As is traditional while I’m digesting my birthday curry, I’ll post about the gifts of possible interest to LH readers. Pride of place goes to Victor Serge’s Memoirs of a Revolutionary, which I’ve been wanting to read for years. Serge is one of the few revolutionaries I genuinely respect as a person (I’ve posted about him here and here); I totally understand the anecdote with which Adam Hochschild opens his foreword:

Some years ago I was at a conference of writers and journalists from various countries. A group of us were talking, and someone asked that each person around the room say who was the political writer whom he or she most admired. When my turn came, I named Victor Serge. A man I did not know abruptly leapt to his feet, strode across the room, and embraced me.

Other gifts: Amartya Sen’s The Argumentative Indian, The Uncensored Boris Godunov (an edition with translation and notes of Pushkin’s original version of the story, not the famous one Mussorgsky set as an opera), Norman Davies’s Vanished Kingdoms (Aragon, Etruria, the Kingdom of the Two Burgundies, the Republic of Carpatho-Ukraine! I love that kind of thing), and Stalking Nabokov by Brian Boyd. Among the movies are a couple of recent Romanian comedies (12:08 East of Bucharest and The Death of Mr. Lazarescu), not to mention Kieslowski’s Dekalog, which I saw every chance I got when I was living in NYC and am thrilled to own. Oh, and a wonderfully contemplative and soothing piano-trio CD called Rruga, which is the Albanian word for ‘the street/road/path’ (the liner notes say “Not wanting to call it ‘The Journey’ or ‘The Path’, too many of those in the discography, Vallon asked Albanian singer Elina Duni … for translation suggestions”). And here, as a true LH lagniappe, is the etymology of rrugë as given in Basic Albanian Etymologies, by Martin E. Huld:

Like many items of urbanized culture, this word is a loan from Lat ruga ‘twist, wrinkle’ used in Vulgar Latin for ‘road’, cf Fr rue ‘street’ (Meyer 1891b: 376) . Note that initial Latin r– is one of the sources of Albanian rr– and that Latin intervocalic g is not lost as –b- and –d- are. The latter development matches the native loss of intervocalic *b(h), d(h), and *ĝ(h) but retention of *G(h) and *gw(h) before *-eA2.

(And yes, the initial “like” clause was not thought through; the guy’s an etymologist, not a prose stylist.)


  1. marie-lucie says

    Congratulations and happy reading!
    Sorry to start the comments with technicalities of historical linguistics, but I am intrigued:
    ruga > Fr rue
    I didn’t know where rue came from, nice to finally learn it. It must be cognate with rugueux ‘rough to the touch’, from the adjective rugosus.
    Albanian: the native loss of intervocalic *b(h), d(h), and *ĝ(h) but retention of *G(h) and *gw(h) before *-eA2.
    What is this *G(h)? Capital G is the symbol for a voiced uvular stop, are uvulars supposed to have existed in Proto-Albanian? or even in PIE?

  2. I know that ĝ is an alternative notation for palatalized , so I conjecture that G here is simply g.

  3. marie-lucie says

    JC, but in that case why not use plain g? G must refer to a consonant farther back in the mouth.

  4. Congratulations from me too!
    marie-lucie: obviously an idiosyncratic choice, a way to distinguish between velar and palato-velar, I guess.
    By the way, Albanian has this distinction again: “k” versus “q” , but when I was in Tirana in the 90s, “q” sounded like English “ch” to me.
    (Apparently the software doesn’t like the brackets linguists like to use for graphemes – thinks I’m a programmer.)
    Funny story by the way: At the time I wasn’t yet a student of comparative linguistics, but wanted to be one. Went to Macedonia because it seemed like a good idea. By Lake Ohrid another tourist asked if I could take a picture of his wife and him. Turned out he was a linguist!
    He invited me to come see Albania, and I did – with US dollars for the visa even though DM would have worked as well. Got around pretty easily speaking pijin Italian. My guide was the linguist’s daughter, who was used to Italian TV.
    I forgot that mode, alas, a decade later in Romania. Barely managed to talk to one of the most beautiful women who ever lived until we said goodbye and she gave me her email address. Which ended in

  5. marie-lucie says

    “q” sounded like English “ch” to me.
    Yes, Albanian, like Chinese, used Roman letters in strange and unpredictable ways.

  6. dearieme says

    I enjoyed Norman Davies’s “Vanished Kingdoms”. However. A reviewer in the Gruaniad says “… the states in question really have been forgotten, as with the old British Alt Clud, the Kingdom of the Rock.” To which I say balls. Anyone my age who went to a decent Scottish school heard a fair about it. I dare say that Davies should have said that no-one schooled in England knows anything about it. No surprise there: the teaching of history in England has (always?) been rather parochial. Hell, they probably didn’t even mention Poland-Lithuania.

  7. Dearie, Norman Davies rather likes Trevor-Roper.
    What do you think about independence for the Shetland isles? I’m all for it.

  8. John Emerson says

    Greater Galicia, surviving only in provinces in Poland, Turkey, and Spain.
    Musorgsky wrote two Godunovs which differ in the degree to which they assume Godunov’s guilt.
    And I will never quit trying to spell it “Gudonov”.

  9. That’s because of Boris Badenov, right?

  10. LH: Delighted you got Vanished Kingdoms. It’s wonderful…
    John E. : Correct me, but I don’t believe there is any connection between Galicia, Spain, and the region in Eastern Europe, apart from the coincidence of the name.

  11. Greater Galicia, surviving only in provinces in Poland, Turkey, and Spain.
    I was amazed to find a Polish quarter upon first visiting Istanbul in 1992. Well, OK, not quite a quarter, but certainly a neighborhood. I presume the community’s leader was Kazimierz Bey . . .

  12. marie-lucie says

    It seems established that the name of Spanish Galicia derives from the Celtic root gal as in Gallia “Gaul” and Galatians (to whom St Paul wrote). The name of Polish Galicia seems to have a different origin, so the name is only coincidentally identical.
    The Galatians seem to have been originally a Southern Gaulish population which migrated to the Balkans and eventually settled in Anatolia.

  13. Garrigus Carraig says

    Two Galicias, two Georgias, two Albanias, two Iberias.

  14. marie-lucie says

    Yes, those twinnings look suspicious.

  15. dearieme says

    I suppose independence for Shetland should be considered, as long as Shetland allows independence for Fair Isle, which allows independence for Northern Fair Isle. Who could say fairer than that?

  16. Ok, I’ll buy that.

  17. dearieme says

    But if Shetland made irredentist claims to Orkney, things might turn nasty.

  18. In that case, I’m Switzerland. But I want the Western Isles to be independent. Whisky galore!

  19. dearieme says

    Oh God, what if the Macleods go on the rampage again?

  20. Trond Engen says

    I’m always the last to realize that there’s a celebration going on. Congratulations!

  21. John Emerson says

    One day Galicia will again be unified, and you people will be sorry. There’s also greater Guinea / Ghana / Guyana.
    The Polish quarter in Istanbul is presumably a relic of the 19th-c. emigration of anti-Czarists, some of whom entered the Ottoman military.

  22. John Emerson says

    At the time of the Barbary pirates wars (“shores of Tripoli”) Jefferson was working on an alliance with the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (along with Denmark, Sweden, Malta, and Portugal). Basically France and Britain boycotted or sabotaged the alliance.
    it seems that Herzogovina was very a short-lived political unit (duchy, province, district?), but I will always remember it from old maps I saw when I was a kid. And Tannu-Tuva (from stamp books).

  23. John Emerson says

    “Along with Denmark, Sweden, Malta, and Portugal”. The devil screwed up my link.

  24. Bessarabia always strikes me as a funny name.

  25. Trond Engen says

    John Emerson: the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies
    Begge Sicilier in old Dano-Norwegian terminology.
    I have two step-nieces (on different sides of the country and of the family tree) named Cecilie. I’ve had a line ready for years, but they never meet.

  26. John Emerson says

    There are several Ceciles in my family, about one per generation.

  27. John Cowan says

    My wife’s sister’s son’s wife is a Cowan, hopefully unrelated to me.

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