According to this BBC News story, “Folk group the ‘Buranovo Grannies’ will compete in the Eurovision Song Contest, after winning a televised contest in Moscow to represent Russia.” Why do I care? Because:

The lyrics to the song, which feature a mixture of English and Udmurt – a language related to Finnish – were written by the grandmothers.
Buranovskiye Babushki became known in Russia with covers – sung in Udmurt – of classics including the Beatles’ Yesterday and the Eagles’ Hotel California.

Needless to say, I will be rooting for them, and I would love to hear “Hotel California” in Udmurt. (Thanks, Trevor!)


  1. dearieme says

    And Engelstink Humpelbert will be singing for Britain: this event will be a not-to-be-missed treat. Unfortunately I shall have a funeral to attend.

  2. Your long wait is over: Hotel California in Udmurt

  3. I might have rooted for them, if they hadn’t decided to spend whatever they gain from their fame so frivolously. I do not like to encourage such wild abandon.

  4. They’re good, but I still prefer the Leningrad Cowboys and the Red Army Choir.

  5. befuggled says

    Come for the languages, stay for the music videos!

  6. michael farris says

    In other news, I have to say I dislike ‘granny’ as a translation of babushka (or Polish babcia). Etymologically I guess it’s kind of accurate but emotionally it seems wrong, especially in extended usage.
    For me the English word doesn’t much emotional warmth and suggests a cantankerous attitude or age inappropriate behavior.
    On the other hand I’m not sure what word work. Grandma seems like a nicer word but somehow resists pluralization for me and mamaw or meemaw seem to regional.
    I think “The little old ladies from Buranovo” sounds nice (and is a nice pop culture reference for my generation) but it’s too long.

  7. Michael, I’ve long puzzled over the shift in stress in English in babúshka. In Russian it is bábushka. I was wondering if there’s a bit of Polish influence there?

  8. “mamaw or meemaw seem too regional.”
    What region is that Michael? I have never heard these terms.

  9. dearieme says

    The Daily Mail now uses “Nan” for granny.

  10. michael farris says

    vanya, both are in common use in the US South as is nanaw now that I think about it. The first vowel of mamaw and nanaw (male version papaw) is that of hat. Meemaw seems to have become more common due to Sheldon using it on Big Bang Theory.
    sashura, I think it’s just a generalized anglophone tendency to pronounce unfamiliar ‘exotic’ words and names (especially if they end in a vowel) on the penultimate.

  11. So why do they say NA-bokov?

  12. Why doesn’t English have proper different words for maternal and paternal grandparents? Huh? It’s embarrassing. Norwegian does.

  13. German has Großeltern mütterlicherseits and väterlicherseits. I bet that’s not proper enough for you, since it’s very like “on the mother’s side” etc. What’s the Norwegian here ?

  14. For me the English word doesn’t much emotional warmth and suggests a cantankerous attitude or age inappropriate behavior.
    Huh. To me, it definitely carries emotional warmth, but that’s presumably because I called my beloved paternal grandparents Granny and Daddy Joe. That’s the Ozark branch of the family; maybe it’s a Southern thing?

  15. My father’s mother, from Ripley Miss., was known to us as Nana (“a” as in hat).
    AJP: what is this He пустой ruse ? The question remains as to whether you are half empty or half full.

  16. shift in stress in English in babúshka
    Isn’t babúshka a properly ERnglish word though, at most tangentially related to the Russian granny? Both of the uses I’m aware of in English refer to merchandise (babúshka kerchiefs and babúshka nesting dolls), and they must have been invented as English marketing names (with the required ease of pronunciation).
    AJP: what is this He пустой a proper antonym would be Полный which, in reference to a person, means a not-so-subtle “overweight”.

  17. “So why do they say NA-bokov?”
    Good question. Same with GOR-ba-chev, which is also incorrect (should be gar-ba-CHOF, and no one ever says Gor-BA-chev).
    Meanwhile the Austrian entry for Baku is “Woki Mit Deim Popo”, a fairly indecent song rapped mostly in Upper Austrian dialect, sung by a duo named “Trackshittaz.”
    I don’t think Azerbaijan is really ready for this to be honest.

  18. Großeltern mütterlicherseits and väterlicherseits
    No, see, that’s hopeless, like the English. Norwegian and other Scandinavian has morfar for mother’s father & farfar for father’s father (and mormor & farmor for grandmothers). They are used in addition to bestemor & bestefar, which are the direct ‘grandma’ & ‘grandpa’ equivalents.

  19. He пустой: He was posting right after the empty set.

  20. He пустой: He was posting right after the empty set
    but it didn’t quite work because “set” is neuter rather than masculine in Russian

  21. For me, the pronunciation of “Babooshka” has been influenced by the Kate Bush song.

  22. michael farris says

    Quick warning: If you do a quick google image search for ‘granny’ for the love of god make sure the content filters are on. N S.FW!

  23. Grandparents are a distant memory for me and not part of my vocabulary as they’d all died before I was born. I did know my little old Victorian Norfolk great-grandmother and always called her “Nanna” which was really just an appropriated name relative to my mother who, obviously my ‘nanna’ was actually her grandmother (does that make sense?!)
    Not having grown up with grandparents I refer to my grandmother and grandfather within my family circle as ‘mum’s mum’ and ‘mum’s dad’.

  24. Oh yeah, going back to the top of the thread and mention of ‘Engelbert Humperdink’ …who remembers his bizarre song about ‘Lesbian Seagulls’?

  25. komfo,amonan says

    Really, Crown, I don’t see the point in puffing up morfar and farmor when there are Chinese speakers about.
    @Eel: I remember it well.

  26. mormor & farmor for grandmothers
    Now I finally understand that passage from Tintern Abbey:

    … Not for this
    Faint I, nor mourn nor mormor, other gifts
    Have followed; for such loss, I would believe,
    Abundant recompence. For I have learned
    To look on nature, not as in the hour
    Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes
    The still, sad music of humanity,
    Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power
    To chasten and subdue. And I have felt
    A presence that disturbs me with the joy
    Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
    Of something farmor deeply interfused,
    Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,

  27. morfar and farmor
    That’s like, marble and one one of the giants who built Valhalla, right? Or am I thinking of the baseball player Travis Hafner?

  28. Not one one, one.

  29. I second Hat with regard to granny, which is no less warm a term of address or referral than grandma. Granny does seem more appropriate for irascible personalities, but can therefore also be more effective as a teasingly warm and familiar term. (I grew up referring to my Virginian grandparents as grandma and grandpa, but hardly got to know them because we lived so far away, so I don’t have much personal experience of a warm grandma.)

  30. I remember what a thrill it was at an open market in Budapest in 1983-84 to find cassettes of famous American blues in Hungarian–Smokestack Lightning in Magyar!

  31. Some time ago I have published a couple of the songs by the Buranovo Grannies with translations:

  32. Thank you guys for everything

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