Dralyuk on Schulz.

LH favorite Boris Dralyuk (see, most recently, here) reviews for the TLS two books, Benjamin Balint’s Bruno Schulz: An artist, a murder, and the hijacking of history and a new selection of Schulz’s stories, Nocturnal Apparitions, translated by Stanley Bill; he has a great deal of interest to say about Schulz, but what I’m bringing it here for is something that always pleases me, a discussion of differences between translations:

Bill is the third translator to produce a book-length selection of Schulz’s work in English. As he notes in his elegant foreword (and as Balint chronicles in his book), the first appeared in 1963: an acclaimed translation of Cinnamon Shops by the Warsaw-born Holocaust survivor Celina Wieniewska (1909–85; see TLS, July 26, 1963). This collection – retitled, after another story, The Street of Crocodiles – was then republished in 1977 as part of Penguin’s “Writers from the Other Europe” series, edited by Philip Roth, helping Schulz to reach a far wider audience. In 1988 Wieniewska’s translations of the stories of Sanatorium were published together with The Street of Crocodiles.

Wieniewska’s ear was as keenly attuned to the lyrical potential of English as it was to the music of Schulz’s Polish. Privileging neither sound nor sense, but rather the total effect of the prose – the sharpness of Schulz’s surprising but seldom confusing images and metaphors, the varied but never choppy rhythm of his clauses – she won for Schulz the fervent admiration of stylists such as Roth, Cynthia Ozick, Jonathan Safran Foer and Nicole Krauss. Yet, as Bill points out, “some scholars, especially in Poland, have criticized [Wieniewska for adopting] a deliberate strategy of simplification [and for] occasionally even omitting whole phrases or sentences”. Calls for a new translation were answered in 2018 with Madeline G. Levine’s volume of Schulz’s Collected Stories (TLS, April 6, 2018). Bill calls this work, in which Levine “hews as closely as possible to the idiosyncratic style and Polish syntax” of the stories, a “towering achievement and an invaluable broadening” of Schulz’s image for the English-speaking world.

Without narrowing that image or ignoring the idiosyncrasies of the original, Bill returns to Schulz the delicate lyricism – and the poignancy – with which Wieniewska suffused her recreations. The opening paragraphs of “August”, the first story in both Cinnamon Shops and Bill’s selection, introduce readers, almost literally (for in this prose metaphors have the habit of turning real), to the cornucopia of Schulz’s devices. Jakub has left his family “to take the waters”, abandoning them to “the mercy of the white-hot, blinding days of summer”. The holiday atmosphere enkindles little Józef’s imagination – an imagination that pores, or perhaps pours, over the raw material of reality:

Adela returned from the market on those luminous mornings like Pomona from the flames of the fiery day, pouring out from her basket the colourful bounty of the sun: glistening cherries bursting with juice under transparent skins; dark, mysterious morellos whose fragrance always surpassed their flavour; apricots whose golden pulp harboured the core of long afternoons. Alongside this pure poetry of fruit, she unloaded sides of meat, with their keyboards of ribs swollen with strength and nourishment, and seaweeds of vegetables like dead molluscs and jellyfish: the raw material for a dinner whose flavour was as yet unformed and barren; the vegetative, telluric ingredients of a meal whose aroma was wild and redolent of the fields.

Like the maid before the child’s eyes, the clause describing her glides, goddess-like, through our field of vision, to be suddenly tipped over and emptied of its “colourful bounty”. Bill’s syntax is smoother and more evocative than Levine’s, whose choice of tense (“would come back”) sacrifices both verbal elegance and visual immediacy for the sake of grammatical specificity. His diction, too, is more felicitous: “the flames of the fiery day” flash more brightly, with their alliteration, than Levine’s “the fire of the blazing day”, without dropping the productive tautology that Wieniewska had trimmed back to “the flames of day”. It’s also refreshing to see the cherries replenished with the “juice” of Wieniewska’s version and intensified with “bursting”. Levine had opted for “water”, a direct translation of the Polish woda, which feels less flavourless in the original context, and here flavour is all.

I have owned the 1977 Penguin paperback for decades, but (shamefully) have never read it; I’ll have to remedy that. Here’s the relevant paragraph in Wieniewska’s version:

On those luminous mornings Adela returned from the market, like Pomona emerging from the flames of day, spilling from her basket the colorful beauty of the sun — the shiny pink cherries full of juice under their transparent skins, the mysterious black morellos that smelled so much better than they tasted; apricots in whose golden pulp lay the core of long afternoons. And next to that pure poetry of fruit, she unloaded sides of meat with their keyboard of ribs swollen with energy and strength, and seaweeds of vegetables like dead octopuses and squids — the raw material of meals with a yet undefined taste, the vegetative and terrestrial ingredients of dinner, exuding a wild and rustic smell.

For those of my readers who know Russian, here it is in the translation by that fine stylist Asar Eppel:

Словно Помона из пламени дня распаленного, возвращалась в сияющие утра Аделя, вываливая корзинку цветастых красот солнца — лоснящиеся, полные влаги под тоненькой кожицей черешни, таинственные черные вишни, чей аромат далеко превосходил познаваемое на вкус; абрикосы, в золотой плоти которых была сокрыта долгая послеполуденная суть, а заодно с чистой этой поэзией плодов она выгружала налитые силой и питательностью пласты мяса с клавиатурой телячьих ребер, водоросли овощей, схожие с убитыми головоногими и медузами — сырьевое вещество обеда, где вкус еще пребывал несостоявшимся и бесплодным, вегетативные и теллурические ингредиенты еды, пахнувшие диким и полевым.

Finally, here’s the Polish original:

Adela wracała w świetliste poranki, jak Pomona z ognia dnia rozżagwionego, wysypując z koszyka barwną urodę słońca – lśniące, pełne wody pod przejrzystą skórką czereśnie, tajemnicze, czarne wiśnie, których woń przekraczała to, co ziszczało się w smaku; morele, w których miąższu złotym był rdzeń długich popołudni; a obok tej czystej poezji owoców wyładowywała nabrzmiałe siłą i pożywnością płaty mięsa z klawiaturą żeber cielęcych, wodorosty jarzyn, niby zabite głowonogi i meduzy – surowy materiał obiadu o smaku jeszcze nie uformowanym i jałowym, wegetatywne i telluryczne ingrediencje obiadu o zapachu dzikim i polnym.


  1. I cannot judge poetic juiciness of various English translations, but noticed an interesting lexical coincidence. Polish original has after cherries czarne wiśnie — black sour cherry, which both English translations gave as morellos. It is not an entirely satisfying choice. If “czarne wiśnie” is anything like its Russian cognate, it is a simple, very well known, ubiquitous fruit. “Morello” is something I never heard before and it is hard to even find a google page about it, I had to google “morello cherry” to get some info. The whole idea of the paragraph is that all that Adela brought from the market are very basic, “surowy” (crude, in addition to raw) as the original has it, ingredients. I understand translators’ difficulty. Writing “sour cherry” after “cherry” is not very poetic. There is no repetition in the original, czereśnie and wiśnie do not sound alike. Maybe a better choice was to use “sweet cherry” and “sour cherry”.

    But I digress. Apricot in Polish happens to be … morela from German Marille and Italian armellino, Latin armeniacum, that is Armenian (apricot is something that ripens prematurely). Have the translators decided that if the original has “morele” for apricot they can use “morello” for wiśnie?

  2. Yes, absolutely wonderful transformation.

    (And another level of complication to the discussion of *čermъxa “Prunus padus”. Prunus padus and czereśnia “Prunus avium” are known as “bird cherry”. And more: Prunus serotina, black cherry, is also called *čermъxa in Slavic)

  3. black sour cherry, which both English translations gave as morellos. It is not an entirely satisfying choice.

    Yes, that bothered me too. I’ve never heard of morellos.

  4. @D.O. black sour cherry, which both English translations gave as morellos. It is not an entirely satisfying choice.

    Jeepers, I agree. ‘Morello’ is something this (Brit) English speaker is very familiar with. They’re more sour than commercial ‘red’ cherries (for want of a better term) — and I prefer them for that reason — but the commercially available ones (hybrids, presumably) I wouldn’t call actually sour.

    The word looks Italian (though sources say ‘uncertain origin’), and the ones from the markets in Italy or Southern France are really anything but sour. They’re just not as sickly as ‘red’/sweet cherries. Hints of almond nougat.

    the mysterious black morellos that smelled so much better than they tasted; [from one translation]

    Yeah, nah, nah. Actual Morellos are delicious straight off the tree!

    I presume these market-bought central/northern-European dark cherries are sharp like gooseberries? They’re for bottling in syrup, or baking in a tart, or for making a compôte to go with cold cuts — definitely needing a lot of sweetening(?)

    I can’t suggest a decent alternative — ‘black cherries’? — but ‘Morello’ isn’t right. ‘Kirsch cherries’? (made from sour cherry, but not sweet) But that would give all the wrong connotations.

  5. Compare my difficulty with Mandelstam’s Horseshoe:

    I actually used “pines” in line three (for Russian сосны) and “stone pines” in line six (for пиниями). It’s annoying that there isn’t a more distinctive equivalent for пиния (the alternative translation is “Italian pine”)

  6. the new translation looks exciting!

    and it’s always hard to write about (to fall back on yiddish) karshn and vaynshlekh at the same time in english, since the two fruits get collapsed into a single word. i also don’t love “morellos” as a solution (partly because using a commercial cultivar name feels off), though the echo of “morela” is delicious (and led me to learn that yiddish has מאַרעל [marél] as well as אַפּריקאָס [aprikós]). one possible path, though one i don’t love, could be to breeze right by the P. avium/P. cerasus distinction, and simply have the color contrast mark the difference.

    and to drasvi’s point: i grew up with a tall P. serotina next to my house under the name “black cherry”, but to distinguish it from, well, czarne wiśnie, i’ve taken to calling them “chokecherry”, though in these parts that ought to properly refer to P. virginiana (which looks quite similar, but a bit less so).

    i hope cherryblossom season has been as gorgeous where you all are as here in nyc, where it came early and explosively, overlapping gloriously with the daffodils. the various botanic gardens and park conservancies have succeeded in making sakura season part of the city’s ritual calendar, which i’m very glad of!

  7. Tim May says

    Here’s Levine’s translation of the paragraph, from a sample of the Kindle version:

    Adela would come back on those luminous mornings like Pomona from the fire of the blazing day, pouring from her basket the colorful beauty of the sun—the glistening sweet cherries, full of water beneath their transparent skin; the mysterious dark sour cherries, whose aroma far exceeded their flavor; apricots whose golden flesh held the core of long afternoons; and next to this pure poetry of fruit she would unload racks of flesh with their keyboards of veal ribs, swollen with energy and nourishment; seaweeds of vegetables that resembled slaughtered cephalopods and jellyfish—the raw material of dinner with a taste as yet unformed and bland, the vegetative, telluric ingredients of dinner with a smell both wild and redolent of the field.

  8. Trond Engen says

    Morellos are ubiquitous in Norway. I have a tree in my garden. It’s blossoming right now, but I’ll never get to eat the fruit, because the birds and the ants will take it all before it’s ripe, but it’s there, and I do get to prune it.

    More importantly, ubiquitywise, are the fruitfarms*, most famously those in the fjords of western Norway**, but morellofarming* is everywhere, and (what’s left of) markets teem with morellos in the season.

    * Compound stress, compound spelling, that’s the rule.

    ** I must have told this before, but the main roads along the fjords are often lined by fruittrees on both sides. One friend of mine from when I lived in Bergen described the system as “drive-in slang“***.

    *** Useful Norwegian word of the day:

    slang m. stealing fruit from a tree, usually but not necessarily by a quick or stealthy operation under risk of being discovered by an angry man with a moustache and a reddish complexion.

  9. @AntC: Gooseberries (at least the ones I’ve grown) aren’t tart if they are picked when they are actually ripe. They just tend to be picked too early. Lots of people have evidently never seen that gooseberries, like so many other fruit, get a pink blush when they’re ready to eat—although unlike for most other kinds of ripe berries, the green never goes entirely away.

  10. Stu Clayton says

    Is that Norwegian slang slang? Many Germans use Slang to mean “jargon” or “argot”.

    That’s not a new practice:
    In einer wissenschaftlichen Abhandlung, die das gesamte Gebiet der Einheitswissenschaft berührt, kann man daher nur einen “Slang” verwenden, der Termini beider Sprachen umfaßt.
    Otto Neurath, Protokollsätze, [1932]

    I ran across that this week in the Reclam Der Wiener Kreis booklet with selected writings of Carnap, Neurath, Schlick, Popper. With Wittgenstein in the wings (they often refer to the tractatus )

  11. @Brett Gooseberries … aren’t tart if they are picked when they are actually ripe. They just tend to be picked too early. Lots of people have evidently never seen …

    Thanks! Then count me in with the ‘lots of people’.

    We did have a couple of gooseberry bushes at the family house, but the birds took them (as Trond says) before they got ripe. Commercial gooseberries get picked when still ‘firm’ (that is, sour) so they don’t bruise in transit.

  12. Stu Clayton says

    (they often refer to the tractatus)

    “Often” is wrong. Rather, some of them occasionally refer to W’s views and the tractatus. W was still busy cornering the market in oracular soufflage.

  13. slang m. stealing fruit from a tree

    In Haugen as “slang -en stealing, petty theft (usu. in connection with children stealing apples from a tree).” Oddly, it’s not in Wiktionary; I wonder what the etymology is?

  14. Trond Engen says

    Slang is slang, as Stu suggests, so there doesn’t need to be a clear etymology, but ordbokene.no says “through sailors’ argot from Eng. slang “cheat, deceive””.

  15. Thanks! I wasn’t aware of that meaning in English.

  16. Trond Engen says

    Neither was I. Probably long gone.

    And it doesn’t answer where the English word is from.

  17. Jen in Edinburgh says

    The OED doesn’t know:

    ‘A word of cant origin, the ultimate source of which is not apparent. It is possible that some of the senses may represent independent words. In all senses except 1 only in slang or canting use.
    The date and early associations of the word make it unlikely that there is any connection with certain Norwegian forms in sleng- which exhibit some approximation in sense.’

  18. Stu Clayton says

    I seem to remember an expression like “slanging the customers/tourists/?” in a 19C novel, one by Trollope maybe. I think that at the time I thought it meant bad-mouthing them. Am I confusing this with the (more modern?) “slang off” ?? Introspection is coming up with dust on the shelves, and not much more.

  19. Trond Engen says

    My OERD doesn’t know the sense. The closest is slang v. “use abusive language (to)”, which to me looks like it might be the origin of slang n. “very informal language”.

    Edit: Posted before reading Jen’s and Stu’s comments.

  20. David Eddyshaw says

    slang m. stealing fruit from a tree, usually but not necessarily by a quick or stealthy operation under risk of being discovered by an angry man with a moustache and a reddish complexion


  21. @AntC: There is no point in growing gooseberries (except, I suppose, as ornamentals) without gooseberry nets, like the one that entrapped Peter Rabbit. (There are a lot of allegedly “complete” editions of some—for example, all the rabbit tales—or all of Beatrix Potter’s stories. However, it is very rare for them to be genuinely complete; the absence of the illustration showing the hearty pie made from Peter’s father usually puts the lie to the “complete” claim by page 3 of the very first story. On the other hand, the edition I linked to does thankfully include it, as well as some other illustrations that are commonly omitted from the various stories.)

  22. David Marjanović says

    Also, głowonogi i meduzy is literally “cephalopods and jellyfish” as in the third translation, neither “octopuses and squids” (both of them cephalopods) nor “molluscs and jellyfish”. Clearly the translators were trying to work around the fact that cephalopods as a group are much less often talked about in English than the other choices. (German Kopffüßer are somewhat more widely known.)

    German Marille

    Ha, yet another Austriacism in Polish. (Aprikose in Germany, roughly speaking.)

  23. ktschwarz says


    This is British, not known in the US. At least, it was unfamiliar to me (but obvious from context) when I read it in Diana Wynne Jones’s Charmed Life:

    “Apples,” he said, showing the Stranger. “Lovely sweet ones. I’ve been scrumping.”

    The Stranger looked grave. “Scrumping,” he said, “is a form of stealing.”

    Cat knew that as well as he did. He thought it was very joyless, even for a Town Councillor, to point it out. “I know. But I bet you did it when you were my age.”

    The Stranger coughed slightly and changed the subject.

    This is from an American edition (Knopf, 1989), but it’s only very superficially Americanized, just the quotation marks and a few spellings (centre to center) changed; they (quite rightly) didn’t do anything to vocabulary or grammar that I noticed.

    OED (updated 2016) confirms that the verb is “British colloquial (originally English regional)”, and their earliest citation (under scrumping, n.) is from 1866, later than I would have guessed for such a domestic-sounding word.

  24. PlasticPaddy says

    I would know the product scrumpy, rather than the method used to obtain the raw materials….

  25. @Brett There is no point in growing gooseberries (…) without gooseberry nets,

    Sage advice. About 50 years too late. The bushes were already in situ when we moved into the house. My parents (who clearly had never eaten ripe gooseberries either) regarded them as a nuisance, and eventually got them grubbed them out — with much cursing-under-the-breath from the contractor.

    Replaced by a Victoria Plum tree — that also the birds loved. Rapidly grew too tall to be able to put a net over.

  26. “she unloaded sides of meat, with their keyboards of ribs swollen with strength and nourishment”

    I rarely read English fiction and know nothing about English intonations, and of course I read this as “ribs swollen” rather than “sides swollen”.

  27. Trond Engen says

    Back to Eng. slang n. & v. Slang words don’t have to have a clear etymology, but the origin seems to be in 19th c. cant, and there are some usual sources for that — Romani and Yiddish most prominently, but also sailors’ jargon through harbour argot (or vice versa). I don’t have tools for a thorough search in all directions, so I’ll narrow the field by saying that the word looks native (or at least Germanic) in form, and if so, the sling – slang – slung root is right there. My OERD didn’t have much to say, but Wiktionary FWIW says

    sling (third-person singular simple present slings, present participle slinging, simple past and past participle slung or slang)

    1. To throw with a circular or arcing motion.
    2. To throw with a sling.
    3. (nautical) To pass a rope around (a cask, gun, etc.) preparatory to attaching a hoisting or lowering tackle.
    4. (slang) To sell, peddle, or distribute (often illicitly, e.g. drugs, sex, etc.).

    The harbour argot is right there. The new infinitive slang might perhaps suggest that it’s a resultative derivation, “to make someone slung“. And the meaning “set a trap for some easy target” isn’t far away.

    The original meaning of sling v. seems to have been “move in a winding fashion” (hence PGmc. *slango- “snake” with descendants in Every Gmc. language except English). German schlingen can mean “swing” but also “bind”, and Norw. slynge/slenge s.v. has a broad set of senses including “dangle; hurl (with a swinging motion); throw (a rope or similar object)”. The young David killed Goliath with a slynge, just as he did in English with a sling. German Schlinge f. “nooze” also means “snare, trap”. (I’m close to suggesting that the sense “throw” developed with the use of the snare as a lasso.). These senses might have been borrowed into Harbour English,

    Another data point is Yid. shlong “snake, penis”. As a verb it can supposedly mean “verbally abuse”. The word does not look Yiddish, but an early borrowing might perhaps have been nativized in form, or the meanings preserved in Yiddish were found also in Dutch/Low German in the 17th century.

  28. @Trond Engen: In what way does it not look Yiddish?

  29. Trond Engen says

    I would at least expect s(c)h- before l.

  30. But that’s what it has!

  31. Trond Engen says

    Oh, I see. Yes, shlong certainly looks Yiddish, but slang does not.

    I was in a hurry to wrap up the comment, and that final paragraph got to suffer for it. Also, I see I repeated “is right there” after the Wikt quote, in a paragraph I added late.

  32. @LH, пинии is a difficult word, of course – used in Italian contexts and sounds Romance…

    I envy English speakers because our shops sell many different things as “mandariny“.

    Vishnya is the word we use to translate “cherry” (as you know) and also sakura (when it is not sakura) etc. But it is the sour cherry.
    Chereshnya is something a Muscovite founds in markets and shops, I mean, in shops and not elsewhere. It is also more commonly sold. I don’t know why people don’t eat vishnya in the same quantities (other than in varen’ye) – it is TASTY.

  33. i much prefer vaynshl/vishnya to the other kind – luckily i live in a place with a lot of russian & post-soviet communities that agree (or at least want them for varen’ye and their cousins), so i can get them in season (and go to the one vaynshlboym in my neighborhood).

  34. vaynshlekh… vaynshl…

    I didn’t know there is a Germanic cognate of *višьňa. Wiktionary says PG *wīhsilō/*wīhsalō, OHG wīhsila, German “(now Bavaria, Austria, Switzerland)” Weichsel.

    I wonder
    1. why the native Germanic word disappeared in most Germanic languages.
    2. if it actually originally referred to Prunus cerasus or to something else (e.g. wild Prunus avium)


    Prunus cerasus, a tetraploid with 2n=32 chromosomes, is thought to have originated as a natural hybrid between Prunus avium and Prunus fruticosa in the Iranian Plateau or Eastern Europe where the two species come into contact. Prunus fruticosa is believed to have provided its smaller size and sour tasting fruit. The hybrids then stabilized and interbred to form a new, distinct species.[7]

    Cultivated sour cherries were selected from wild specimens of Prunus cerasus and the doubtfully distinct P. acida from around the Caspian and Black Seas, and were known to the Greeks in 300 BC. …

  35. John Cowan says

    I grew up in a house whose back yard had an immense sweet cherry tree, unclimbable, whose fruit seemed to rot as soon as they hit the ground, and a quite climbable sour cherry tree. I used to climb the latter and eat all the fruit within reach. I never understood why it was called sour except, perhaps, in a purely relative sense ‘not as sweet as sweet cherries’.

  36. Looking at the OED entry for morello, I was pleased to learn the obsolete English word visney referring to a kind of cherry brandy apparently originally imported from Turkey, as on page 898 here, from 1731. The word seems to be more or less proximately from Turkish vişne ‘morello, sour cherry’.

    Richard Bradley, in The Country Housewife and Lady’s Director, in the Management of a House, and the Delights and Profits of a Farm, has a recipe here (page 125 of the 1736 edition):

    To make Visney

    This Visney is made of pure Brandy, and as many Morello Cherries as will fill the Bottles or Casks, with one Ounce of Loaf-Sugar to each full Quart ; these Vessels or Bottles must be gently stopp’d, when the Cherries are put in, and stand in a cool Cellar for two Months before the Liquor is poured from them, and then the Liquor may be put in small Bottles for use: It is not very strong, but very pleasant. The Cherries, when they are taken out, may be distill’d, and will yield a fine Spirit.

    But Ottoman ویشنە vişne has [ʃ], not [s]. I wonder if the s in English visney is due to a
    pronunciation with [s] in the accent of Greek producers or middlemen, as in Greek βύσσινο ‘morello’.

  37. @John Cowan: I also grew up harvesting cherries. We had multiple varieties* planted (or grafted) in our backyard, but they also grew wild. Some of the small wild cherries were good, but most of them were unpalatable chokecherries, inedibly sour (and somewhat bitter) even at their ripest. I hypothesized that the old name sour cherry may have transferred from the genuinely sour types (good only for people who are starving, or as a mash for distilling fruit liquor) to the sourest ones that people actually ate.

    * For how many people does “multiple variety” work here? It doesn’t for me.

  38. David Marjanović says

    German “(now Bavaria, Austria, Switzerland)” Weichsel.

    Oh yeah, that could actually be a root cognate.

    Farther north, the distinction isn’t made. Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte uses sour cherries, not sweet ones, so it’s a misnomer when it gets south of the Black Forest.

    For how many people does “multiple variety” work here?

    No, that would be “a multiple(-)variety” and wouldn’t make sense here anyway.

  39. Trond Engen says

    I’ve been confused and confusing the matter. I don’t know if this will help:

    Norwegian moreller are apparently Prunus avium, or bird cherries, but the terminology/taxonomy isn’t clear to me. Prunus avium can terminologically be called moreller or søtkirsebær, and popularly fuglebær, while P. cerasus is kirsebær or surkrsebær.

    Within the latter there are two main types, “light” and “dark”, and to confuse the innocent the dark sorts are called moreller by professionals and surkirsebær or just kirsebær by layfolks, while the light sorts are called amareller by professionals and søtkirsebær by others. There are also cultivars that are hybrids of P. avium and P. cerasus. I suppose they are moreller too,

    We were told when we bought this house that one tree was a morell tree and the other søtkirsebær. I think the latter must be amarell then, but I don’t know.

  40. * For how many people does “multiple variety” work here?

    What DM said. No, it doesn’t work for me. It doesn’t fit any of the patterns identified on the parallel thread — except perhaps appearing in Headlinese, which is not English.

    “a multiple-variety (tree)” could be talking about some sort of grafted Frankenstein’s tree with differently sweet/sour fruit on different branches ???

  41. @AntC: Yeah, “multiple variety” as a modifier of “[cherry] tree” actually sounds pretty good me. One of our tress was like that. The root stock and most the tree were Bing, but one major limb was a graft and produced Queen Anne cherries. However, for me “multiple variety” only seems to work as a description of trees, not their actual fruits. I wonder whether the widespread use of grafting as a part of fruit tree cultivation has something to do with “multiple[-]variety cherry tree” sounding fine, while ?”multiple[-]variety cherries” seems marginal at best.

    (Having had the phrase “multiple variety” on my mind all day, I now can’t seem to get the movie Screamers out of my head either.)

  42. Does Slavic /č-/ (PWG *k-) in what was ceras-/ceres- in Latin and κερασ- in Greek tell anything interesting about the loan? Say, that it predates the second palatalisation (tsar < *cěsar’ь < kaisar-/caesar), or that it came from a language with a /č/-like reflex of c-?

    (funny to see in Romanian two words fully recognisable from Slavic, where the v-word is supposed to have come from Slavic to Romance and the c-word went in the opposite direction…)

  43. It shows the usual result of the first palatalisation, making it likely that it was loaned before that.

  44. David Marjanović says

    Either it predates the Second Palatalization by enough to have undergone the First, or it was borrowed from a Romance language that already had some sort of č.

    Sending it through the First would probably require routing it through Germanic, which is probably impossible because the second vowel is *e and not *i > **ь.

  45. Sending it through the First would probably require routing it through Germanic

  46. Arabs besieged Byzantium from the south. Slavs besieged Byzantium from the north.
    The origins of Arabs are pleasantly certain, and the origins of Slavs are just as pleasantly uncertain.
    Knowing is good. Not knowing is good.

  47. Stu Clayton says

    Is Halbwissen good as well ? Or only half good ?

  48. David Marjanović says


    Because of where everyone was at the time of the First: the Slavs back then were not in direct contact with the Western Roman Empire, and while I can’t quite dare rule out the Eastern one, κερασ- can’t be the source of *čeres- as far as I understand. And neither can a Germanic *keris- > WGmc. *kiris-.

  49. We could just assume a Balkan intermediary. Loaning via an intermediary wouldn’t be unusual for a cultivar like that.

  50. David Marjanović says

    Attested languages in the Balkan at the time are Gothic, Greek and Latin. Albanian must have been somewhere, but probably not terribly close to where Slavic was then.

  51. Are we sure that languages like Illyrian, Thracian, or Dacian were already dead when the word was loaned? Especially as the word could have been loaned centuries before the 1st palatalisation.

  52. *čeres- – actually, it is monosyllabic in most languages where the usual outcome of tert-metathesis is monosyllabic (Slavonic črěšĭnja).

  53. “Дальнейшие истоки слова менее ясны; сближают с названием города Κερᾰσοῦς на малоазиатском берегу Черного моря, но оно само скорее произведено от апеллатива (Κερᾰσοῦς — ‘вишнеобильный город’);….”

    GoogleTargum: “Further origins of the word are less clear; bring together with the name of the city Κερᾰσοῦς on the Asia Minor coast of the Black Sea, but it itself is rather derived from the appellative (Κερᾰσοῦς – ‘cherry rich city’);…”

    They formed вишнеобильный based on a compounding model found nowhere else but in Homeric Russian:) Even their prototype златообильный isn’t a calque of πολύχρυσος which it translates…

  54. “Adela wracała w świetliste poranki”: ᴗ – ᴗ ᴗ – ᴗ ᴗ – ᴗ ᴗ – ᴗ . Russians would call this четырехстопный амфибрахий, roughly “amphibrachic tetrameter.”

    Wieniewska: “On those luminous mornings Adela returned from the market.” ᴗ ᴗ – ᴗ ᴗ – ᴗ ᴗ – ᴗ ᴗ – ᴗ ᴗ – ᴗ . An anapestic pentameter with a feminine ending.

    Eppel: “Словно Помона из пламени дня распаленного…” – ᴗ ᴗ – ᴗ ᴗ – ᴗ ᴗ – ᴗ ᴗ – ᴗ ᴗ . A dactylic pentameter.

    Bill doesn’t do that but keeps the three-syllable beat throughout the long opening period (assuming “fiery” has three syllables):

    Adela returned from the market
    on those luminous mornings
    like Pomona
    from the flames of the fiery day,
    pouring out from her basket the colourful bounty
    of the sun…

    The three-syllable pulsation returns at the end of Schulz’s passage, in “ingrediencje obiadu o zapachu dzikim i polnym.” But this bit is really difficult to translate because polny, “of the fields,” has no equivalent in English.

    It’s also interesting how Schulz puts these long Latinate words: “wegetatywne i telluryczne ingrediencje” ahead of the simple Slavic ending, “o zapachu dzikim i polnym.” The message, I think, is that the strong, field-y and wild smell is already there but the taste isn’t – it’s upon the cook to bring it out. Wieniewska gets it right but Bill goes for “whose flavour was as yet unformed and barren.” “Flavor” muddles things, and I’d use “jejune” instead of “barren” given the context.

    Eppel’s text is simply no good except the very beginning. Perhaps it’s the best possible Russian translation, but it’s still crap.

  55. “The three-syllable pulsation returns at the end of Schulz’s passage.” I’ve just listened to it on YouTube and have to walk back this claim. It’s my Russian background playing tricks on me: the stress in zapachu is on the second a, not the first.

  56. I’m surprised that sweet cherries are described as pełne wody pod przejrzystą skórką – “bursting with juice under transparent skins”/”full of juice under their transparent skins”/”full of water beneath their transparent skin”.

    Sour cherries are juicy, not sweet ones:/

    “возвращалась в сияющие утра”
    reads as a spatial reference: “returned into the luminous mornings”….

  57. Sour cherries are juicy, not sweet ones:/
    I spent a lot of my early childhood under a sweet cherry tree, and I can tell you that sweet cherries can be very juicy. Maybe depends on the sort.

  58. David Marjanović says

    *čeres- – actually, it is monosyllabic in most languages where the usual outcome of tert-metathesis is monosyllabic (Slavonic črěšĭnja).

    Oh. Oops.

    I finally looked it up. It turns out that the usual Polish word, czereśnia, is an East Slavic loan; that’s what confused me. At least I now understand the last name Trześniewski!

    So, the Proto-Slavic reconstruction is *čèršьňa. The *-ьňa part is thought to be tacked on from *višьňa, so we’re left with a “root” *čèrš- that would have been **kèrsj- before all the palatalizations. That’s nothing short of identical to the putatively original Quite Vulgar Latin* ceresia if we can get the latter’s stressed vowel to drop out.

    * But not Terribly Late Latin. Not only is it in Sardinian (as cheréssia among others), it got into Basque as gerezi, before some serious Romanizing changes to the Basque sound system.

    For dropping stressed noninitial vowels, Germanic is always a good bet. But on the Germanic side, the word reconstructs only to Proto-West-Germanic *kirsijā, says Wiktionary. To me it’s clear that’s actually wrong: every one of the attested reflexes given on that page has a -rs- cluster; the second *i looks like an overapplication of Sievers’s law, which applied in Proto-Germanic but had, as loans into Finnic show, already been forgotten by Proto-Northwest-Germanic. The first *i is caused by West Germanic umlaut triggered by the *j.

    So, we can postulate a Pre-Slavic **kersj- and a Pre-West-Germanic **kersj-, the latter quite regularly borrowed from Latin *keresj-. The trick would then be to get Pre-Slavic and Pre-West-Germanic next to each other. There must have been East Germanic in between. It all works out if the word passed through either before East Germanic turned every *e into *i or after it (…or maybe just a part of Gothic…) turned every *ir into *er. I don’t think any of this can be dated until somebody finds a huge stash of Roman-era runes in Poland.

    Albanian has an unremarkable Latin loan, qereshi. The pesky second vowel is still there.

    I don’t think anything is known on when Dacian died out, or on whether it was ever in contact with Slavic (there may have been East Germanic in between pretty soon). Thracian, I would guess, was always too far away.

    In short, a loan from Romance directly into Slavic can be ruled out by the second vowel. (The geographically closest Romance languages listed in Wiktionary all still have it: Venetian and Istriot sareza, “Dalmatian” – no specifics, no sources – cris. Though of course one suspects that the Istriot version is a Venetian loan.) A loan from Latin through Germanic into Slavic works if various timing issues can be made to line up.

  59. David Marjanović says

    To me it’s clear that’s actually wrong

    …and that’s completely irrelevant; the *-rs- cluster is already there in the reconstruction, and whether it was *-rsj- doesn’t matter. Sorry for any confusion.

    Anyway, for a similar example of a stressed Latin vowel being ignored in Germanic, try Fenster “window” < fenestra.

  60. It would be nice to take a look on a list of other Slavic reflexes of foreign (and native) teret (and tirit).
    Do they become tret?

    I hoped that The Etymological Dictionary of Slavic Languages will clarify this, it vaguely implies they do sometimes (but how often?): Что касается отражения сочетания гласных с плавным -era-/-erě-, то свидетельство слав. метатезы плавных недостаточно однозначно: лат. cerasia, cerĕsia (гласный после плавного краткий) могло быть передано как слав. *čerša в период действия метатезы плавных, но равным образом могло быть субституировано позже, уже после завершения метатезы плавных, как это известно и из других примеров.

    Edited DeepL: As for the reflection of the combination of vowels with a liquid -era-/-erě-, the evidence of the Slav. liquid metathesis is insufficiently unequivocal: Latin cerasia, cerĕsia (the vowel after the liquid is short) could have been rendered as Slav. *čerša during the period of the liquid metathesis, but equally could have been substituted later, after the completion of the liquid metathesis, as it is known from other examples.

    I wanted to copy the entire article, but its machine translation is horrible while the drasvi translation… I feel it could be easier to translate it to German, but I don’t know German:)

  61. Stu Clayton says

    I feel it could be easier to translate it to German, but I don’t know German:)

    Nice joke, but I doubt that unintelligible English machine-speak might be more intelligible if it were in German.

    I seem to remember that Wittgenstein did not write: Was sich überhaupt auf Deutsch sagen läßt, läßt sich klar sagen. The tractatus itself shows either that this is not true, or W wasn’t trying hard enough.

    Isn’t it just possible that writers, not the languages in which they write, are at least partially responsible for the intelligibility of what they write ? Of course readers are responsible for the rest.

    то свидетельство … недостаточно однозначно

    DeepL eliminates the fluff, and just gives “the evidence … is not unequivocal” and “so ist der Beweis … nicht eindeutig“. “Insufficiently unequivocal” reminds me of “a little pregnant” (ein bißchen schwanger).

    In German legalese, Beweis (or Beweismittel) means “evidence”, which is not at all the same as “proof”. Outside of the legal system, Beweis means “proof”, so the word is out of place in this connection.

  62. Stu, I mean human translation, not machine translation. And I don’t mean this specific paragraph: it is more or less readable, and that’s why I posted it. I wanted to add that I replaced “smooth” with “liquid” and restored “insufficiently” simply because in English “insufficiently unequivoval” sounds extremely funny (and the word was in the original) but decided not to complicate the comment.

    Generally, it is a recognisable style of scientific Russian (a dictionary version full of weird omissions) which is hard to translate to my broken English. At least the translation won’t be literal. I suspect, finding German equivalents (functional, semantic) of their terms and constructions would be an easier task, but maybe I’m wrong.

    PlasticPaddy: “is not an adjective formed with the un-prefix
    yes, I guess this “in- un-” is [a part of] what makes the literal English translation sound funny.

  63. PlasticPaddy says

    One thing in defence of the Russian is that odnoznachno “unambiguous” , literally “one-signed” (is this a calque from German eindeutig?) is not an adjective formed with the un-prefix (nedostatochno “insufficiently” is such an adjective). But maybe (as with passive voice) piling up qualifiers, including negative qualifiers of negative qualifiers, and stating explicitly what they are not saying, is a technique scientists use in writing to give the illusion that only facts are being prevented from the viewpoint of a disinterested but keen observer. Outside the courtroom or the pages of the scientific journal, instead of “insufficiently unambiguous”, “ambiguous” would do, or “does not permit us to come to a firm conclusion”, if one wants to identify the effect of the ambiguity.

  64. Stu Clayton says

    @drasvi: I suspect, finding German equivalents (functional, semantic) of their terms and constructions would be an easier task, but maybe I’m wrong.

    You can blame the author. из хама не будет пана. No animals are harmed.

  65. is this a calque from German eindeutig?

    That would be my guess, but unfortunately it’s not in Vasmer (and Wiktionary just dives into the etymology of the знак part, ignoring the origin of the actual word under consideration).

  66. @PlasticPaddy: I once gave my former advisor a hard time for using, ‘I do not disagree with what you say.”

  67. can be recursive: “you think that I disagree but I do not”.

  68. John Cowan says

    Nice joke, but I doubt that unintelligible English machine-speak might be more intelligible if it were in German.

    Consider this well-known English-language machine-room sign:


    Dieses Maschine is nicht fur gefingerpoken und mittengrabben. Ist easy schnappen der Springerwerken, blowenfusen und corkenpoppen mit spitzensparken. Ist nicht fur gewerken bei das Dummkopfen. Das Rubbernecken Sightseeren keepen hands in das Pockets, relaxen und watschen das blinkenlights!

    The German translation (human) is:


    This room is fullfilled mit special electronische equippment. Fingergrabbing and pressing the cnoeppkes from the computers is allowed for die experts only! So all the “lefthanders” stay away and do not disturben the brainstorming von here working intelligencies. Otherwise you will be out thrown and kicked anderswhere! Also: please keep still and only watchen astaunished the blinkenlights.

    There are many variants of both.

  69. PlasticPaddy says

    @Brett, drasvi
    Not knowing Brett, his Doktorvater, or their way of communicating, I really feel unqualified to attempt to assign any meaning other than the purely literal one. Assuming there was an unspoken “, but” after “what you say”, such a “but” could mean a lot of things:
    1. But you need to provide better evidence.
    2. But a very senior person would, and she might be influential in deciding what kind of academic career you will have.
    3. But you need not insist so loudly, as you may turn others off, based on your tone.
    4. But you will soon see this line of inquiry is a dead end.

  70. @PlasticPaddy: This was part of a three-way e-mail conversation between collaborators,* about a very subtle topic in formal field theory. I am not sure that more than four people ever completely understood the subject, and three of them were the participants in that conversation. The implied “but” was something like: “… but ultimately, this is a matter of opinion, since we are talking about the best way of explaining the behavior of an unphysical toy model.” I actually laughed at little at your theory number 2—since my advisor Roman was one of the three most prominent people working in this research area, and he got a whole bunch of young scientists interested in that area—including two post-docs who, under his supervision, came up with a much more concrete way of demonstrating the superiority of the interpretational approach I had advocated.

    * We never all collaborated at the same time, however. There are two-author papers written by A and B, A and C, and B and C—but none by A, B, and C.

  71. John Cowan says

    I am not sure that more than four people ever completely understood the subject

    This is itself a rhetorical negation of the same type as “I do not disagree with what you say.” Just saying.

    I thought I was exaggerating by saying that hypertwistoploppic pseudotheomorphisms (which do not exist) were only studied by six people worldwide, but I see I wasn’t.

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