel consisting of one long eloquent rant (Beckett, Bellow). Stories are all very well, but it’s the voice that’s essential.

The Russian:

Так знаете ли, что я вам скажу? Я уверен, что вы с восхищением примете мое предложение. Пойдем и бросимся в Неву!.. Бросимся скорее, пока она еще не замерзла!
В самом деле, зачем нам жить на свете? Погода ужасна, усы наши обвисли, газеты без новостей, черные галстухи угрожают падением и могут увлечь круглые бакенбарды в общую развалину, театры представляют одни только картины и фантазии, картины почти ничего не представляют, в словесности не знаешь куда деваться от предисловий, в гостиных от лотерейных билетов, у себя дома от безвременных гостей и исторических романов, на улице от успехов промышленности. Река целую неделю несет лед; проза круглый год несет вздор; у нас, на Руси, лучшие ее страницы засыпаны толстым слоем острых, шероховатых, засаленных местоимений сей и оный, которых, по прочтении, не смеете вы даже произнести в честной компании, которыми наперед израните себе до крови язык и руки, пока сквозь них доберетесь до изящного. Разве это жизнь?.. Лучше пойдем в Неву! Утонем все вместе, так, по крайней мере, будет конец этой скуке.
А ежели вы не хотите, я пойду один. Пойду!.. Глядите ж и удивляйтесь моей решимости. Когда меня не станет, скажите моим знакомцам, что я утонул с уныния, с отчаяния; потому что на свете и в словесности в нынешнем году было очень скучно, потому что русская изящная словесность XIX столетия не хотела говорить русским языком XIX века, что она тайно покупала у повытчиков в числе прочего казенные местоимения сей и оный, топила ими свои произведения как собственными дровами и безвкусно испещряла все свои строки, что она никак не соглашалась стряхнуть с себя пыль канцелярских форм, описывала даже любовь и ее прелести слогом думного дьяка Власа Афанасьева и заставляла меня, злополучного, думать на одном языке, на том, которым говорю я с порядочными людьми, а писать на другом, которым не говорит никто на земном шаре. Скажите им чистосердечно — зачем скрывать истину? — что однажды, в глубокую осень, в сырую погоду, когда темный и печальный воздух обыкновенно наводит на людей меланхолию, я страдал сплином и как-то пожелал сделаться сочинителем; сел писать — не забудьте прибавить, в изящной прозе — задумал первую фразу, которая в моей мысли начиналась словами «Этот дурак…» и, быв принужден написать вопреки моей совести и моему слуху, сей дурак или оный дурак, побежал к Неве и кинулся в воду. Скажите им все это — и прощайте.
Прощайте навсегда!.. Через полчаса, не далее, я безвозвратно расстанусь с этим коварным и двуличным светом и переселюсь в лучший мир, туда, где пишут теми же словами, которыми говорят. Прощайте! Иду!..

Comments

  1. I feel very much like this narrator these days, though to be sure the things I have to complain about are rather less crank-like and more realistic. But I am not drowning myself in the Hudson, at least not today.

  2. marie-lucie says:

    Insufferable, perhaps, but pronouns? the examples in the text (translated as this fool, yon fool) are not pronouns since they are used in front of nouns. But, like this and that, they might be used as pronouns (without accompanying nouns). This is usually the case with demonstratives, which is what those words are (able to function both as adjectives* and pronouns).
    As for the aforesaid fool, perhaps it includes a demonstrative in Russian, but the English translation does not.
    It seems that the writer is objecting to the (then) almost obligatory use of archaic or overly formal wording in literary contexts, instead of forms occurring in spontaneous speech, and blames this state of affairs on so-called “pronouns”.
    *Adjectives: in modern linguistic terminology such “little” grammatical words as demonstratives, articles and possessive words are called determiners.

  3. the word ” izyashnoe” “k izyashnomu” sounds like archaico- funny now, well, after two centuries of many revolutions of course, maybe not the word itself, but the attitude it expresses, one would say perhaps stremlenie i prekrasnomu, not k izyashnomu, though nowadays it’s all about valuing not even that, simple and natural, if not beauty, but more like the more uglier and perverse the better it seems like, in everything, arts or lit-re, on the contrary sei and onyi if used sparingly and k mesty would sound as if like even witty, adding some color to the conversation, but those words cant be used in any kind of “formal” writing i guess now
    such a paradox, with words usage

  4. Yes, it’s amazing how attitudes toward language have changed in the last century.

  5. @ marie-lucie: When I went to school (Germany, 70s), the words Senkovsky complains about were called demonstrative pronouns, independent of whether they were used as attributes or as placeholders. I assume that Senkovsky’s usage goes back to the same classical tradition. It’s not current linguistic terminolgy, but I wouldn’t expect that from a 19th century author.
    The equivalent to “aforesaid” in the Russian text is оный, which belongs to the same class of determiners as сей and этот.

  6. And I must say Hat’s expeditions into the realms of forgotten Russian writers really are an eye-opener. I think my experience is typical for most students of Russian literature – some chrestomathical pieces of pre-19th-century authors, some Karamzin and Krylov, and then Pushkin and Gogol seem to come totally out of the blue and to revolutionize everything. Now I can see that they were part of a wave, and the prose Senkovsky writes is so modern that it would not be out of place in a contemporaray literary magazine (the language, not the topic).

  7. marie-lucie says:

    Hans: When I went to school (Germany, 70s), the words Senkovsky complains about were called demonstrative pronouns, independent of whether they were used as attributes or as placeholders.
    When I went to school (in France about a generation earlier), those words were divided into pronoms démonstratifs and adjectifs démonstratifs, the latter as in this/yon/etc fool.
    The equivalent to “aforesaid” in the Russian text is оный, which belongs to the same class of determiners as сей and этот.
    I thought that the aforesaid was probably the translation of a single word in Russian, but since I was discussing terminology I had to go by the only examples I had, which were English translations. But I did mention the probability that the original Russian used a single word.

  8. Chinese habitually uses old-fashioned pronouns (or determiners) in ordinary prose — although not in fiction. Words like 其 ‘its’ and 此 ‘this’. I suspect that they are a cross between a throwback to the literary language and a concise translation of English-language pronouns.

  9. marie-lucie says:

    LH: Let’s go throw ourselves into the Neva!
    I am not very well acquainted with Russian, but I wonder if the Russian sentence of which this is a literal translation is normal in Russian or is itself a literal translation of a French sentence: Allons nous jeter dans la Néva! In English you can say Go jump in the lake!, not Go throw yourself into the lake!, but the French se jeter, literally ‘to throw oneself’ is the idiomatic verb in the context of suddenly immersing oneself into a body of water (whether in diving, swimming, drowning or saving a person in danger, and whether from the shore or from a height). So it seems to me that Let’s go jump into the Neva! might be a more idiomatic translation.

  10. I wonder if the Russian sentence of which this is a literal translation is normal in Russian or is itself a literal translation of a French sentence: Allons nous jeter dans la Néva!
    Very likely; Nabokov was always going on about how early-nineteenth-century Russian writers were steeped in French literature and frequently calqued French expressions. In this particular case, though, I prefer the literal translation because it implies drowning, whereas “jump in” simply sounds like a recreational activity.

  11. And I must say Hat’s expeditions into the realms of forgotten Russian writers really are an eye-opener. I think my experience is typical for most students of Russian literature – some chrestomathical pieces of pre-19th-century authors, some Karamzin and Krylov, and then Pushkin and Gogol seem to come totally out of the blue and to revolutionize everything. Now I can see that they were part of a wave, and the prose Senkovsky writes is so modern that it would not be out of place in a contemporaray literary magazine (the language, not the topic).
    Yes, exactly (and thanks for writing that—it’s nice to get the kind of response I was hoping for); the more I read, the more I realize how poisonous the Whig view of literary history is (primitive attempts leading up to the glorious present) and how much we miss by adhering to the standard curriculum. I had exactly your sense of Pushkin and Gogol, and it’s been revised in exactly that way. It’s not that they seem any less great, but they don’t spring fully armed from the forehead of Zeus. And it’s a real shame that nobody reads Veltman and Senkovsky any more; they’re far more enjoyable than much of what we subject ourselves to in the name of keeping up with literary fashion.

  12. they’re far more enjoyable than much of what we subject ourselves to in the name of keeping up with literary fashion.
    Hat, you are showing your age!

  13. ML, se jeter / броситься, some uses in Russia may be derived from idiomatic French mots (especially “to throw oneself on somebody’s neck”, броситься на шею, but maybe also “into the water / off the roof”), but a more broad meaning is just to dash in a hurry, as when chasing someone etc., or to scatter in fear.

  14. SFReader says:

    Osip Senkovsky was another fellow linguist and Orientalist. He mastered Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and Hebrew languages and wrote pioneering studies of Chinese, Mongolian, and Tibetan languages.
    He is one of the most interesting characters in Tynyanov’s historical novel “Death of Vazir-Mukhtar”. If you have the book, read the episode where he takes examinations on Arabic poetry and literature from poor students.
    It’s simply astonishing

  15. marie-lucie says:

    Dmitry: se jeter / броситься, some uses in Russia may be derived from idiomatic French mots (especially “to throw oneself on somebody’s neck”, броситься на шею
    Actually in French we don’t say se jeter sur le cou de quelqu’un but sauter au cou de quelqu’un, lit. ‘to jump to someone’s neck’ (which is quite literal in the case of a child trying to embrace an adult). But we say se jeter dans les bras de quelqu’un ‘to throw oneself into someone’s arms’.

  16. He is one of the most interesting characters in Tynyanov’s historical novel “Death of Vazir-Mukhtar”. If you have the book, read the episode where he takes examinations on Arabic poetry and literature from poor students.
    I’ve read the book (I wrote about it here), but I had totally forgotten he was a character!

  17. Actually in French we don’t say se jeter sur le cou de quelqu’un but sauter au cou de quelqu’un, lit. ‘to jump to someone’s neck’ (which is quite literal in the case of a child trying to embrace an adult). But we say se jeter dans les bras de quelqu’un ‘to throw oneself into someone’s arms’.
    Thanks, I had to rely on the mighty Multitran with its wiki-ized tranlations of phrases and idiomatic expressions … and it might be hard to separate common uses from rare uses from made-up uses there?
    So they do list se jeter au cou de * / se jeter à la tête de * there, perhaps w/o a good reason.
    se jeter dans les bras de * works almost literally in Russian because it uses объятия ~~ Fr. bras (while in English we wouldn’t say “embraces”) – but if I got it right, it could be used figuratively in French, but only literally for the actual hugs in Russian.
    And they also list supposed metaphors which never made it into Russian, like se jeter au feu / se jeter dans la gueule du loup to take stupid risks? And there is a whole spectrum of popular Russian expression seems to have no French equivalents either, like in Russian, “booze flings itself into one’s head”, which is a figurative way of saying that the alcohol made one act impulsively / foolishly. Or something might “throw itself into [my] eyes”, which is to say that it stood out or made itself readily noticeable.
    So perhaps it wasn’t calqued “se jeter dans la Néva” after all.
    Now a totally unrelated question, if I may. What is known about etymology of Hungarian sör, beer? I noticed that cognates are found in many Finno-Ugric and Turkic languages, but I couldn’t find any explanation of the word’s history…

  18. Good question! Paging Zythophile…

  19. marie-lucie says:

    Dmitry, good search!
    About se jeter au cou de * / se jeter à la tête de *: Again, I don’t use the first phrase, I would use sauter au cou de * which is always about a physical action (even if not quite so concretely accurate). About the second one, it is always figurative, about the behaviour of a girl who boldly approaches a man, makes it clear she is interested, declares her passion, etc, instead of waiting for him to take the first step (or at least encouraging him more discreetly) like a well-bred young lady. Se jeter dans la gueule du loup , lit. ‘to throw oneself into the wolf’s mouth’ is about getting into a situation which has obvious risks, such as the aforementioned girl getting into an affair or marriage with a notorious womanizer, gambler, etc.
    Something might “throw itself into [my] eyes” : in French we can say more or less metaphorically Ça saute aux yeux ‘it is obvious’ (lit. ‘it jumps to the eyes’), , or even more strongly Ça crève les yeux ‘it’s blindingly obvious’ (lit. it punctures/puts out the eyes’).

  20. SFReader says:

    — etymology of Hungarian sör, beer?
    I think this is an early borrowing from common Mongol-Turkic word “sira” (yellow).
    Mongolian has two words for beer – “pivo” (from Russian) and “shar airag” (literally “yellow kumys”)
    In Tatar language, the native word for beer is also “sira”

  21. SFReader, sari “yellow” was my starting assumption. After listening to an argument about U.S. Bud (is it beer or just yellow water), I extracted from the depth of my memory a Kazakh word сарысу, “yellow water”, which I thought was the inscription on Kazakh beer kiosks. But actually, the inscription was quite different: not сарысу but сырасы, where -сы is the possessive form suffix and сыра (syra) ~~ beer. Nothing obviously yellow there.
    BTW Studiolum checked the 1967 Hungarian Etymological Dictionary, which derives sör from Sanskrit surā ~~ liquor, although the connection path isn’t clear (and perhaps the Turkic links may have been downplayed for political reasons at the time of the publication, too)

  22. SFReader says:

    I found this quote
    “Also of considerable antiquity may be terms such as Turkic sira ‘beer’

  23. SFReader says:

    ” Also of considerable antiquity may be terms such as Turkic sira ‘beer’ from Sanskrit sura, Avestan hura ‘kumys’?,”
    from Turkic-Iranian Contact Areas: Historical and Linguistic Aspects edited by Lars Johanson, Christiane Bulut

  24. Thanks, SFReader! It sounds very intruguing, although the antiquity would have to be supported by ancient Turkic texts or by phonology, right? The same Peter Golden’s paper you cited mentions, in the footnote, that old written records aren’t known, and different researchers have a different take on the phonological evidence:
    Although neither of these terms is attested in the early texts, both are found as loanwords in Hungarian, sör, beer and tinó. The latter points to an Oghuric borrowing (see Benkő et al, 1967-1976, 3:920-921), while the former is somewhat more problematic (see Benkő et al, 1967-1976, :580), but the initial s (sh) would seem to point to Oghuric as well (it goes on to explain that Oghuric influences in Hungarian must be of great antiquity, predating the break-up of Hsiung-nu)
    Note that Benkő et al. is A Magyar nyelv történeti-etimológiai szótára, the Hungarian Historico-Etymological Dictionary which I already mentioned. So the loop kind of closes here. The classic dictionary discounts the Turkic connection, rightly or not, because of phonological evidence, and leaves the path of Sanskrit connection murky; while Golden hypothesizes that if the Oghuric link was true, then it would imply an old IE influences on Turkic.

  25. PS: Zytophile’s blog does mention the possible Hungarian-Turkic sör/sira connection, but not its hypothesized IE origin. Neither does it mention that the word is widespread in other Finno-Ugric languages (sometimes as pira/pyra)

  26. David Marjanović says:

    When I went to school (Germany, 70s), the words Senkovsky complains about were called demonstrative pronouns, independent of whether they were used as attributes or as placeholders.
    Same for me (Austria, 90s); I’ve never heard of “demonstratives” or “demonstrative adjectives”.

    Sanskrit sura, Avestan hura ‘kumys’?

    Ah, but that must be a loan into Proto-Indo-Iranian! /su/ isn’t native there. The plot thickens.

  27. David:
    In olden days a hint of RUKI
    Was looked on as something kooky,
    But now, God knows,
    Anything Goes.
    In India they think it’s pleasin’
    To say all alike their e‘s ‘n’
    Their a‘s ‘n’ o‘s.
    Anything Goes.
    So t‘s þ today,
    And p‘s gone today,
    And o‘s a today,
    And g‘s j today,
    And ə‘s i today,
    And q is π today
    (And some others like those).
    And though I’m just a steppe parparian,
    In two weeks I’ll pe Tocharian,
    And it shows.
    Anything Koes.
    Like lightning (Dyeːus forgive the simile),
    The Teutons are switching, Grimmily,
    All three rows.
    Anything Goes.
    There’s folks who act like they invented verbs,
    Using those e-augmented verbs
    In their prose.
    Anything Goes.
    So g‘s zed today,
    And y‘s dead today,
    And d‘s t today,
    And q‘s c today,
    And k‘s k today,
    And n is a today
    (Just plug up your nose).
    And someday we will have the class to risk
    Dropping that preposed asterisk,
    I suppose.
    Anything Goes.
         —Kevin Wald, “Cole Porter does Indo-European”

  28. Fantastic—to Kevin Wald *ḱlewos *ndhgwhitom!

  29. Trond Engen says:

    Another argument for the steppe origin!

  30. In spite of a Turkic root existing, beer in Turkish is bira. Wikipedia reveals why: the first brewery in Turkey was founded in just 1890. Presumably bira is borrowed from German, as everything about Turkish beer is very German-oriented.

  31. maybe the mongolic origins of sör could be not from sari-shar- yellow, even though it is called shar airag – yellow airag – fermented mare’s milk, but from different words sor – the best of best of anything, the essence of something, the direct meaning is used mostly in the fur description i guess, or from söl – the nutritious component of a plant, any grass
    i wonder whether these words sound close in the turkic languages if they dont then their sira must be are something different, i mean, means must be just yellow drink
    szótára must be from sutra-sudar, no?

  32. etymology of Hungarian sör, beer?
    I think this is an early borrowing from common Mongol-Turkic word “sira” (yellow).
    Mongolian has two words for beer – “pivo” (from Russian) and “shar airag” (literally “yellow kumys”)

    The trouble with THAT idea is that early ale/beer was as likely or more likely to be mid-to-dark brown as yellow: regular, reliable production of pale malt to make “yellow” beer from had to wait for the invention of coke in England in the 17th century and never spread in Europe until the invention of Pilsner lager in Bohemia in 1842: and even then it took 50 or more years for “yellow” beer to drive out the older, darker beers once popular across central and eatern Europe. (The Russians loved porter and stout: hence “Imperial Russian Stout”.) While sun-dried malt will be pale, producing sun-dried malt in Northern climes is unreliable, and therefore it would have been mostly dried over wood or straw fires, and tending towards the brown, rather than the pale. I would be surprised to learn that the term “shar airag” is any older than the arrival in Mongolia of pale lager, which ain’t going to be earlier than the late 19th century at best. Even in Bavaria, the big lager brewers weren’t producing PALE lagers until the last decades of the 19th century, sticking to the old-style “dunkel” (dark) lagers. So deriving “sör” from a word meaning “yellow” is historically extremely unlikely.

  33. Etienne says:

    Vasha: Because of its final vowel Turkish “bira” strikes me as a likely Italianism, which may have entered Turkish via some neighboring language (Modern Greek, Bulgarian and Albanian all have a /bira/-like form).
    John Cowan: Wow. If I ever get the chance to teach Indo-European linguistics again, THAT is going to be the official class song. Thank you.

  34. SFReader says:

    Found a possible etymology in Clauson’s Etymological dictionary of Pre-Thirteenth-Century Turkish.
    So:r – to suck (also a Mongolian word with same meaning – sorokh) and related word sorma (wine, beer) – “literally something to be sucked in”

  35. sor-sorokh, sorlokh is related to sor the essence as in a way of meaning to suck out the best out of something
    there is a word sharz – distilled alcohol, light wine, liquor, though dars is the more commonly used word for wine, so maybe that could be the connection too, not yellow shar

  36. marie-lucie says:

    Etienne: If I ever get the chance to teach Indo-European linguistics again, THAT is going to be the official class song
    I second it! Thank you, JC!

  37. Oh hell, this page is long enough, but let’s have a little more Kevin Wald. But I warn you, if you’re so foolish as not to click on that link, you’re missing “Egil at the Bat”, and “For Ant of a Nail” starring Xenwa, Warrior Wprincess, and “Fraught” (or, just what is the present tense form, anyway?), and a lot of other Really Good Stuff. But here’s “Bartholomae, Grassmann, and Grimm”, which is meant to help you remember just where the h goes in Bhudda, uh, Buddha:
    The cowpokes who roamed the Urheimat
    And worshipped a god called Dyeus Pəter
    Used plenty of words (and not mime, ought
    To mention) which spread just like butter.
    A bunch of these seem to include a
    Root *bheudh-; we believe this because
    We have words like “bid”, “beadle” and “Buddha”,
    And three very interesting laws!

    Buddha, tell us!
    Which of your stops should be heh-less?
    We needn’t decide this by whim —
    We’ve Bartholomae, Grassman, and Grimm!

    Our first law was found by a brother
    (I can’t put a name to the fella —
    I know it was one or the other
    Of the guys who wrote down “Cinderella”).
    It states (inter al.) that Germanic
    Voiced stops come from aspirates; the
    Old English verb beodan (don’t panic,
    That’s “bid”) implies *bheudh- in IE!

    Buddha, tell us!
    Which of your stops should be heh-less?
    Now *bheudh- (“make aware”) is less dim,
    With Bartholomae, Grassman, and Grimm!

    Next Grassmann: The first of a pair of
    Two hehs, Greek or Sanskrit, deep-sixes.
    So trichos (from *thrikh-), meaning “hair, of”,
    Does not have a theta like thrix‘s.
    Apply this to *bheudh-; if it’s normal,
    And acts as a Sanskrit root should,
    The zero-grade (e-dropping) form’ll
    Be incontrovertibly *budh-!

    Buddha, tell us!
    Which of your stops should be heh-less?
    The root here receives just a trim,
    By Bartholomae, Grassman, and Grimm!

    Bartholomae then we employ — see,
    In ta-participial *budh-ta
    The t, too, gets breathy and voicy.
    (It can’t stay t — ‘twouldn’t be good t’.)
    And that is the story on Buddha,
    ‘The one who becometh aware’.
    (Though thinking a bit, I conclude a
    Small fraction, at most, of you care.)

    Buddha, tell us!
    How could we forget which one’s heh-less?
    Our cups have been filled to the brim
    By Bartholomae, Grassman
    (It sure was a gas, man),
    Bartholomae, Grassman and Grimm!

  38. Aw, I can’t resist a little bit more after all.

    Dunn, a broc or assa‘s hue;
    Staer, what dry and ambeht tell!
    Rice, carr-strewn torr and cumb;
    Clucge, cross-decked ancor‘s bell!

    Bratt, a cloak not cine-thin;
    Luh, a funta‘s overrun!
    Bannoc, cake kept in a binn;
    And with gafeluc we’re done, done, done, done….

    And that is how you remember all the OE words of Celtic origin.

  39. David Marjanović says:

    Fantastic—to Kevin Wald *ḱlewos *ndhgwhitom!

    Thirded. 😮
    But are you sure about the gender agreement?

    But I warn you, if you’re so foolish as not to click on that link

    It leads straight back to this page, though.

    Xenwa, Warrior Wprincess

    Oh, I’ve read that one. It’s awesome.
    For the Buddha, see also “Awake!” in Serbocroatian – Probudite se.
    Also, there’s a wall in Pompeii that has Pilipphus written on it.

  40. But I warn you, if you’re so foolish as not to click on that link, you’re missing “Egil at the Bat”, and “For Ant of a Nail” starring Xenwa, Warrior Wprincess, and “Fraught” (or, just what is the present tense form, anyway?), and a lot of other Really Good Stuff.
    On the other hand, if you’re so foolish as to click on it, you get redirected here. And I can’t fix it, because you neglected to put a URL between your quotes.
    But are you sure about the gender agreement?
    Are you remembering that *ḱlewos is a neuter s-stem (ḱlewos, gen. ḱlewesos)?

  41. Oopsie-doopsie: Kevin Wald.

  42. David Marjanović says:

    Are you remembering

    Nope. I never knew it. 🙂 The only reflex I know, other than the -kles in Greek men’s names, is slava
    I had 6 years of Latin in school, but no Greek anymore.

  43. marie-lucie says:

    I had nine years of Latin. I could have taken Greek two years after starting Latin, but we had to choose between Greek and German (English had started at the same time as Latin). My mother went to see my Latin teacher to ask for his advice, and he said something like: “Your daughter is doing very well in Latin because she has a very logical mind, but for Greek you need imagination, and she has none”. I preferred to study a modern language anyway (though I would gladly have done both Greek and German), but while the Greek teacher had a very good reputation, the German teacher, an Alsatian, was terrible (he had no idea what French children found difficult in German). So I learned no Greek, very little German, and I spent the next several decades thinking I had no imagination whatsoever.

  44. David Marjanović says:

    but for Greek you need imagination, and she has none

    Huh. You need lots and lots of imagination to figure out any long Latin sentence. Sure, you need logic to test the hypotheses of what could be the subject and which adjective could go with which noun 3 lines earlier or later, but you need lots of imagination to create enough hypotheses in the first place! And you need plenty of imagination to choose the best-fitting of several meanings for many of the words!
    Greek has more irregularities, I hear, but… *headshake*
    And actually, you need plenty of imagination to figure out long sentences in German, too. They don’t get as scrambled as in Latin, of course, but that’s partially compensated by the fact that each paradigm has so few different endings for so many possibilities.

    and I spent the next several decades thinking I had no imagination whatsoever.

    *facepalm*
    That’s horrible.

  45. Re Kevin Wald, and appealing to the many Russophiles of the Hattery:
    Shootin’ with Rasputin
    An intimate friend of the Czar was I
    A personal friend of the great Nikolai
    We practically slept in the same double bed
    It was I at the foot and he at the head
    But all that seems distant and all that seems far
    From those glorious days
    at the palace of the Czar
    when
    (chorus)
    I went Shootin’ with Rasputin
    Ate farina with Czarina
    Blintzes with the princes and the Czar
    hey, hey, hey
    We were sharing tea and herring
    Dipped banana in smetana
    Borscht and vorscht around the samovar – hey!
    A friend of the Czar all his gracious life
    But friendlier still was I with his young wife
    We practically slept in the same double bed
    Till the Czar kicked me out
    And slept there instead
    But all that seems distant and all that seems far
    From those glorious days
    at the palace of the Czar
    when
    (chorus)
    I went Shootin’ with Rasputin
    Ate farina with Czarina
    Blintzes with the princes and the Czar
    hey, hey, hey
    We were sharing tea and herring
    Dipped banana in smetana
    Borscht and vorscht around the samovar – hey!
    Hear it here.

  46. No imagination indeed! He should have been taken behind the barn and shot. The disciplined imagination is the very essence, the sine qua non, of both scientist and artist.

  47. What was the name of that Georgia schoolteacher who used to contribute brief humorous essays to All Things Considered or some other NPR show?
    In one of those pieces she recalled a childhood encounter with a teacher who had ham-handed ideas about encouraging kids to use their imaginations.

  48. “Vorscht”?

  49. No, it wasn’t Vorscht. It was a sort of folksy American name.

  50. No, it wasn’t Vorscht.
    Heh. No, that was a response to “Borscht and vorscht around the samovar – hey!” I have no idea what “vorscht” is supposed to be.

  51. It’s a Useful Word that rhymes with “borscht”. Since there are no legitimate English words that do, why not use it?

  52. Because if you’re going to make shit up, it all collapses into a cloud of fairy dust. The whole joy of “In olden days a hint of RUKI” is that it’s all true; if he’d made up RUKI to rhyme with “kooky,” it would have been pointless.

  53. J.W. Brewer says:

    Hey, I went to college w/ Kevin Wald’s brother. Small world etc.

  54. Hat: I see, you were assuming that “Shootin’ with Rasputin” was Kevin Wald’s. It’s not, nor does it have anything to do with linguistics. Rather, it’s about Russianism, or “Russian soul”-ism, or whatever you want to call it, as you can clearly see if you listen to the recording.

  55. Bailey White

  56. Need not to understand [that] which might be convenient to get along with. Socialize who will power one to prize personally increase. [Eh?] Have a passion for [M]ay busy headache for that lifestyles along with the development of whatever [I] really like. It could be that Immortal would love mankind in order to [verb?] a couple of misguided people today in advance of when convention the right choice, make certain that if we subsequently satisfy the individual, heading to learn how to happen to be gracious. Don’t ever lour, no matter if you are usually heartbreaking, if you do not [k]no[w] who seems to be becoming crazy about all of your happy.

    I shall never lour.

  57. David Marjanović says:

    I have no idea what “vorscht” is supposed to be.

    I guess Wurst.

  58. Alexei K. says:

    What a rich thread! “[F]or Greek you need imagination, and she has none,” said Marie-Lucie’s schoolteacher. He was wrong on both counts. Russia’s greatest 20th-century Grecian, when asked to comment on matters other than language, wrote remarks like: “The hoopoe: a kind of a bird,” or, on Alexander the Great’s crossing snowy mountains: “It seems odd to us because we customarily think of India as a hot country; but in the mountains, I trust, snow happens even in India.”

  59. Alexei K. says:

    Vorscht can stand for вошь (louse) if the “r” is dropped. The “t” would still be superfluous but so it the “t” in borscht.

  60. The final -t is from Yiddish, the proximate source of the word in English. I’d expect it in Bulgarian too, but I have not been able to find out if Bulgarians eat beet soup, and if so, how.

  61. Alexei K. says:

    “The final -t is from Yiddish, the proximate source of the word in English. I’d expect it in Bulgarian too, but I have not been able to find out if Bulgarians eat beet soup, and if so, how.” – John Cowan.
    щ pronounced as шт: not only in Bulgarian but in some Russian dialects apparently. I’ve seen “щи” spelled as “шти” to reflect this, but not борщ as боршт. Some Russians’ щ is more like шч or сч. My own щ is perfectly homogenous.

  62. Alexei: шч is certainly the traditional pronunciation in Russian, and it is still the pronunciation in Ukrainian and (unless things have changed) in Petersburg Russian. As of when I began to learn Russian in 1976, it was also the pronunciation taught to anglophones.

  63. marie-lucie says:

    When I took a Russian course along with anglophone students around 1967, we were taught шч .

  64. Alexei K. says:

    Yes, шч seems to be either an old-fashioned educated or more specifically old St. Pete pronunciation – I recall Chukovsky reading his horrible children’s tales in a trembling old man’s voice with those menacing шчs.

  65. When I write шч I of course mean шчь.

  66. Search of Bulgarian pages turns up tons of uses of both Боршът and Борш.
    Jewish Kosher Borscht is only distantly related to Ukrainian dish because it can’t be made with meat stock (because it must contain sour cream).
    Of course even more distant cousins abound too, like ボルシチ (Japanese tend to be surprised that foreigners make this popular soup with strange roots called beets, which are not used at all in the Chinese and Japanese recipees)

  67. “Borshət”? Wow.

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