TY AND VY, THEN AND NOW.

Anatoly makes a very interesting point about change in Russian usage since the nineteenth century (Russian below the cut):

On of the things that strikes me in Anna Karenina (which I’m rereading) is how ty [intimate ‘you’] and vy [polite ‘you’] work in comparison to now. Naturally, there’s a different sense of distance, and naturally, there’s intimacy[1], but what sticks in my memory is something else—that you can return from ty to vy, as Dolly and Oblonsky do when they quarrel. It’s as if the passage from vy to ty is like a peg pressed on a stretched-out piece of rubber; all you have to do is let go of it, and immediately you return to the realm of vy. But in the Russian that is native to me, that doesn’t happen; once you pass over to the intimate ty with someone, you never return, whatever happens: quarrel, divorce, burning hatred, it doesn’t matter.
[1]”Forgive my having come, but I could not pass the day without seeing you [using vy forms],” he continued in French, as he always did, avoiding the vy that was impossibly cold between them and the ty that was dangerous in Russian.

This is the kind of insight you can only get from a native speaker (although I hasten to add that some of his commenters disagree that you can’t go back to vy again).

Одна из вещей, которые поражают в “Анне Карениной” (перечитываю) – то, как работают ты и вы по сравнению с сейчас. Понятно, есть другое ощущение дистанции, и понятно, есть интимность [1]; но мне особенно запоминается другое – то, что от “ты” можно вернуться к “вы”, как Долли с Облонским во время ссоры. Словно переход от “вы” к “ты” – как колышек на натянутой резинке: стоит выпустить его из рук, и тут же вернется в область “вы”. А в том русском языке, который мне родной, так не бывает: перейдя с кем-то на интимное ты, уже на вы никогда не вернешься, что бы там ни случилось, ссора, развод, жгучая ненависть, неважно.
[1] “Простите меня, что я приехал, но я не мог провести дня, не видав вас, – продолжал он по-французски, как он всегда говорил, избегая невозможно-холодного между ними вы и опасного ты по-русски”.

Comments

  1. A sharp-eyed observation indeed. It has reminded me that one can observe the same oscillation in the published correspondence of Hungarian writers between late 19th and mid-20th century: especially in the letters written in vy to wives or lovers where, in the most intimate paragraphs, they change to ty, and then back to vy. It seems as if the two forms of addressing had been not the markers of different relationships, but also of different registers within one and the same relationship.

  2. Paul Clapham says:

    You can hear the same sort of thing in Tchaikovsky’s opera Eugene Onegin. In the first act you hear Lensky sing “я люблю вас” to Olga (his fiancee) at first, followed soon by “я люблю тебя”. And then in the last act, when Onegin returns and meets Tatyana, who is married to somebody else now, she sings “я люблю вас”.

  3. We see the same stretched-rubber effect in The Importance of Being Earnest, where Gwendolen and Cecily move almost instantly to first-name terms (faster than anyone but a modern American would find plausible, but the play is a farce). But when they discover (wrongly) that they are engaged to the same man, it’s instantly “Miss Cardew” and “Miss Fairfax”.
    English hasn’t officially had T/V forms for centuries, but in the 19th century and later it certainly had T/V habits of thought.

  4. It’s the same in German. One of the worst things that can happen is to acquiesce in an unwanted “du” with someone whom you shortly afterwards discover to be an absolute jerk.
    Or a long-term acquaintance who goes off the rails and starts representing the opposite of what you stand for – it happens to pairs of politicians sometimes. But you can’t revert from du to Sie. Never.

  5. In Hungary it was Géza Ottlik, master and model of generations of young writers who, when acknowledging the talent of a young author (for example of Péter Esterházy who has also included this motif in a novel), invited him to mutually revert from formal ty (formerly used among them as colleagues) to the more respectful vy.

  6. One of the worst things that can happen
    It must be wonderful to live somewhere where the worst things that can happen are of your own creating and are so easily remedied. May I suggest you all dispense with ‘Sie’ altogether (and don’t say it’s impossible, they did the equivalent in Skandinavia without any problem)?

  7. they did the equivalent in Skandinavia without any problem
    In Croatia they did the same. But the Croatians of Hungary did not. When my local Croatian friend at the age of sixteen visited her Zagreb relatives, the waiter in the restaurant after a certain time asked them whether their young niece had been educated in a convent.

  8. I didn’t know the Croatians had done it too. It must be very difficult to set out to make such a change.
    BenHemmens, I’m only joking (kind of). I certainly didn’t mean to be rude.

  9. Actually, it’s easy for some people. It’s not like it’s a completely artificial and arbitrary change, it’s a decision to quit making a certain kind of tricky distinction.
    For those for whom the distinction had become second nature, it would be hard, but for the coming generation, not.

  10. michael farris says:

    First, if we’re talking about non-Russian languages, more general terms are T-form and V-form.
    “invited him to mutually revert from formal ty (formerly used among them as colleagues) to the more respectful vy.”
    maga? oen?
    Hungarian’s more difficult since there is a three way distinction in Hungarian (as I learned them):
    singular (all of which have plural forms)
    te – roughly* a T form
    maga – formal to someone of the same or lesser rank
    oen – (oe = o-umlaut) respectful
    *according to a colleague, Hungarian te doesn’t precisely correspond to other language T forms in that it has connotations of shared context and/or community rather than intimacy or fondness. I’m told co-workers use te forms (where they would use V forms in other languages) just because they work in the same place, not out of any sense of comradeship.
    The Polish V forms are very awkward and now, people are anxious to get past them into more familiar address. At present, I gather from younger colleagues that the 20’s are an anxious age in that they often have trouble deciding which to use. They’re too old to automatically use familiar forms with people the same age but the formal forms are … awkward and kind of stilted and can make them sound stuffy and/or presumptious (so they often use various workarounds to avoid the issue, expressing things in impersonal forms).

  11. We had a long thread on Hungarian second-person pronouns a year ago… and I see you left the first comment!

  12. michael farris says:

    What? I don’t get to repeat myself ad nauseum? What kind of comment policy is that?
    Didn’t I ever tell you about the time ….

  13. marie-lucie says:

    I find it interesting that in the Anna Karenina situation mentioned above, the characters speak French in order to avoid choosing between the two Russian pronouns, but if they speak French they have to choose one of the corresponding French pronouns, and it is not said which pronoun they use. Perhaps the choice of any French pronoun will be less emotionally charged just because it is not part of their own language.
    Switching between pronouns in the same conversation is not done in Modern French, but in earlier centuries it was possible. In the 18th century, among members of the upper class vous was neutral, and switching to tu indicated a strong emotion on the part of the speaker (eg love, anger). In nineteenth century novels you find lovers using tu to each other, but if they quarrel or break up they pointedly use vous to signify the end of their intimacy. Nowadays, once you settle on tu with someone, you never revert to vous.

  14. Re-reading the thread quoted by Language, the comment of michael farris
    The ‘familiar’ forms te and ti don’t necessarily correspond with familiar pronouns in Indo-European. The Hungarian forms primarily denote shared qualities like “colleagues in the same field of work” and not necessarily special emotional ties.
    gave me a new insight on why we use with the same Russian colleagues T-form when speaking in Hungarian and V-form when in Russian.
    Concerning Ottlik’s invitation, he simply offered “magázás” which includes any of the various V-forms, the shades of it being always decided by the actual situation.

  15. marie-lucie says:

    When I was about 18 years old and still living in France I met a Hungarian girl whose family had emigrated to the US. That girl was now in France as a US exchange student. She described herself and her family as “reactionary” and told me that, for instance, her mother was very attentive to social distinctions: if she (the mother) met a woman of her own social class, they would almost immediately use “tu” to each other, but if a new female acquaintance was even slightly below her she would continue to use “vous” (we were speaking in French, and the girl did not use the Hungarian words or elaborate on the other possibilities in Hungarian).

  16. David Marjanović says:

    But you can’t revert from du to Sie. Never.

    Austrian politicians do it occasionally (to express sudden, profound distance, such as when a party splits). I find it ridiculous, though. Quarrelling is easier with T forms, and insulting even more so.
    Going back and forth within one conversation is entirely unheard of.

    At present, I gather from younger colleagues that the 20’s are an anxious age in that they often have trouble deciding which to use. They’re too old to automatically use familiar forms with people the same age but the formal forms are … awkward and kind of stilted and can make them sound stuffy and/or presumptious (so they often use various workarounds to avoid the issue, expressing things in impersonal forms).

    In Austria, we found a way past that: since 1968, university students are automatically per du. Probably that just postpones the issue, but that’s better than nothing!
    (Before 1968, it was Herr Kollege/Frau Kollegin + Sie.)

    The Polish V forms are very awkward

    Third person singular + Mr/Ms. Instead of the imperative, the subjunctive is used.

  17. David Marjanović says:

    I find it interesting that in the Anna Karenina situation mentioned above, the characters speak French in order to avoid choosing between the two Russian pronouns, but if they speak French they have to choose one of the corresponding French pronouns, and it is not said which pronoun they use.

    Almost certainly vous, which is not only a literal translation in being the 2nd person plural pronoun, but was, as you say, almost neutral at that time in that social class.

  18. As long as we’re discussing comparative T an V forms:
    In Hoffmanthal’s libretto to the Rosenkavalier, the Marschallin doesn’t use Du or Sie to her cousin/playtoy. She addresses him in the third person singular (“Taverl, umarm’ Er nicht zu viel.”).
    Does anybody know if that was an actual 18th century mode of speech or, like the betrothal rose itself, an “ancient Viennese custom invented by Hugo von Hoffmansthal”?

  19. when we address people with whom are not very familiar and of the close age we say ööröö, which means yourself and it’s similar to Japanese anata, in all other cases it’s better to use ta – vu, not chi – tu, chi is for friends and kids
    and in ideal between spouses it should be used ta, but nowadays people use mostly chi, or most people just call their spouses övgöön, xögshöön (oldman, regardless who the other half is she or he, and even if they are still young people) and avoid using pronouns
    and it’s pretty acceptable to talk to a person referring to the person in the third person
    these ty, vy transliteration i find not very convenient i keep reading it like tai, vai

  20. transliterations, them

  21. marie-lucie says:

    these ty, vy transliteration i find not very convenient i keep reading it like tai, vai
    They have become traditional for transliterating Russian into the Latin alphabet, because there is no other suitable letter for Cyrillic Ы.

  22. u is perfect for that purpose, no? though have to right u in ulitsa like u too
    or ti and vi would look okay for me

  23. marie-lucie says:

    ty/tu/ti ?>
    read, using
    y for Ы was not invented by the people writing on this blog, and it is used not just by English speakers but for transliterating into other languages too. If you see y used for a Russian word, you can go back to Ы and know what the word is. The sound also exists in other languages where it is also written y in Latin characters. Using u or i for this sound would be confusing as those letters already represent other vowels which exist in many, many languages.

  24. I cracked up reading in one of the comments to Anatoly’s post how a Russian speaker in Israel used to explain to his Hebrew speaking friends that vy is a polite form of addressing others – until he overheard two pensioners quarelling outside his apartment. One of them said: “идите вы на хуй” – ‘fuck off’ using the vy form (excuse my expletives).
    Anatoly’s observation is correct in that the use of ty and vy has changed, but I agree more with his commenters – there are still numerous situations where you can switch from one to another.
    There is also a subtle use of vy in modern Russian when it is used in conjunction with first name only (Саша, принесите мне это). Normally, vy goes with full name+patronymic. I think first name plus vy format has taken the place of French vous of the 19th century French speaking gentry, because there is still a need, described in Tolstoy’s passage, to have a way of addressing people which avoids both, too familiar ty and too distant vy. The comment by Studiolum about Russians in Hungary, I think, illustrates the same thing.
    In Welsh, I often noticed, people switch from chi to ti and back easily.

  25. In German, there used to be a four way scale 2nd sg (talking “down”) – 3rd sg – 2nd pl – 3rd pl (talking “up”), predicated on the status difference between speakers. Given its frequency in literature, it must have been alive and well in the 18th century.

  26. michael farris says:

    “‘The Polish V forms are very awkward’
    Third person singular + Mr/Ms. Instead of the imperative, the subjunctive is used.”
    Yes, but what makes it awkward is that unlike other languages where V forms are grammatically third person (Spanish, Italian, Hungarian etc) the V forms in Polish cannot normally be dropped as subject or object (possessives can be though this happens less than with second person possessives).

  27. michael farris says:

    At the risk of repeating myself (yet again), I’ve been told that in German insulting someone with V forms has more bite than T forms.
    I think the logic is that you really are showing the person all the respect they deserve when you call them a stupid donkey or hippopotamus.

  28. Gasssalasca says:

    As a native speaker of Serbian, I’m pretty sure I switched from ti back to vi with at least one person.
    It was a bit awkward, and not entirely intentional on my part. It wasn’t that I liked the person any less, it was just that I wasn’t very close to him (an older relative of mine), and was used to seeing him once every couple of years. At one point there was a moment of traditional male bonding (pinball was involved) and for those couple of days I used ti. Then I had to fly back home, and afterwards didn’t get the chance to see him for some time. When I did, I somehow automatically reverted to my old vi ways.

  29. Switching between pronouns …in Modern French, …in the 18th century, among members of the upper class vous was neutral, and switching to tu indicated a strong emotion on the part of the speaker.
    Much better, the revolution threw out all that was best in France.

  30. I’ve been told that in German insulting someone with V forms has more bite than T forms. I think the logic is that you really are showing the person all the respect they deserve when you call them a stupid donkey or hippopotamus.
    In everyday life in Germany, coarsely insulting someone while addressing him as Sie is just not done, because it makes the insulter sound ridiculous. People occasionally make little jokes about the silliness of expressions such as Sie Schwein!
    David pointed out above, with regard to *reverting* from du to Sie:
    Austrian politicians do it occasionally (to express sudden, profound distance, such as when a party splits). I find it ridiculous, though. Quarrelling is easier with T forms, and insulting even more so.
    From television broadcasts of debates in the Bundestag, since the 70s, I can’t remember any reverting among German politicians, for the simple reason that they always use Sie, no matter how rude what they actually say is. (They may order these things differently in Bavaria, I suspect, as in Austria).
    The literally past masters of Bundestag insult using Sie were Herbert Wehner (SPD) and Franz-Josef Strauß (CSU, Bavaria !) in the 70s. The insults were not coarse in the sense of containing vulgar terms like Schweinehund. They were witty, politically to the point and quite vicious. I was an eager student of their speeches when learning German. They helped me achieve a certain – how shall I call it – flexibility of expression.

  31. What? I don’t get to repeat myself ad nauseam? What kind of comment policy is that?
    Don’t worry about that, michael. I’m glad to have someone to share the burden with me!

  32. Franz-Josef Strauß (CSU, … witty, politically to the point and quite vicious.
    That’s interesting, something that unfortunately never found its way out of Germany.

  33. marie-lucie says:

    a Russian speaker in Israel used to explain to his Hebrew speaking friends that vy is a polite form of addressing others – until he overheard two pensioners quarelling outside his apartment. One of them said: “идите вы на хуй” – ‘fuck off’ using the vy form (excuse my expletives).
    This is the problem with explaining the use of V as having to do with “politeness”, rather than “social distance” (this does not mean a huge distance, just “non-intimacy”). In this case, the two pensioners were used to addressing each other with V, and there was no reason to change this marker of their non-intimate relationship when they came to insulting each other. Changing from V to T implies a change in the type of relationship.

  34. The collisions between Strauß and Wehner were the prequel to Alien vs. Predator. Wehner was every bit as vitriolic as Strauß – and couldn’t be dismissed out-of-hand (in northern Germany) as a Bavarian ruffian. Both of them were master rhetoricians, highly educated and stroppy as all-get-out.
    The English WiPe article on Strauß is superficial, tendentious and scandal-oriented. The main section starts like this:

    Born in Munich, as the second child of a butcher, Strauss studied German letters, history and economics at the University of Munich from 1935 to 1939. On 1 Nov 1937 he became a member of the NSDStB (Nationalsozialistischer Deutscher Studentenbund, National Socialist German Students’ League).

    But the German WiPe says

    eine aktive Mitgliedschaft im Nationalsozialistischen Deutschen Studentenbund (NSDStB) ist hingegen nicht nachweisbar

    However, it has never been proven that he was an active member of the NSDStB

    Also, hidden behind “studied German letters” is the fact that he studied classical philology for the higher teaching profession, i.e. Latin and Greek for Gymnasien and Berufsschulen (I’m not sure if this last bit is correct, about Gymnasien and Berufsschulen). He completed his degree (zweites Staatsexamen) in 1941, after an interruption due to military service.

  35. I cracked up reading in one of the comments to Anatoly’s post how a Russian speaker in Israel used to explain to his Hebrew speaking friends that vy is a polite form of addressing others – until he overheard two pensioners quarelling outside his apartment. One of them said: “идите вы на хуй”
    That’s wonderful; I’ll have to remember it for occasions when I’m trying to explain the difference (as marie-lucie puts it) between “politeness” and “social distance.”

  36. The English WiPe article on Strauß is superficial, tendentious and scandal-oriented.
    I added “alleged but not proven” to the NSDStB statement, with the reference used in the German version, and I would urge you to edit the parts you think are misleading if you have references to hand.

  37. The German WiPe mentions that Strauß once said the journalist Bernt Engelmann was an example of a “rat” and a “horse-fly” (Schmeißfliege, musca infectoria, blowfly or carrion fly), either in the Bundestag or the Bavarian Landtag (the article doesn’t make this clear). I bet it was the Bavarian Landtag, but I don’t know for sure. There was enough of that kind of thing from Strauß for decades, the details fade into a rosy mist. That’s just the vulgar stuff, the speeches and the political cunning were what are worth remembering.

  38. Hat, all I can be sure of is the discrepancy between the English and German articles as to whether Strauß was an active member of the NSDStB. It was not to this discrepancy that I was referring when I called the English article superficial, tendentious and scandal-oriented.
    It could well be that membership has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt, but that someone in the German article has decided to fudge the issue. I am not a historian of this era, nor of any era. I would therefore have been more cautious than you: I might have added “alleged, but according to [source] this has not been proven”.

  39. Forget the “horse-fly” translation above for Schmeißfliege. I wrote that first, then forgot it after checking to find the right kind of fly that was mean, namely “carrion fly” or “blowfly”.

  40. I firmly agree with Anatoly’s commenters and Sashura that sometimes people float between ты and вы… I don’t think it’s unusual, particularly if you see the same person in formal and informal contexts or if you haven’t agreed on which form to use.
    Sashura mentions a phenomenon that surprised me far more when I lived in Russia: the use of the formal вы with diminutive forms of names rather than name + patronymic.
    Another variation: I knew someone who used вы with someone older and called her Лиличка Ивановна (Lilichka Ivanovna), using a diminutive of her first name plus her patronymic. It sounded odd to me the first time but I came to love hearing it!

  41. The vous form between French spouses of a certain class and generation allegedly lasted well into the 20th century, going by stories that Gen. de Gaulle always addresed his wife Yvonne with “vous”.
    Then again it was said that when Yvonne spilled some afternoon tea and exclaimed “Oh, my God!”, de Gaulle replied: “Dans l’intimite, Yvonne, vous pouvez m’appeler Charles.” (“In privacy, Yvonne, you may call me Charles”).

  42. I mentioned here once how Beauvoir, in La Cérémonie des adieux, relates conversations between herself and Sartre, always se vouvoyant. Beauvoir is here, at the very least, using a literary convention. It may also reproduce the actual tone of conversation between them for their entire life.
    But who knows, and who cares? One knows of the possibilities in France, now and over time, and it suffices to marvel at this particular combination of possibilities. Further prying is superfluous and impudent. Note that I do not say “possibilities in French”, which would have curtailed the issue.

  43. According to this website http://www.fjs.de/wortundbild/zitate_einzelthemen2.html Strauß called journalists like Bernt Engelmann “Ratten und Schmeißfliegen” during a meeting of his party, the CSU, on 29 July 1978 in Kronach.

  44. Cool find, bruessel, thanks! As the quote shows, Strauß didn’t bother to mention Engelmann by name. At the time, one knew whom he was referring to – Engelmann and others who were digging up dirt on Strauß, Filbinger et al. and using books and articles to fling it in their faces. Turn and turn about is fair play.

  45. Is it credible that de Gaulle drank tea in the afternoon? I’m not saying it isn’t.

  46. David Marjanović says:

    They have become traditional for transliterating Russian into the Latin alphabet, because there is no other suitable letter for Cyrillic Ы.

    That’s one reason. Another is that Polish uses y for practically the same thing, and Czech and Slovak use it for its descendant (pronounced [i], but not causing palatalization of the preceding consonant).

    u is perfect for that purpose, no?

    No, because that’s already needed for something else, which, to me, doesn’t even sound similar.
    (Interestingly, however, ы is the descendant of the Pre-Proto-Slavic /uː/; it results from a general process of loss of vowel length. But I digress.)

    In German, there used to be a four way scale 2nd sg (talking “down”) – 3rd sg – 2nd pl – 3rd pl (talking “up”), predicated on the status difference between speakers.

    Luther switched from 2nd sg to 2nd pl for addressing his son when his son got a university degree.

    From television broadcasts of debates in the Bundestag, since the 70s, I can’t remember any reverting among German politicians, for the simple reason that they always use Sie, no matter how rude what they actually say is.

    The same holds for most Austrian parliament members, but some become friends during the decades they spend in there…
    The most recent case of reversion I remember (several years ago) involved the split of the xenophobic party, where a certain intimacy appears to have been normal.

  47. Sashura mentions a phenomenon that surprised me far more when I lived in Russia: the use of the formal вы with diminutive forms of names rather than name + patronymic.
    I just ran across the reverse in the Bely novel I’m reading, Serebryany golub’ [The silver dove]; the joiner Kudeyarov is addressing the young aristocrat (and protagonist) Daryalsky, who is working for him and sleeping with his wife:
    –Дай, барин, фатерпас…
    (Give [ty imperative] me, sir, the water-level…)

  48. What a mean trick, Hat! Usually I don’t try to translate your Russian bits, but this time I tried 6 web translators with фатерпас, because I wanted to find out if it might be related to some German word like *Waterpaß. Nix.
    Then I just googled it. Surprise, surprise: in the entire web it appears only in three places, which are all quoting from Serebryany golub’. Two showed Daryalsky’s reply: Вот ватерпас.

  49. There is indeed a older form Wasserpasz for water-level, sez Grimm.

  50. That would be today. I had forgotten that the Grimms were not on speaking terms with “ß”. I would like to know more about this fact, but don’t know where to begin looking.

  51. I.e.: that would be Wasserpaß today.

  52. Our corporate policy apparently holds that we are all Skandinavian-style puppy-basket T-formers at work. Which is fine by me, except that one(1) of the dinner ladies apparently didn’t get the memo, and pleases and thank-yous us with mumbled V’s. So I have taken to reciprocating in V’s, since to insist on T’ing would presumably come off as condescending.
    Meanwhile, advertisers (in print and on TV) increasingly often T me, which is by no means welcome. My preferred solution would be that actual human people should go puppy-basket, while advertisers and government officials should be required to stick with V’ing.

  53. Actually, that’s pretty much what happens here, Des.

  54. Except that in English we don’t have T and V, but only TV.

  55. What a mean trick, Hat!
    I’m sorry, I should have mentioned that, like most of the characters in the novel, the joiner speaks in dialect mixed with individual usages like that, and the official word is ватерпас [vaterpás] (borrowed, according to Vasmer, in the time of Peter the Great from Dutch waterpas; another popular variant is вертипас [vertipás]). But now you’ve had a small taste of what it’s like for me trying to read this brilliant but very difficult novel!

  56. Hat, I was just kidding of course.
    When I see Russian, which I can read phonetically more or less, I muse longingly over the Hungarian “stress always on the first syllable”. Just so’s I can have an extra detail in my head: I’m guessing that golub’ is stressed on the go. Is that right?
    By the way, behind the claim to “read phonetically” is an experience a few years ago that knocked me right on my complacent ass. At a project there was a guy of Ukrainian extraction from whom I learned that the Russian “о” is not always (seldom, depending on position?) pronounced like English “o”, but more like a velar (?) “ah” (up at the back of, not down in the throat). I have convinced myself since that this is the case, in particular listening to Boris Groys’ Russian accent when he speaks German.
    That stupid Russian teacher Ms. Kiska at my El Paso high school, poisoning my phones at such an early age!
    Russian vowels are some of the most dramatic aural phenomena (auromena ??) I have ever encountered. Outrageously extravagant, like an Austrian dessert confection. I love it, but it’s intimidating. Even more than that goddamn French.

  57. David Marjanović says:

    I.e.: that would be Wasserpaß today.

    Today, in reformed spelling, it would be Wasserpass. (And it wouldn’t be comprehensible. What is “pass(port)” doing in there?!? Even if I go back to French passer it doesn’t make sense.)

    I’m guessing that golub’ is stressed on the go. Is that right?

    Nope.
    Is Peter the Oh So Great responsible for the fact that the Greek accents are no longer used in Russian? Because… whoever is ought to be spanked. Hard. Stress is so chaotic in Russian that even the Russian Wikipedia writes it on every single headword.

    the Russian “о” is not always (seldom, depending on position?) pronounced like English “o”, but more like a velar (?) “ah” (up at the back of, not down in the throat).

    That’s stressed vs unstressed.
    …Except in the northern dialects (north of St Petersburg, Moscow, and Vladivostok, which all count as “middle”), for which you were actually right.

    auromena ??

    Otomena?

  58. Grumbles, what’s wrong with Russian vowels? – they come out naturally, like in a dentist’s chair, as Chekhov once confessed.
    Лиличка Ивановна (Lilichka Ivanovna), using a diminutive of her first name plus her patronymic.
    oh yes, it’s a lovely way of staying respectful to someone older and, yet, introducing a degree of familiarity. I think it is an educated classes variation on the working class habit of addressing older, and more experinced people by patronymic only, (Petrovich, pokazhi mne kak ehta shtukovina rabotaet – (P.) Petrovich (Petrov), show me how this thing works).
    Might one turn round the chessboard and ask, perhaps Hat, how similar distinction works in English? My father, educated in Oxbridge English, was teased as ‘that Britisher’ when he came to work in America. He told me, the English always know when ‘you’ is ‘ty’ and when it is ‘vy’. Do they? How (apart from the obvious ‘oiks’)?

  59. Otomena?
    Nah, the other thing isn’t called ophthomena, after all. I’m not looking for a body part, but for the Greek “to hear” root, along the lines of phainein

  60. David Marjanovic: the Russian “о” is not always (seldom, depending on position?) pronounced like English “o”, but more like a velar (?) “ah”
    this is very interesting – is it not a universal pattern for destressed ‘o’? I once spent hours listening to how London market traders pronounce their ‘o-s’. Police, for instance, was always ‘PAH-lees’, just as in Russian.

  61. Stuart G: Except that in English we don’t have T and V, but only TV.
    Stew, you know quite well I live in Norway.

  62. I’m guessing that golub’ is stressed on the go. Is that right?
    Yes. (Don’t listen to David Marjanović, anybody whose name ends in ć can’t be depended on for Russian.) There’s stem-stress throughout the singular, and the nominative plural is gólubi… but the rest of the plural is end-stressed (genitive plural golubéi, etc.). And serébrany is stressed on the second e, even though the noun it’s based on, serebró, is end-stressed. Ah, Russian stress! How I love your maddening unpredictability! (Fun fact: the adverb korotko ‘briefly’ can be stressed on any of the three syllables.)

  63. Today, in reformed spelling, it would be Wasserpass
    Who uses reformed spelling? Not me. It’s a plot by unemployed Commie schoolteachers, to sow social discontent, drive a wedge between young and old, and create a need for their teaching services.
    Die können mich alle, kreuzweise. i didn’t learn all that shit over decades, just to have it snatched from me on my deathbed.

  64. Except in the northern dialects (north of St Petersburg, Moscow, and Vladivostok, which all count as “middle”), for which you were actually right.
    No, even in the north stressed o is /o/. (And the northern dialects are not “north of St. Petersburg,” which would make them extremely limited in extent; rather, St. Petersburg, though smack in the middle of the northern region, does not share that dialect.)

  65. Stew, you know quite well I live in Norway
    Yes, but home is where the heart is. You told me so yourself, or was that Dionne, Earl of Warwick?

  66. linguist.in.hiding says:

    What’s all the fuss about the T and the V? Aren’t people just mostly reciting prescriptive practises (there is hardly ANY talk about the huge use of the T here, all concern laid on the V…)? I know, I know, but my own observations/life go(es) against what is described in various places. There has never been a problem using the T for me. If there is a problem with using the T try to use some indirect means. If that doesn’t work, flee.
    I have used this strategy successfully in German, Russian, Hungarian, and French (with French rarely, what… …2 times…)… …and I have never fled.
    Only once did I have to use the V. Quite an extraordinary thing. It was at work. I spoke Estonian, not one of my best (spoken) languages, to an older visiting Estonian colleague (actually no, she was much more academically decreed). And she started using the V. I thought it was strange, a formal keeping up with a (at least somewhat false) tradition. Estonians are not mostly that concerned with the V (the prescriptive use notwithstanding).
    Anyway, if you would, for once, start from the POV of the T, wouldn’t the end result be a bit different?

  67. marie-lucie says:

    Paul: The vous form between French spouses of a certain class and generation allegedly lasted well into the 20th century, going by stories that Gen. de Gaulle always addresed his wife Yvonne with “vous”.
    This is quite possible, apart perhaps from moments of intimacy (this would continue the 18th century convention of vous in neutral contexts and tu only in emotional circumstances).
    In the film La Grande Illusion, which is about French POW’s in Germany during WWI, the prisoners and their captors relate to the members of their own class on the opposite side better than to their compatriots of a different class. At one point there is a conversation between the two Frenchmen who are the main protagonists, one an aristocrat and the other one from the working-class. The working man suggests to the aristocrat that they have been prisoners together long enough to call each other tu, and the aristocrat says I say vous to my mother and to my wife, implying that if he uses vous with those persons most intimately linked to him, he is not about to use a more intimate pronoun with an unrelated person, no matter what their shared experiences. Their solidarity is on another level: eventually the aristocrat sacrifices himself to allow the other French prisoners to escape.
    Grumbly: … Beauvoir, in La Cérémonie des adieux, relates conversations between herself and Sartre, always se vouvoyant. Beauvoir is here, at the very least, using a literary convention. It may also reproduce the actual tone of conversation between them for their entire life.
    I have not read the book in question but in her memoirs she also relates such conversations, and I don’t think she is using a literary convention.

  68. The prisoners and their captors relate to the members of their own class on the opposite side better than to their compatriots of a different class.
    In British war propaganda films there was supposed to be brotherhood between the classes, which was expressed in corny little vignettes. Monty Python version (with “captain” and “sarge”):
    cap:Didn’t we, uh, we ever show you that picture of my wife, sarge?
    sarge: Oh, no, sah.
    cap: Where’s the damn thing…ah, yes, here we are. Pretty nice, eh?
    sarge: Bit ugly though, sah.
    cap: Ugly?
    sarge: You know, I mean not attractive to men, sah.
    cap: Well, I…I suppose that’s rather a matter of taste, sarge.
    sarge: Oh, no, no. She’s ugly, suh.
    cap: It’s not a very good picture, makes her nose look too big.
    sarge: No, the nose is alright, suh, It’s the eyes.
    cap: What’s wrong?
    sarge: Well, they’re crooked, suh.

  69. Beauvoir … literary convention
    marie-lucie, I didn’t express myself clearly with the phrase “literary convention”. What I meant was something like “conventions of polished autobiography”. Beauvoir is an accomplished writer, Sartre as well, and both were mandarins of the left. My view is that each of them was well aware of the narrative-for-all-times possibilities of constructing a story about their relationship, in particular regarding the way they addressed each other – that is, how they tell us that they did. I so much admire Beauvoir’s work that I feel it would be risking lèse-élégance to fret over how they “actually” addressed other, in which situations, at which periods of their lives. Others may think it important, I prefer to gape and gasp over a bowl of popcorn.

  70. Sometimes I gasp only because a piece of popcorn gets stuck in my windpipe, when my spectator excitement makes me forget to swallow properly.

  71. Forget the word “conventions”. Let me just say “maneuvers of polished autobiography”.

  72. Stu: The ancient Greek verb for hear is akouo (cf. acoustic), so things heard would be akouomena (neuter nominative plural of the mediopassive present participle, for those interested).
    Perseus lets you search the definitions in English-Greek dictionaries:
    http://old.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/enggreek?lang=Greek

  73. Thanks, Gary, Just couldn’t get my head to work on that one. Isn’t it a bear that phainein, and its visual metaphor, hold such sway over our imagination? We haven’t so much saved the phenomena, as ignored everything that can’t be eyeballed.

  74. marie-lucie says:

    Grumbly, suit yourself! Just go easy on the popcorn.
    I don’t see why Beauvoir reporting her conversations with Sartre with vous if they used tu would be a “maneuver of polished autobiography” (nice phrase!). But for middle-class people of my parents’ generation or earlier (Sartre and Beauvoir were a few years older, and Beauvoir was of a higher class), you never said tu to new acquaintances after you were more than eighteen or twenty years old and joined the adult world (for young men the cutoff point was military service, after which you were an adult). My parents (who were teachers) used to reminisce about the time when they first met (at age twenty): they said vous to each other until they became engaged two years later. They always said vous to my mother’s brother’s wife and other non-immediate relatives. As a child I was surprised when I first noticed that my father and my mother’s brother said tu to each other, but my father explained that when they first met the brother was only about fourteen or fifteen.

  75. go easy on the popcorn
    Gasping over popcorn can also be caused by “popcorn lung” a condition caused by breathing the fumes of an artificial butter flavoring called diacetyl. Popcorn manufacturers have been quietly removing it from their microwave popcorn.

  76. Being a Texas man, I would not stoop to microwave popcorn. I always make my own. This has many advantages:
    1) I can still make popcorn even in an energy crisis.
    2) It’s cheaper to buy in quantity at Turkish stores (why they stock it at all is a mystery).
    3) I can make arbitrarily large amounts of it. A large heavy-duty pot is just the thing.
    4) I can add whatever I want to the result.
    Examples of things to add, besides salt: hot ghee with asafoetida and chili powder, butter and powdered chipotle, ghee and chunky chat masala, shredded gouda with butter and chopped fresh green chilies (this tends to get messy, like a plate of cheese-laden nachos stacked on top of each other)
    In Germany, until a few years ago, the only kind of popcorn that people ate was the sugary kind. Even in movie theaters, for Chrissake! It doesn’t go with the big watery sour pickles (actually I only had those as a kid in El Paso movie theaters, but still). I’ve been urging people for years to rethink this matter. Now there are more and more converts to standard butter-and-salt popcorn. My work here is done.

  77. michael farris says:

    Grumbly, I don’t use the word ‘hero’ lightly…..

  78. Why thank you kindly, michael! That would make two of them, since apparently you also have popcornucopian savvy.

  79. David Marjanović says:

    David Marjanovic: the Russian “о” is not always (seldom, depending on position?) pronounced like English “o”, but more like a velar (?) “ah”

    I didn’t say that, I quoted it. (After all, I know there’s no such thing as a velar vowel. 🙂 )

    No, even in the north stressed o is /o/.

    That’s part of what I tried to say; I also tried to say that unstressed o is also [o] there, as opposed to [ʌ].

  80. Давид Марјанови& says:

    Yes. (Don’t listen to David Marjanović, anybody whose name ends in ć can’t be depended on for Russian.)

    Grmblf. Russian stress is not only queerer than I suppose, it’s queerer than I can suppose. I’ll go back to Mandarin tones, thankyouverymuch.

  81. Давид Марјанови& says:

    Yes. (Don’t listen to David Marjanović, anybody whose name ends in ć can’t be depended on for Russian.)

    Grmblf. Russian stress is not only queerer than I suppose, it’s queerer than I can suppose. I’ll go back to Mandarin tones, thankyouverymuch.

  82. David Marjanović says:

    WTF! Coding error! Ћ ћ ћ!

  83. David Marjanović says:

    So it works in the text, but not in the name space… ~:-|

    Who uses reformed spelling?

    I do agree it’s uglier, but it is more logical. Well, the ß/ss issue is more logical anyway.
    Old rule (…which was never explained to anyone like that in school): write ß when you can’t separate written syllables through ss.
    New rule: write ß behind long and ss behind short vowels. No more beeinflussen – beeinflußt – Einfluß – Einflüsse.
    Diphthongs count as long, but because they lack short counterparts, this confuses a lot of native speakers…

  84. Trond Engen says:

    Grmblf. Russian stress is not only queerer than I suppose, it’s queerer than I can suppose.
    According to sci.lang regular and occasional LH commenter Panu Höglund it’s all explained in Il’ja Repin’s famous painting The Zaporož’e Cossacks devising the rules of Russian accentuation.

  85. New rule: write ß behind long and ss behind short vowels
    David, I wish you hadn’t told me that. It sounds so simple that there could hardly be an excuse for not applying it.
    However, on closer inspection, I see that the rule requires me to know which vowels are short, and which long. As if that were something independent of dialect – something which would accordingly require extra learning and memorization. Contrariwise, if vowel length were dependent on dialect, the spellings derived from this rule would be non-uniform.
    But I already speak German, and write German, and read German. I even fart in the Futur II. I don’t need any more information to be able to do this. And I refuse to acquire such information just to suit some SELBSTLAUTSTARKES PHONOLOGENPACK in Mannheim. I can see why the rule might appeal to you, because of your prior knowledge, but it’s only another learning burden for the masses, leaving them less time to watch television.
    Quod Erat Damnandum.

  86. David Marjanović says:

    As if that were something independent of dialect

    It only requires you know the standard language. That my dialect, for instance, lacks phonemic vowel length altogether is just not an issue. 😐

  87. David Marjanović says:

    Also, except for /a/ vs /aː/ in some regional varieties like mine, vowel length and vowel openness come as a package in Standard German. /ɛ eː ɪ iː ɔ oː ʊ uː œ øː ʏ yː/. Replace “long” by “closed” if you prefer. 😐

  88. It only requires you know the standard language
    But I know it already. or rather, I use it without needing to know it. For using it, no ability is required to summon up explicit, verifiable statements concerning vowel length. Acquire such knowledge just for one silly “ß” or “ss” here and there? No thanks.
    my dialect, for instance, lacks phonemic vowel length altogether
    Well, fancy that. Children with your dialect will not be able to profit from the rule. They will just have to memorize the new spelling, as their parents had to memorize the old spelling. Much ado about nothing. Except that unemployed teachers will have been hired to help the public over the reformed spelling hump. Later, they will be fired.

  89. David, while I’ve got your ear … I just finished Jelinek’s Die Klavierspielerin (unsettling, psychologically convincing novel!). The expression das denkt sie sich aus occurs several times, in places where the sense seems to be das stellt sie sich vor, in my dialect. Is das denkt sie sich aus an Austrian (or Viennese) equivalent?

  90. Well, memorizing the differences between their dialect and the standard language is a barrier that dialect users everywhere won’t ever be able to get around. I don’t blame that one on the selbstlautstarkes phonologenpack.
    The enlightened Swiss have done away with ß altogether… I wonder what if any role the capricious phonology of Švícrdyč has played in that.

  91. The enlightened Swiss have done away with ß altogether
    I could accept that in German German, I would even have welcomed it. As it is, the reformers have merely replaced one confusing “ß”/”ss” situation by another one. A typical committee decision.

  92. Bill Walderman says:

    “My father . . . told me, the English always know when ‘you’ is ‘ty’ and when it is ‘vy’. Do they? How?
    Perhaps they would automatically use “vy” in addressing someone they would refer to as “Mr” or “Mrs.”

  93. Bill Walderman says:

    “Russian stress is not only queerer than I suppose, it’s queerer than I can suppose.”
    My favorite is skovorodA sing. vs. skOvorody plural (“frying pan”). Then there are the nouns that shift the stress back onto prepositions in certain contexts, e.g., zA gorod/zA gorodom — “out of town.” When the stress shifts off /o/, the vowel is reduced.
    The worst problems are family names, especially in fiction. There is a reference work but it’s expensive and difficult to access.

  94. The worst problems are family names, especially in fiction
    Yes, but if you’ve ever tried to deal with Japanese family names, a little question of stress is a minor issue.

  95. michael farris says:

    “Zaporož’e Cossacks devising the rules of Russian accentuation.”
    From the looks of the group they were also devising the rules of Polish morphophonemics, English spelling and Irish consonant mutation at the same time.

  96. Isn’t that painting also known as “The Birth of Language”?

  97. The worst problems are family names, especially in fiction. There is a reference work but it’s expensive and difficult to access.
    You’re thinking of Benson; I guess $30 ($25.29 from a vendor) isn’t cheap, but compared to the run of scholarly books these days, I’d hardly call it expensive. But I recently found an old (1916) Russian-Danish dictionary at Google books that most unusually (and laudably) includes proper nouns in the general alphabetical listing, and unlike Benson it provides information on the stress of oblique cases: Ирты́шъ (-ша́), Илме́нь (-еня́), Бороди́нъ (-на́). It even has street names: Ильи́нка (Gadenavn). I would make a post of it, except there’s probably not much of an audience for prerevolutionary Russian-Danish dictionaries.

  98. marie-lucie says:

    LH, I see that the stress marks are not on the vowels but on the next space, isn’t that strange?

  99. That dictionary is a great find. I couldn’t help but notice that it contains that Russian building block хуй at a time when that word could not be printed in Russia. I guess even in 1916 the Danes were less prudish and more practical than the rest of Europe. Some of the other Russian staples seem to be missing though.

  100. Plus criminel que Barrabas
    Cornu comme les mauvais anges
    Quel Belzébuth es-tu là-bas
    Nourri d’immondice et de fange
    Nous n’irons pas à tes sabbats
    Explanation of Russian stress:
    Poisson pourri de Salonique
    Long collier des sommeils affreux
    D’yeux arrachés à coup de pique
    Ta mère fit un pet foireux
    Et tu naquis de sa colique
    Bourreau de Podolie Amant
    Des plaies des ulcères des croûtes
    Groin de cochon cul de jument
    Tes richesses garde-les toutes
    Pour payer tes médicaments
    From the looks of the group they were also devising the rules of Polish morphophonemics, English spelling and Irish consonant mutation at the same time.
    And German nound declensions.

  101. if you’ve ever tried to deal with Japanese family names
    Vanya, what did you find difficult about Japanese names? Reading characters? or applying the correct character to omonymic names? As Ivanov has two stresses, one for gentry, another for plebs, Suzuki could be written with lowly characters or exalted ones?
    Hat, There is an overview of stresses in various languages here, which in part says:
    There are also languages like English and Spanish, where stress is unpredictable.

  102. Tech request: Could someone help me to get into Russian-Danish dictionary on Google books. It won’t let me go past the cover preview.
    not much of an audience for prerevolutionary Russian-Danish dictionaries.
    As the new NATO gensec Rasmussen is Danish and has a keen interest in Russia, there might be…

  103. David Marjanović says:

    Well, fancy that. Children with your dialect will not be able to profit from the rule.

    All children with my dialect are diglossic in Standard German (and have been for generations). In fact, all ad-hoc transcriptions of any Austrian dialect I’ve seen try to mark vowel length because people are used to it.
    The dialects are furthermore so different from the standard language that nobody would try to use them to figure out the spelling of the latter. The difference is bigger than those between Polish, Czech and Slovak.

    The enlightened Swiss have done away with ß altogether… I wonder what if any role the capricious phonology of Švícrdyč has played in that.

    Probably a lot (pdf, in German) – they have independent vowel and consonant length; ss is long, and s is short.
    (Three brownie points for the Czech/Slovak spelling!)
    Longer discussion in German.

    Is das denkt sie sich aus an Austrian (or Viennese) equivalent?

    Not that I know of. But Jelinek probably has a few peculiarities.

    The worst problems are family names

    Yeah. Kérenskiy, the February Revolutionary, started his autobiography with explaining this and noting his name comes from the river Kérenka.

  104. Sashura, it’s basically the difficulty of reading the characters. Some Japanese still use obscure characters in their family names that are no longer used in modern written Japanese. Then some combinations have unusual readings. It has nothing to do with politeness levels, the problem is really that names tend to preserve archaic readings, or, conversely, there are multiple characters that can be pronounced the same way in a name.

  105. I have a HS friend who makes his living translating legal documents between Japanese and English. He’s married to a Japanese woman and has lived there for decades, and is about as close to assimilated as a non-Japanese can be. (The Japanese attitude toward foreigners is sharply different than the Chinese; Japanese don’t especially want you to assimilate and doubt that it’s possible.)
    Anyway, last time he saw me he said that there are so many kanji with multiple readings that it would be very unlikely that a written page of any difficulty would be read aloud by two different Japanese in exactly the same way. The problem is mostly proper names, I think, but there are also lexical items whose written form could stand for a variety of different readings, of which only one is correct.
    This is true to a degree of Chinese — a normally well educated Chinese has a mastery of about 3-4000 characters, but only the most highly educated can be sure of the pronunciations of the next few thousand characters.

  106. Could someone help me to get into Russian-Danish dictionary on Google books
    I could download the pdf file and e-mail it to you, if you’d like that (and if nobody comes up with a workaround).

  107. Bill Walderman says:

    “You’re thinking of Benson; I guess $30 ($25.29 from a vendor) isn’t cheap, but compared to the run of scholarly books these days, I’d hardly call it expensive.”
    Thanks for pointing that out. I one-clicked it. A while back I’d seen what must have been a hard-cover version of this book (I think) priced close to $100, which was steep enought to make me think twice. Thanks for the on-line book, too!

  108. Japanese names
    I agree with you,Vanya, J. names can be confusing. I worked with Japanese actively for over 15 years, though I haven’t used it for a long time now, except for helping out, occasionally, tourists who get lost in Bayeux or Caen, and translating ‘yu-ghi-oh’ cards for my son, which really impressed him. But I have never had any difficulty with names, only when it is in calligraphy (kakemono) or in a really old book.
    You would know that the Japanese, unlike the Chinese, refused to castrate (simplify) their beautiful kanji characters. But they cleverly introduced the hierogliphic ‘minimum’ of a few thousand characters. Anything beyond the minimum, names or obscure words, must have furigana printed alongside, i.e. gojuon alphabetic transcription of the characters. And the habit of exchanging meishi cards when meeting anyone is often accompanied by explaining of a rare hierogliph, if it is used in the name.
    I have long admired the Japanese for all this, has your experience been different?
    A Russian dictionary of Japanese names was published in mid 80-s. Do you know of it?

  109. LH, re Russo-Danish dicionary,
    if it is not too much trouble, please do send it.
    Re Russian stresses: they confuse Russians too. Gorbachev always said НАчать, instead of the mainstream наЧАть (to begin) and was ridiculed for this. I was curious to check your claim here that korotko could be stressed on any of the syllables, and found an online dictionary of Russian stresses at http://slovari.yandex.ru/ which seems to confirm my own experience that the stress is mostly on the first syllable and on the second only in the folklore based idiom dolgo li, koROtko li, but never on the last syllable. Where did you get yours from?

  110. going back to the original topic of this rich thread,
    I have just realised that modern Russians fluent in English, though this is not as common as French was among C.19 educated classes, sometimes switch to it to express ideas, describe situations or, less frequently, say things awkwardly intimate. Is it not the same phenomenon as Anatoly refers to in the passage from Tolstoy?

  111. Where did you get yours from?
    The Oxford Russian-English Dictionary. Also, Dahl has “Видитъ котъ молоко, да рыло коротко,” with stress marked on the final syllable, and a subentry коротко with stress marked on the last two syllables as meaning “too short”; my Словарь ударений для работников радио и телевидения has “пальто коротко” with stress marked on the final syllable. But clearly the contemporary standard is initial-syllable stress.

  112. please do send it
    Sent!

  113. O-oh, I see now! Of course you are right, I was thinking of adverbs, but in this case коротко is what we call краткое прилагательное – short or clipped adjective, with the stress practically always on the last syllable. Long – длИнный, but dress/платье длиннО (too long), велИкая шляпа (big/great hat), but шляпа великА (hat too big), great/wide is my motherland – моя велИкая/ширОкая Родина, but, in Paul Robeson, широкА страна моя родная, and in the Volga-Volga film chorus the river is ‘глубокА, широкА, великА’ (deep, wide and great).
    Словарь ударений is a very good reference book, I don’t have it as I have always worked in print media, but fellow radio and tv people always had it handy.

  114. I was thinking of adverbs
    Er, that’s because I thoughtlessly wrote “the adverb korotko” instead of “the short-form neuter adjective.” Sorry!

  115. Re “you” being universally parsed into T and V for native speakers.
    I’m not a native, and I recall finding “you” most annoying, when I read Katz und maus in English translation. (Though I’m sure that’s not the only reason that’s all I now recall of the story.)

    May I suggest you all dispense with ‘Sie’ altogether (and don’t say it’s impossible, they did the equivalent in Skandinavia without any problem)?

    Tal for Dem selv!

  116. David Marjanović says:

    the Japanese, unlike the Chinese, refused to castrate (simplify) their beautiful kanji characters

    Not true. It’s just that the set of their simplifications overlaps but is not identical with the set of PRC/Singapore simplifications.

    In Germany, until a few years ago, the only kind of popcorn that people ate was the sugary kind. Even in movie theaters, for Chrissake!

    I overlooked that. There is a sugary kind of popcorn?!? Only the butter-&-salt standard version appears to be known in Austria.

    Švícrdyč

    Should have ý.

  117. There is a sugary kind of popcorn?!?
    Kettle corn. I first ran into this at Jordbruksdagarna Agriculture Days at Bishop Hill. It actually doesn’t taste all that bad at a historical festival type venue, popped in a caldron and eaten in the open air –the sugar and salt together are not as bad as you might imagine (think popcorn balls)– but most other versions are just too sweet.

  118. Some kid I don’t know and his father came to the door a couple of weeks ago, selling popcorn to raise money for the Cub Scouts. The kid was shy. I was friendly; I felt sympathetic; I remember the ordeal, when I was a Cub Scout back in the bronze age, of selling fruitcakes door-to-door. Those were the days, when you would send your child out to knock on strangers’ doors …
    I helped them out by buying the $10 can of popcorn, the least expensive item. They took the cash, gave me no receipt, promised me the goods that night or the next day at the latest.
    A couple of days passed. I wondered if I had been scammed, though it seemed an implausible combination of elaborate setup and low stakes.
    It arrived, delivered by dad, working alone this time. It was sweet, not salty. My wife hated it. I ate it pretty happily. It was like Cracker Jack without the peanuts. I think the peanuts are the best part.
    Thanks for listening.
    Oh, speaking of peanuts: I recently heard someone, in reference to the improvised leguminous meal that she had just cooked, say something about its “chickpeaness”. That’s a funny word, isn’t it?

  119. Trying to sneak poultry porn past the filters, eh?

  120. The meal was totally vegan. Not a speck of spam.

  121. I hate the all-pervasive smell of popcorn and – even worse – nachos in the cinema. When I was a child in Germany, the only snacks available were chocolate and ice-cream.
    An example of the sweet popcorn available in Germany: http://www.worldofsweets.de/knabberartikel/popcorn/hannys-popcorn-suess.html

  122. marie-lucie says:

    I first ate popcorn when I was about 18 years old! For a while we had neighbours who had a friend who worked on transatlantic ships and had brought them popcorn from New York. They demonstrated the cooking method in front of us (sautéed with oil in a covered saucepan) and we were duly amazed at the transformation. Sweet corn of any kind was not generally found in France at that time, the only corn grown was for animal feed.
    When I was a child, in cinemas the usherettes (who showed people to their seats with flashlights) sold chocolate-covered ice cream popsicles during the intermission (between the news – this was before TV – and the feature film). These were called “eskimos glacés”. Very few people had refrigerators at the time, let alone freezers, so any kind of ice-cream was a rare treat.

  123. And now, our guest speaker will tell about her exotic childhood in an archaic European ….. world without popcorn.

  124. When I was a child in Germany, the only snacks available were chocolate and ice-cream
    When I first pitched tent in the Rheinland in 1971 (and once before then, in 1969 in Heidelberg) there was no popcorn available in cinemas. I don’t know when the sweetened kind first became available in Cologne, I suspect sometime in the 90s. But, as bruessel or someone else mentioned in another thread, sweetened popcorn had long been available before that, in one form or another, at amusement fairs and Christmas markets.
    A question to Amurricans: am I the only one who winces at the British-English pronunciation cinemAAAAAAA ?

  125. Sweetened popcorn is in the US in the form of caramel corn and crackerjack, but I don’t think of it as popcorn. I think of it as something made out of popcorn.

  126. michael farris says:

    “am I the only one who winces at the British-English pronunciation cinemAAAAAAA ?”
    No, you are not. Everyone knows the correct pronunciation is (approximately) [‘muwviyz].
    Once more, I applaud your courage at exposing old world decadence and rot! With more people of your moral fiber behind us, perhaps one day we’ll be able to do something about ‘weekend’ and ‘condom’.
    ‘Controversy’ and ‘vitamin’ are probably lost causes….

  127. michael farris says:

    As long as I’m on this jingoistic campaign of xenophobic self-righteousnesses, I have to ask, whoever on earth thought that beans should be eaten with french fries or for breakfast?
    That shit just ain’t right.

  128. No, you are not. Everyone knows the correct pronunciation is (approximately) [‘muwviyz]
    It’s not the word cinema that I find strange, but the way the final “a” is drawn out. Perhaps you’ve never heard it pronounced like that, as on Radio 4? I can’t imagine where that drawn-out “a” comes from. Not from the French.
    your courage at exposing old world decadence and rot
    A slight misunderstanding there, michael. My aim is to expose new world decadence and rot. Me, I live in the old world, where decadence and rot have the comforting patina of tradition. Only the cloths used to polish that patina contain moral fibers.
    perhaps one day we’ll be able to do something about ‘weekend’ and ‘condom’.
    I’m not familiar with this problem. Are there too many people who still use condoms only on weekends?

  129. If that is the problem, then such people are either mad to constrain their sex life in that way, or they’re bad at chatting-up, and possibly they’re dangerous to know (Matthew 1:25).

  130. Vittermins is just wrong. New Yorkers live in condoms. They like to call them “condos”, but I think we all know a euphemism when we hear one.

  131. Trond Engen says:

    That, Megacolón, is a condomination.

  132. Brits say “CAWN-DAWMS” with second syllable as loud as first and no schwa in sight.
    Amurricans say “KAHN-doms”. The disagreement over the first vowel is normal separated-by-a-common-herring-pond stuff, but the heavy-handed DAWM is just weird.
    Then they get “pentagon” the other kind of backwards:
    Brits: PENT-a-gn
    US: PENT-a-gahn

  133. michael farris says:

    for grumbly, I guess if a person absolutely _has_ to say the word ‘cinema’ (as in proper names of particular movie theaters) then they definitely should end in a schwa (as is only proper and fitting) and not say cinemaw. On the other hand, anyone who says cinema with the meaning of ‘movies’ or ‘films’ as in “I’ve always been a fan of French cinema.” should be beaten mercilessly.
    Also Brits tend to say:
    “at the weak end” (stress on the last word)
    insted of “on/during the weekend”
    The first time I head a Brit say ‘condom’ I thought they’d never used the word before and were sounding it out syllable by syllable. It took a while for me to realize that that was the ‘normal’ pronunciation there.

  134. cinemAAAAAAA …Everyone knows the correct pronunciation is (approximately) [‘muwviyz]
    Finally some common sense. But you can’t bring up those appealing breakfast beans without mentioning the hideously inedible brown breakfast sausages made from I think sawdust and horsehair.
    New Yorkers live in condoms. They like to call them “condos”
    The Arabs have not one but two words for condom. Does this make up for the paucity of their vocabulary for homosexuality and foreplay?

  135. those appalling breakfast beans
    Maybe someone should mention the coffee too. You have to go to a place where they speak either Italian or Hebrew to get a decent cup of coffee in that land.

  136. The Arabs have not one but two words for condom
    That may be similar to the phenomenon of New Yorkers living in condoms fitted out with modcons.
    Would our resident architect care to pronounce on this matter?

  137. What is the Arabic word for foreplay using a condom in the snow?

  138. The Arabs have not one but two words for condom
    That’s because there’s no snow. New Yorkers have one hundred and thirty-six words for condom.

  139. That’s because there’s no snow
    Well, most years that’s true, but on the odd year they do have snow, they use the same general word that means winter/rainy season/sleet/rain, pronounced SHIT-ta. I’d look up the spelling, but I’m sitting in a hospital waiting room where google translate is blocked. Go figure.

  140. David Marjanović says:

    “at the weak end” (stress on the last word)

    What? Seriously??? I used to think that was French-only!

  141. marie-lucie says:

    Tthere is a good reason why the word “weekend” was adopted into Metropolitan French (not in Canadian French) and shows no signs of losing its usefulness.
    When I was young, the work week went from Monday to Saturday. Children also went to school on those days, except Thursday (this had been instituted so as to allow parents to send their children to religious instruction on that day, since public schools are non-religious). So there was no “weekend” in the English or American sense. However, as time went on more and more people (starting at the top, perhaps in anglophone companies doing business in France) were able to faire la semaine anglaise, meaning taking first Saturday afternoon, then the whole weekend, off. There was no French word for the concept of a two-day rest period at the end of the week, hence the adoption of “weekend”. Because of the high level of absenteeism from schools on Saturdays as parents wanted to leave home with their children on the weekend, eventually the educational schedule was revised to give children a day off on Wednesday, not Thursday.
    In Canada, where the work week did not include Saturday (because most companies were anglophone), the English “weekend” was translated literally as “la fin de semaine”. This phrase would not have been appropriate in France, where “en fin de semaine” ‘at the end of the week’ usually means ‘on Friday or Saturday’.

  142. Trond Engen says:

    Danish borrowed ‘weekend’ for much the same reason. Norwegian and Swedish extended the meaning of ‘helg’ “religious holiday”.

  143. شتاء
    (winter/snow in Arabic)

  144. When I hear that British pronunciation of “weekend”, I sometimes start down a path of overimaginative and peevishly ethnocentric theorizing that goes something like this: The Brits adopted this American word, but maybe they don’t quite understand the concept. Their pronunciation, and also their choice of the preposition “at” to go with it, indicates that they think a weekend is merely the end of a week.
    It’s sort of like their ideas about sandwiches. A sandwich is what you get by putting some food between two slices of bread. This is a perfectly correct definition; it leaves lots of room for variation; and if you’ve never eaten a proper sandwich, then these words will not tell you how to do it right.
    A weekend is what you get when you put some time between two weeks …

  145. I’d no idea that the weekend was an American invention; were there five-day weeks before the Enlightenment? The railway is an English invention, but that doesn’t stop Americans from calling it chemin de fer, or is that a game of chance?
    I say con-dom. And sometimes I say weekEND [hangs head]. I used to say ‘bean’ instead of ‘bin’, but I quit.

  146. You guys might have invented the railroad or, as you insist on calling it, the railway. I don’t know. I’d have to look it up. But I’m sure we invented trains and locomotives, and your rails would have looked pretty silly if we hadn’t. I’ll concede that train-spotting is all yours.
    And you’re totally wrong about the fer-de-lance. It’s a snake.

  147. The way we heard it at school, George Stephenson invented the train one day while he watched the steam coming out of his kettle. He saw some connection, he was probably late for work. Or maybe he invented the rocket, I’ve forgotten.
    Now I see in Wikipedia that the first rail(way) steam engine was invented by some unknown called Trevithick. Why is he pointing over his shoulder? He looks shifty.
    England also invented the rail(way) accident, sacrificing bright hope William Huskisson to Stephenson’s train in 1830: The Rocket struck the door, forcing Huskisson off balance and under its wheels. His leg was horrifically mangled. The wounded Huskisson was taken by a train (driven by George Stephenson himself) to Eccles, where he died a few hours later.
    One minute you’re the next Prime Minister, the next you’re dead in Eccles.

  148. Crown, if _you_ say weekEND then I’m going to have to reconsider my position that it’s a funny way to say the word.

  149. I’d no idea that the weekend was an American invention
    I think that we perfected it. Of course, the basic idea goes way back to the God of Genesis.

  150. Hey, I have a serious question about American vs English pronunciation:
    Why do Americans pronounce “ballet” balAY while English people say BALay? The same patterns applies to pronunciations of many French words, including proper names.

  151. I daresay it’s because the English are more Frenchified than the Americans. I mean more elegant, more je ne sais caw.
    By the way, I think that weekends were invented by trade unions, not the God of Genesis. And by parents, as marie-lucie explained. God conceded only the Sabbath, and that merely because he himself was tuckered out. Not much social concern there.

  152. My ‘weekend’ pronunciation is variable; I use different forms, without thinking, for different sentences. I’ve reconsidered my pronunciation of condom and I’ll only use the schwa version from now on.
    Some weird British pronunciations are not apparent to us. One example is “sexual”; in BBC England it’s sometimes said as “sex-yule”, which now makes me cringe, in contrast to the US “sec-shul”.
    Emphasis on the last syllable for French words:
    1. For some reason, I think Americans are much more aware of the Frenchness of some words; Britons would consider words like “ballet” to be English, they wouldn’t see any reason to attempt a French pronunciation. (I don’t.)
    2. But there are some who take an extreme position. My English master at school went nuts if anyone tried a French pronunciation of anything in Shakespeare, for example Jacques’ name in “As You Like It”. If you think there’s historic precedent for that (as there is), there was a boy in my year called Orage, pronounced the French way, as in “thunderstorm”. He was always called “[pause]: Orridge?” in English class.
    3. Nobody in England even realised the French pronounced their words with different stress until about thirty years ago. Even then, it was an American who first drew my attention to it. As if joining the Common Market weren’t enough older people aren’t suddenly going to adjust their dialect just to please the French.
    4. I read something by Stephen Fry where he said that Americans overemphasise the French stress on the back end of a word. He said the French themselves use equal stress, in other words NO stress. However, I’ve no reason to think Stephen Fry knows any more French than I do. More important, Marie-Lucie says they do stress the last bit.
    Incidentally, “le weekend” has a British (i.e. French) pronunciation.

  153. … And, instead of “last syllable”, that should of course say “end bit”.

  154. I daresay it’s because the English are more Frenchified than the Americans.
    Except that they say “herb” whereas we Yanks say “‘erb.”

  155. Someone said ‘erb was an equally old pronunciation of the word in English. It may have been you, Language.
    I think the Americans are much more Francophile than the British and have been since the country was founded, though that’s not quite the same as Frenchified.

  156. I meant Frenchfried, of course, with vinegar on. How careless of me. We prefer them in boxes philled with ketchup.

  157. Language has gone off to give thanks. Let’s make a mess!

  158. Last thing he said was, please don’t eat the daisies! Nothin’ ’bout vinegar, ketchup and fries. Let’s invite the neighborhood!

  159. marie-lucie says:

    AJP: My English master at school went nuts if anyone tried a French pronunciation of anything in Shakespeare, for example Jacques’ name in “As You Like It”.
    There was no more reason to pronounce Jacques or Jaques in the Modern French way than to pronounce Charles in the same way, and perhaps the master had known it at one time but forgot, and failed to explain it to the pupils. I would guess that Ja(c)ques disappeared from English because of the competition of the “diminutives” Jack and Jake, while Charles did not have a similar competitor. One French name which did not keep its final -s in English is Georges, which became just George. Perhaps the extra syllable -ges made the word sound more like a plural?
    I read something by Stephen Fry where he said that Americans overemphasise the French stress on the back end of a word. He said the French themselves use equal stress, in other words NO stress. However, I’ve no reason to think Stephen Fry knows any more French than I do. More important, Marie-Lucie says they do stress the last bit.
    I don’t remember putting it quite that way. There is no real stress belonging to individual French words. You could not have a difference such as between OBject and obJECT in English, or HOSpital and hospiTALity. As in Japanese, syllables tend to be equal, and classical poetry is based on counting syllables, not feet. But the final syllable of a word-group, if said before a pause, or in emphatic speech, tends to be somewhat more salient (slightly longer and louder, and different in pitch). So, if the word weekend used in French ends a sentence, you will hear what sounds like “stress” on the syllable kend. But within a group, as in le weekend prochain “next weekend”, there will be no salience on either syllable of the word, but on the finall syllable chain of the group.
    There can also be some salience on the first syllable of the word or word group if it is particularly emphasized. For instance, I heard a performance by a French group which included an Italian, who had composed the piece we were about to hear: Il salto. The French musician who introduced the piece carefully pronounced the name as “Il salTO”, instead of “il SALto” as in Italian.
    With the many mutual borrowings between French and English, speakers of each adapt the pronunciation to their own rules, and hearing “our” word filtered through the rules of the other language makes it sound even more different than it actually is because what we hear clashes with our expectations.

  160. marie-lucie says:

    Remember that French fries are a Belgian invention. As for ketchup, isn’t it adapted from some Asian concoction?

  161. Thanks, m-l. I’ll file that so I don’t forget it.

  162. “Remember that French fries are a Belgian invention.”
    Yes, thank you, and over here we like to eat them with mayonnaise or sauce andalouse (made from mayonnaise, tomato paste, onion and bell peppers and/or pimientos).

  163. David Marjanović says:

    French loans, no matter how well integrated, keep final stress in German. Except if they’re so old they got a folk etymology or something (Abenteuer, stress on the first syllable; “adventure”, borrowed into Middle High German, has undergone a Middle-to-New High German vowel change, and today it sounds like Abend “evening” + teuer “expensive”).

    I read something by Stephen Fry where he said that Americans overemphasise the French stress on the back end of a word. He said the French themselves use equal stress, in other words NO stress.

    He probably got phonetics and phonology confused. French lacks phonemic stress, which means that it never uses stress to distinguish words, and the placement of stress is predictable; but if anything lacks phonetic stress, that’s Hungarian (where “stressed” syllables, always the first of a word, have higher pitch but aren’t the slightest bit louder in my limited experience).

    There can also be some salience on the first syllable of the word or word group if it is particularly emphasized.

    This happens a lot. Such emphasized first syllables also get a very high pitch.

    As for ketchup, isn’t it adapted from some Asian concoction?

    Said to come from some ke-tsiap or other in some non-Mandarin sort of Chinese.

  164. marie-lucie says:

    ketchup/ke-tsiap
    I don’t think that it is just the word that has been adapted, the condiment must have been adapted too.

  165. in contrast to the US “sec-shul”
    um, in Wobegon, “SEK-shoo-əl” (if they speak about such things at all)

  166. What you all say more or less bears out my own vague, amateurish, and inconsistent ideas about this, namely that
    (1) we Americans try harder than the English to preserve the French way of saying a word when we borrow it,
    (2) the English have an established tradition of making French words their own and confidently altering the pronunciation in the process — think of jelly for gelée, or gentle for gentil, or jaunty for gentil — and
    (3) Americans are to some extent mishearing the stress in French words, confusing pitch variation with stress.

  167. marie-lucie says:

    the English have an established tradition of making French words their own and confidently altering the pronunciation in the process — think of jelly for gelée, or gentle for gentil, or jaunty for gentil —
    The borrowing of French words in English dates back many centuries, and the oldest such borrowings are not felt like foreign words at all. In the examples above, the initial g or j have kept the initial affricates which were part of the Old French words, while these affricates have become simplified in French itself. Other changes either in English or in French at various periods of history have altered the pronunciation and the spelling in both languages in such a way that the common words are often scarcely recognizable (gentle and jaunty are two variants based on two different meanings of the same French word, which were probably adopted into English at different times). For more recent borrowings, especially in America, the French words are felt as foreign, just like borrowings from other languages such as German or Spanish.

  168. I’d never thought of jaunty as having been borrowed from gentil.

  169. There is no real stress belonging to individual French words. You could not have a difference such as between OBject and obJECT in English, or HOSpital and hospiTALity. As in Japanese, syllables tend to be equal, and classical poetry is based on counting syllables, not feet. But the final syllable of a word-group, if said before a pause, or in emphatic speech, tends to be somewhat more salient (slightly longer and louder, and different in pitch).
    marie-lucidité, yet again! NOW I have an explicit understanding of something about French I’d been groping towards by mole-like intuition. Spoken French is more like little sequences of bird-song (Messiaen !!), each with its own intonation and phrase-salience features. That’s why the intonation of French speakers often sounds melodramatic to an English-speaker (this one). French expressivity is not achieved by stacking words one after the other like a line of dominoes, as is more the case in English.
    The wrong way to think: “here comes origine. It begins with a vowel, so I’ve got to remember to elide the le“. The right way to think: “here comes a l’origine de cette idee warble”.

  170. David Marjanović says:

    Either that, or you need to mess with your understanding of what a French word is. Or both.
    For comparison: “words of one syllable or less” in English, such as who’d’a’ thunk.

  171. you need to mess with your understanding of what a French word is
    A natural consequence of the warble viewpoint.
    BTW, that’s an unusual comment to make at all, David. I think most people would mutter “radical constructivist bullshit” and run away, after hearing such an idea.

  172. David Marjanović says:

    There are people out there who say that spoken French (and many modern Romance languages in general) is actually a polysynthetic language – that all those things like je are not pronouns at all (anymore), but verb prefixes that have taken over the role of the silent endings (and then some). Makes a lot of sense, IMHO.

  173. Has anybody studied the musical intervals of French? Especially the fall in pitch from second-to-last syllable to last syllable that one so often hears.

  174. marie-lucie says:

    Grumbly, I can’t take too much credit for many of my remarks, which are not simply my own observations (although they agree with them) but are described in sources on French phonetics.
    The wrong way to think: “here comes origine. It begins with a vowel, so I’ve got to remember to elide the le”. The right way to think: “here comes a l’origine de cette idee warble”.
    Absolutely. It is useless (almost) to learn individual words out of context. This is not how children learn, for instance.
    When I was studying German in school as a teen-ager, my first teacher was an Alsatian who had no idea of what made German difficult for French students. Among other things, he made us memorize lists of written words as in the dictionary, for instance: Haus, -“er, neuter instead of das Haus, die Häuser. Even I, a good language student with a good visual memory, found it hard to relate to this presentation.
    David, There are people out there who say that spoken French (and many modern Romance languages in general) is actually a polysynthetic language – that all those things like je are not pronouns at all (anymore), but verb prefixes that have taken over the role of the silent endings (and then some).
    Someone is supposed to have written a paper on “The Chinookan structure of French”. In Chinook, a language formerly spoken along the Columbia River, there is a string of prefixes before the verb stem, very much as if the French Ce words (those consisting of a consonant followed by e, eg je, me, ne, le etc) were thought of as prefixes rather than single words (a defensible idea). It helps to notice this resemblance when trying to understand Chinookan verb structure, where the verb stem itself comes at the end.
    Nøgen Ø: … the musical intervals of French? Especially the fall in pitch from second-to-last syllable to last syllable that one so often hears.
    Example? Where do you hear this? From what kind of people?

  175. Where do you hear this? From what kind of people?
    It’s all on my head, really.

  176. “In my head”, I meant to say. What I really mean is:
    I don’t hear French spoken all that frequently, I can’t begin to speak it, and I have never studied it in any sense except (1)as the most casual of bystanders, and (2) developing a crude facility for reading technical writing in mathematitics, but I have had the impression that spoken French has what might be called a melodic quality — that pitch variation plays a greater role in French than it does in English — I like Grumbly’s figure of birdsong for this.
    On reading this:
    But the final syllable of a word-group, if said before a pause, or in emphatic speech, tends to be somewhat more salient (slightly longer and louder, and different in pitch)
    I thought: Aha! Yes, the melodies I mean often seem end with a dramatic drop in pitch, and with an interval that is not necessarily to be found on the diatonic scale.

  177. marie-lucie says:

    Nøgen Ø: (in French) the melodies … often seem end with a dramatic drop in pitch
    Are we talking about the last syllable, or the second-to-last as you said earlier? Normally, it is the last syllable that is emphasized, and at the end of an utterance there is indeed a sharp drop in pitch (sometimes below the voice level, so that the syllable is barely audible). But in some accents there is a drop in pitch, as well as a slight lengthening of the vowel, on the second-to-last syllable, followed by a rise on the last one. That’s why I wondered where and from whom you heard what you described.
    I have had the impression that spoken French has what might be called a melodic quality — that pitch variation plays a greater role in French than it does in English
    I haven’t consulted acoustical studies, but there can be quite a bit of pitch variation in English. But the type of variation is different, because in English pitch and stress both vary in a sentence, and stress can be associated with both higher and lower pitch (not at the same time, of course) than the pitch of unstressed words, which depends on the overall melody of the sentence, which itself can be broken up by the differences in stress. In French, there is no stress on individual words per se, but an overall melody of the sentence, which in the absence of word stress is more continuous than in English.

  178. David Marjanović says:

    Google doesn’t find anything for “chinookan structure” french. 🙁

  179. David, try ANDing the three words “chinook”, “french” and “polysynthetic”. I got 3580 hits.
    In general, it’s more advisable to use search words and phrases, each of which is not too gramatically detailed.
    My policy for English searches is, use nouns and verbs, and only adjectives that are familiar and actually in a dictionary, not synthesized according to some traditional convention or other, like “chinookan”. “Chinookian” is just as likely, particularly on a site run by non-native-English speakers.
    German poses more of a problem, because the words probably occur in declined or conjugated form. Here I try to think of very short phrases that would be likely to occur.
    But, in terms of effectiveness, you will usually find only sites set up by people who think and formulate like you do yourself.

  180. David Marjanović says:

    3470 results, with this Google Books page among the first 10. The pages with the references are not included… but searching for Queneau 1965 Chinook in Google Scholar gives this, which gives an example, and… nothing else. Spent way too many hours with this. 🙁

  181. I’ve ranted for years about French being polysynthetic, but I don’t really think you can call it incorporating. Rather, it has subject and object prefixes and essentially free word order. (I’ve always wanted to invent a conlang with fused subject-object prefixes, only with just enough syncretism to make things interesting, unlike Klingon’s flatfooted Cartesian-product prefixes).

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