Meissl & Schadn.

Yet another fascinating post at Poemas del río Wang, Hotel Meissl & Schadn, begins with a description of an unusual mosaic running across the entire second floor of a building on the Kärntnerstraße in Vienna; perhaps its most unexpected feature is “a faravahar, the identity symbol of the Iranian Zoroastrians, an allegory of God with the extended wings.” After explaining that “As Encyclopaedia Iranica describes in detail, commercial and later diplomatic, military and cultural relations between Austria and Persia developed greatly during the 19th century,” Studiolum asks “What building could have been adorned with such magnificent mosaics?” As it turns out, it was once the Hotel & Restaurant Meissl & Schadn:

From Kärtnerstraße, one of Vienna’s most elegant hotels, whose guests are referenced in the mosaic of the façade made by Eduard Veith, the only element surviving from the building, which was bombed by the Americans and looted and set on fire by the Soviets. And from the Neuer Markt it was one of the best restaurants in the city, praised by contemporary authors as “Rindfleischparadies”.

In fact, the restaurant of Meissl & Schadn offered no less than twenty-four beef dishes with ten different garnishes, all following centuries-old Viennese recipes. It was a privilege to dine here that only Vienna’s elite could enjoy.

There follows an extended quote from Joseph Wechsberg, “whose recollection of Meissl & Schadn’s Tafelspitz is both an anthem to Viennese cuisine and to the disappeared old Vienna.” I urge you to read the whole delirious thing, which made me think of that delightful movie The Grand Budapest Hotel, but what brings it to LH is the following extended rhapsody on its variety of dishes:
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Jerriais Revival.

An AFP story reports on efforts to revive Jerriais (or, if you prefer, Jèrriais):

Jerriais, the ancient language of Jersey, the largest Channel island which is just minutes from the French coast. “We’re the last generation to speak it naturally,” the 84-year-old told AFP. “It’s so sad when you lose the very essence of your culture.”

Lying just 14 miles (22 kilometres) from the French coast, Jersey is a self-governing British Crown Dependency, represented internationally by the UK government in London. Due to the dominance of English, a dwindling number of people speak the French-influenced local language. Jerriais — also called Jersey French — has existed for more than 1,000 years and traces its origins to nearby Normandy in northern France.

Sitting with his 77-year-old brother Jean in the small village of Saint Ouen, Le Maistre recalled that as children “we spoke nothing else at home”. But Jerriais was “considered a peasant language”, and teachers would even punish children for using it, Jean said. Now the brothers mainly use English, like most of Jersey’s 100,000 residents, reflecting its transformation since World War II from a rural community to a tourism destination and offshore tax haven. The same has happened for the similar but distinct language spoken on the nearby island of Guernsey — Guernesiais.

Today attitudes are changing, with efforts to preserve and revive languages gaining traction in many parts of the world. In 2019, Jersey declared Jerriais one of its official languages alongside English and French, and the government supports teaching it in schools. Enthusiasts hope Jersey will follow the example of another British Crown Dependency, the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea, which has revived its moribund local language Manx. […]

Giving a class at Beaulieu Convent School, a private Catholic school in Jersey’s capital of Saint Helier, she chats to seven-year-olds in Jerriais. “Comment qu’tu’es?” (How are you?) The children shoot their hands up, eyes glowing. “J’sis d’charme” (I’m well) or “J’sis magnifique” (I’m great), they answer. […]

Schools in Jersey began integrating Jerriais into their curriculums last year, and teachers are trying to teach children about their cultural heritage, even if they are unlikely to speak the language at home. “It’s kind of getting to the stage where the number of native speakers is below 800, and that’s critically endangered… so we’re working really, really hard to revitalise it,” Parker says.

We discussed Jerriais in 2010, and I’m happy to say that Geraint’s blog L’Office du Jèrriais, which I linked to in that post, is still going strong. Thanks, Trevor!

Protactile 2.

Sage Van Wing tells the story of a new language for OPB:

It’s not often a new language emerges. But in the last 15 years, a new language was born right here in the Pacific Northwest. It’s called Protactile, and it was created by a group of DeafBlind people who prioritize touch.

One of the people at the center of creating this new language is Jelica Nuccio. She recently moved to Monmouth, Oregon, where Western Oregon University just received a grant for $2.1 million from the U.S. Department of Education’s Rehabilitation Services Administration, or RSA, to help train Protactile language interpreters.

DeafBlind people like Nuccio have traditionally used variations on sign language to communicate, but it can be easy to miss important details in a language that is designed to be seen. “We can’t grow if we always are only getting things secondhand from other people who are seeing them in the world firsthand because people are uncomfortable shifting to a tactile ground,” Nuccio said. “There have been years and years and years of isolation for DeafBlind people.”

Protactile was born when Nuccio first took over the Deaf-Blind Service Center in Seattle. At that point, she began to advocate for DeafBlind people to communicate with each other without the use of interpreters. “I said no, we don’t need interpreters between us in our midst 24/7. We can run this thing ourselves directly in contact with one another,” Nuccio said. “The original intention was not to create a language: it was simply to be in communication with each other directly.

“Once we got in touch we realized that we were happening upon some different communication practices,” Nuccio said. “So we brought in some other DeafBlind people and we started interacting using those communication practices. We got a linguistic anthropologist involved. We basically created a space where everyone is DeafBlind and Protactile and asked: ‘If the world was just full of DeafBlind people — there were no hearing or sighted people on the planet — what would we do? How would we do it?’”

There’s more at the link, where you can also listen to the piece as it was broadcast; unfortunately, it doesn’t give much of a sense of what Protactile is — for that you’ll want to go to their website. Thanks, JC!

Update. It turns out I posted about Protactile a year ago. I have added a “2” to the title of this one and will flog myself vigorously. Unless I forget to.


The word stupa has long been familiar to me; it’s (to quote the OED, entry updated June 2019) “A structure serving as a Buddhist monument, shrine, or mausoleum; esp. a domed or bell-shaped structure topped with a spire.” The name is “< Sanskrit stūpa, specific use of stūpa, stupa lock of hair, top of the head, further etymology uncertain.” But I didn’t know the equivalent Russian word субурган [suburgan], which I just had to look up; the Russian Wikipedia article has this useful paragraph on terminology:

The name “stupa” (Sanskrit for ‘top, peak’) is characteristic only of India and Nepal; in Sri Lanka the name dagoba is used, in Myanmar zedi and pato, in Thailand chedi and prann, in Laos that, in Tibet and Bhutan chorten, and in Mongolia suvarga; in Russia (Buryatia, Kalmykia, Tuva, Altai) it is suburgan, in China and Vietnam bao ta, pagoda, etc.

Название “ступа” (санскр. – “макушка”) характерно только для Индии и Непала; в Шри-Ланке применяется название дагоба, в Мьянме — зеди и пато, в Таиланде — чеди и пранн, в Лаосе — тхат, в Тибете и Бутане — чортен, в Монголии — суварга; в России (Бурятия, Калмыкия, Тыва, Алтай) — субурган, в Китае и Вьетнаме — бао та, пагода и т. п.

English Wikipedia adds “The Asian words for pagoda ( in Chinese, t’ap in Korean, tháp in Vietnamese, in Japanese) are all thought to derive from the Pali word for stupa, thupa.” In the “Translations of Stupa” box in the right margin they have all the ones mentioned in the Russian article except for suburgan, which is obviously of the same origin as Mongolian suvarga, whatever that is. They also don’t explain the origins of chedi/zedi, prann, and chorten; for the last-named, M-W says “Tibetan mchod rten, literally, offering holder.” As always, your thoughts are welcome.


I’d never heard of the Irish insult “latchiko,” and I am glad to do so via Frank McNally’s Irish Times column:

There don’t seem to be quite as many latchikos in Irish life as there used to be, or at least not around where I live. Having flourished briefly in the second half of the last century, the word may be in danger of dying out again. And the odd thing is that many of us are still unsure what it meant, exactly, or where it came from.

It was never a compliment to be called a latchiko, that much is clear. But in Terry Dolan’s Dictionary of Hiberno-English, for example, it’s defined as “an unpleasant, disagreeable person (origin obscure)”. Whereas in most quoted instances I can find, the quality implied was more like uselessness, sometimes to be pitied rather than disliked.

A writer who used the expression more than most, John B Keane, sounded sympathetic when describing “some poor latchiko who wasn’t long out of the bogs”. Elsewhere, in broadly similar vein (albeit in a bovine context), he also offered a definition, via an agricultural inspector discussing the pedigree of a bull at Abbeyfeale Cattle Fair: “‘His grandfather was a latchiko,’ the inspector recalled, meaning that the parent in question was sometimes remiss in his obligations towards consenting heifers and often turned his back on what more industrious bulls might regard as golden opportunities.” […]

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They Progress So Fast!

Just a cartoon (XKCD), but it speaks to me as a quondam would-be Indo-Europeanist. (Mouseover title: “The worst is the Terrible Twos, when they’re always throwing things and shrieking, ‘forsooth, to bed thou shalt not take me, cur!’”) Thanks, Sven!


I’ve just started Andrei Bitov’s Оглашенные (Catechumens or Possessed/crazy people, translated by Susan Brownsberger as The Monkey Link from the title of one of the parts), and I was stopped before I got well started by the image on p. 9, just before the first part of the book — if you’re on Pinterest you can see it here, labeled “Human Head: ‘Zupf dich selbst bey deiner Nasen’ [tweak yourself by the nose] — 1640s.” (I can’t find any more accessible images.) Below the bird biting the nose is a set of verses in German that I could only partly make out, so I googled a phrase that was clear to me and found the text here, under “Sich an (bei) der (eigenen) Nase fassen (nehmen, zupfen)”:

Wer selber weder Storch noch Strauß
Vil närrischer sieht als andre auß,
Doch jedermann weiß außzulachen
Die kleine Fehler groß zu machen
Der jedem kann die mängel sagen
Und allen Leuthen Blech anschlagen,
Der mag nur seine Federn rupfen
Und selbst sich bey der Nasen zupfen.

But I was immediately distracted by the site I was on — what was “Slovopedia”? I went to the main page and found a slew of links to German dictionaries — but then I noticed a link to the true main page, in Russian, and found a slew of links to Russian dictionaries, as well as sidebar links to comparable pages for Ukrainian, Belorussian, Georgian, and Kazakh. What a treasure trove! I’m adding it to the sidebar.

The Bitov doesn’t thrill me, by the way; I’ll probably drop it for now after the first part.

Sorokin’s Norma.

Not long ago I posted about Vladimir Sorokin’s novel Роман (Roman); I hadn’t been planning to write about his Норма (Norma, forthcoming from New York Review Books in Max Lawton’s translation as The Norm; it was written in 1979-83 but published only in 1994) because I figured I’d described what Sorokin is up to (“present some pleasing cliché and violently deconstruct it”) and I didn’t want to repeat myself. But Norma is so different, and the things written about it in English are so unsatisfying (hopefully that will change when the translation is published), that I wanted to give an idea of what it’s like so the prospective reader might know whether to give it a go. It’s a lot of fun, but (like all Sorokin) frequently offensive and sometimes incomprehensible and/or unreadable.

The first thing you see when you open the book is a few pages in italics, recounting the arrest of Boris Gusev (born 1951, like me, hence thirtyish when the novel was written) by two KGB agents, who search his apartment and find, along with forbidden literature like Vol. III of Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago, a manuscript of 372 typed pages called Норма (Norma). One of them takes it to their boss, a thirteen-year-old boy, who dismisses him coldly and settles down to read. I note that on page 5 of my edition (the first, as it happens), the question “How are things going?” is answered “Все нормально” [Everything’s normal (i.e., OK)]; thus is introduced the leitmotif of the book, nearly every part of which contains the words норма ‘norm,’ нормальный ‘normal,’ and/or нормально ‘normally.’ (For an extensive discussion of the word “normal” and its history, see this 2008 post.) The boy opens the book, and a colon introduces the novel proper, which is divided into eight parts.
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He Did It His Way.

Michael Henry had a letter in the LRB (at the bottom of this link to the article it responds to) that has interesting things to say about Jack Fishman, “journalist, writer, songwriter, and spycatcher,” who had to give up writing songs for a while because his pseudonyms kept getting revealed and “He feared that if people found out that he was a successful Tin Pan Alley songwriter he wouldn’t be taken seriously as a journalist.” But I’m bringing it here for the final paragraph:

When I met Jack in the 1980s, he was working as music supervisor for the Cannon Group, a big player in the British film industry. He was a canny operator. In the opening scenes of Superman IV, a Russian cosmonaut is floating in space, struggling to repair the outside of his spacecraft. As he works, he sings a Russian version of the Sinatra classic ‘My Way’. The cost of acquiring the rights to one of the most famous lyrics of all time far exceeded the sum available in the music budget. But Jack knew that the American lyrics were a cover version of the French song ‘Comme d’habitude’. He suggested that instead of buying the rights to use the American lyrics, it would be cheaper to make a new Russian-language cover version to accompany the original French music. He figured that so long as the words weren’t a translation of ‘I did it my way’ it didn’t matter what they actually were, since any English-speaking viewer would automatically infer the words to ‘My Way’ from the tune alone.

(I was thinking the Wikipedia article I linked to should include the Russian version in Superman IV as a nice match for Raymond van het Groenewoud’s Dutch translation, but then I realized it’s not necessarily a translation of the French, so it probably doesn’t belong there..)

Large-scale Migration into Britain.

No, this isn’t about the causes of Brexit, I’m abbreviating the title of Large-scale migration into Britain during the Middle to Late Bronze Age by Nick Patterson, Michael Isakov, and a long list of coauthors ending with David Reich, published in Nature last month. At that link you can only get the abstract unless you’re a subscriber, so a more useful one is Juan Siliezar’s Harvard Gazette story about it:

New research reveals a major migration to the island of Great Britain 3,000 years ago and offers fresh insights into the languages spoken at the time, the ancestry of present-day England and Wales, and even ancient habits of dairy consumption. The findings are described in Nature by a team of more than 200 international researchers led by Harvard geneticists David Reich and Nick Patterson. Michael Isakov, a Harvard undergraduate who discovered the existence of the migration, is one of the co-first authors.

The analysis is one of two Reich-led studies of DNA data from ancient Britain that Nature published on December 22. Both highlight technological advances in large-scale genomics and open new windows into the lives of ancient people. […] The researchers analyzed the DNA of 793 newly reported individuals in the largest genome-wide study involving ancient humans. Their findings reveal a large-scale migration likely from somewhere in France to the southern part of Great Britain, or modern-day England and Wales, that eventually replaced about 50 percent of the ancestry of the island during the Late Bronze Age (1200 to 800 B.C.).

The study supports a recent theory that early Celtic languages came to Great Britain from France during the Late Bronze Age. It challenges two prominent theories: that the languages arrived hundreds of years later, in the Iron Age, or 1,500 years earlier at the dawn of the Bronze Age. Previous research has shown that large-scale movement often accompanied language changes in pre-state societies. The Reich team argues that this untold migration event makes more sense for the spread of early Celtic languages into Britain.

“By using genetic data to document times when there were large-scale movements of people into a region, we can identify plausible times for a language shift,” Reich said. “Known Celtic languages are too similar in their vocabularies to plausibly descend from a common ancestor 4,500 years ago, which is the time of the earlier pulse of large-scale migration, and very little migration occurred in the Iron Age. If you’re a serious scholar, the genetic data should make you adjust your beliefs: downweighting the scenario of early Celtic language coming in the Iron Age [and early Bronze Age] and upweighting the Late Bronze Age.”

There’s other interesting stuff (“the researchers found that the ability to digest cow’s milk dramatically increased in Britain from 1200 to 200 B.C., which is about a millennium earlier than it did in central Europe”), and I’m sure there are plenty of Hatters who will want to dig into it. Thanks, Bonnie!