Eltang’s Blackberries.

This is another of those books with untranslatable titles. The Russian is Побег куманики, the pobeg of the kumanika. What’s a pobeg? Well, there are either two homophonous words (as in Russian Wiktionary) or a single word with two very divergent senses (as in the English version); in any case, it can mean either ‘flight, escape’ or ‘sprout, shoot.’ The first is more common, occurring in phrases like побег из армии ‘flight from the army’ or преступный побег ‘criminal escape,’ but here it is paired with куманика, which refers to a berry known in English as “European blackberry” or (in the stern view of Wikipedia) Rubus nessensis. So it should be Blackberry Shoot, right? That’s what I assumed until I read the novel, Lena Eltang’s first, and learned that the name the protagonist usually goes by, Moras, is Spanish for ‘mulberry’ or ‘blackberry.’ In fact, there’s a diary entry about it (much of the novel consists of his diary):

Lucas asks me why I call myself Moras.

It’s a long story, but I can make it shorter. Moras is a Spanish kumanika. It’s a blackberry [ezhevika], to be exact, but the only difference is the blue-gray patina on the tight, blue-black buttocks.

No, there’s another difference: blackberries like sun-drenched shores, while kumanika like sharp sedges and damp moss.

Undoubtedly, I am a kumanika. I am bound to them by a runic soap rope, for my rune is the oak-blackberry-kumanika thorn.

I am bound to them by the same prickly, succulent stem that bound mad Jean to his broom[25].

Since I’ve been in Spain, I have been Moras. Zarzamoras to be exact, but many people call me Moras, or just Mo.

The Russian:

Лукас спрашивает, почему я зову себя Морас.

Это долгая история, впрочем, можно и покороче. Moras — это испанская куманика. Точнее — ежевика, но разница только в сизом налете на тугих иссиня-черных ягодицах.

Нет, еще есть разница: ежевика любит залитые солнцем берега, а куманика — острую осоку и влажный мох.

Несомненно, я — куманика. Я связан с ней рунической мыльной веревкой, ведь моя руна — дубовый, ежевичный, куманический thorn.

Я связан с ней тем же колючим сочным стеблем, что и безумный Жан со своим дроком[25].

С тех пор как я в Испании, я — Морас. Точнее, Zarzamoras, но многие зовут меня Морас, или просто — Мо.

Note the reference number; it leads to a footnote:

This refers to the French writer Jean Genet (1910-86); the surname Genet is French for ‘broom’ (the name of a shrub in the legume family).

имеется в виду французский писатель Жан Жене (1910-86); фамилия Genet переводится с фр. как «дрок» (название кустарника семейства бобовых).

So this is the kind of novel that has footnotes (137 of them) and wide-ranging cultural references. It’s not an easy read, though it is very enjoyable. But what’s it about?

For the first few pages, consisting of diary entries, I thought it was going to be the poetic, slightly cracked ruminations of a Russian living in Spain. Then other documents started appearing: the notes of a Dr. Oscar Teo (Theo?) Forzh (Forge?); messages from a Dr. Yonatan (Jonathan?) York to a colleague and letters from Dr. York (in Malta) to Chanchal Prahlad Roy, another colleague and apparently his lover, in Salzburg; e-mails from Joanne Felis Jordi to “NN (account XXXXXXXXXXXX),” who turns out to be the older brother of Moras… what’s going on? Eventually a plot develops: Dr. Forzh has discovered a manuscript from the late 17th century by a Brother Johannes giving directions to an alchemical treasure (objects that when combined will become prima materia) hidden in the Hypogeum in Malta, and he manages to attach himself to an archeological expedition currently excavating the place. The other characters are involved with this project, and it seems the plot is going to revolve around the finds and their alchemical significance. But then people start dying in mysterious circumstances, and a gawky police investigator named Petra Groff gets involved, and it looks like it’s going to be a combination of Agatha Christie and Dan Brown: whodunit, and what mystical secrets will be revealed?

But then everything changes again, and it begins to seem that all the Maltese events might be products of the vivid imagination of Moras, who is (or was) confined in a psychiatric ward in Barcelona. This is reminiscent of the situation in Pelevin’s Чапаев и Пустота, but the two books otherwise have little in common; the writer who came to my mind most often while reading Eltang’s novel is Sasha Sokolov, whose Школа для дураков (A School for Fools) must surely have been an influence, and I can say the same thing here that I said about that wonderful book: “By the time I reached the final line I was powerfully moved without really knowing how the trick had been pulled off.” (There’s also a phrase “отгоняя шоколадниц, отгоняя капустниц” [driving away the small tortoiseshell, driving away the cabbage butterfly] that must surely derive from Sokolov’s Между собакой и волком [Between Dog and Wolf]: “Шоколадницу ловят, капустницу” [they try to catch small tortoiseshells and cabbage butterflies].) So Moras could be thought of as escaping from reality and/or the hospital, and it’s hard to know which implication of the title to prefer.

I could say a lot more (I haven’t even mentioned the division into sections called “Angel in Sand,” “Glass Angel,” and “Stone Angel,” the subtitle of the last being apokatastasis, which throws an interesting light on things), but I’m just going to quote a couple of reviews (conveniently collected here, where you will find the original Russian), which I hope will inspire some daring translator to give the novel a well-deserved appearance in English. From Bakhyt Kenzheev:

The hero […] stands in line for eternity behind his kin: Prince Myshkin [of Dostoevsky’s Idiot], Godunov-Cherdyntsev [of Nabokov’s The Gift], a student at [Sokolov’s] school for fools, and a passenger on the Moscow-Petushki train [see this LH post]. And whoever has read this brilliant and exquisite novel begins to understand a little more clearly the meaning of that horizon line which is sometimes called the “meaning of life.”

And from Viktor Toporov:

This is, in my opinion, the best Russian novel of the last few years. A fantastical mixture of the European crypto-detective (in the tradition not so much of Dan Brown as of Umberto Eco and Borges, but not forgetting Fowles, either) with the native Russian bliss of the poor in spirit, which goes back, of course, to Dostoyevsky. To Prince Myshkin.

And here’s the powerful final paragraph (with my inadequate translation):

я любитель в любви, меня неловко и плохо учили, даже когда было самое время, а теперь и подавно, мне тридцать лет, и вот — ученичество завершилось, по договору с мастером я получаю шесть луидоров и тюбик с берлинской лазурью, или — Шекспира и стеклянную гармонику, или — узелок на платке, бамбуковую палку и поцелуй

I am an amateur in love, I was awkwardly and badly taught even when it was the right time for it, and now even more so, I’m thirty years old, and — my apprenticeship is concluded, under the contract with the master I get six Louis d’or and a tube of Prussian blue; or Shakespeare and a glass harmonica; or a knot on a scarf, a bamboo stick, and a kiss

I can’t wait to read more Eltang.


  1. I’m confused — Spanish uses the same word for blackberry and mulberry? But they’re completely different fruits (except for the color, arguably).

  2. Beats me — maybe someone more knowledgeable can explain.

  3. ягодицах
    I is suspect here it is a diminutive of ягода, thought given тугих (not very uncommon adjective for a butt) word play is likely implied.

  4. @David L: Yes, Spanish mora covers both blackberries and mulberries; as Wikipedia begins, “Mora es el nombre que reciben diversos frutos comestibles de distintas especies…”, “Mora is the name given to various edible fruits of different species…” distinguishing the mora de la morera from the zarzamora (bramble-mora). French does the same, contrasting the mûre du mûrier with the mûre sauvage; I presume some other languages do too.

    It hardly seems strange to me: botanically they’re quite different, but the fruits are very similar. Having grown up knowing both mostly from wild or home-grown versions, when I first met large commercial blackberries I mistook them for mulberries. They’re certainly much more similar to each other than the various fruits known in English as currants.

  5. Algerian Arabic uses the same word for blackberry and mulberry too: tut. You can always distinguish them as tut essejra “tree-tut” and tut el`allig “bramble-tut”.

  6. Dictionary of the Spanish Royal Academy

    Del lat. vulg. mora, y este del lat. morum.
    1. f. Fruto del moral, de unos dos centímetros de largo, con forma ovalada, formado por la agregación de glóbulos pequeños, carnosos, blandos, agridulces y, una vez maduro, de color morado.

    2. f. Fruto de la morera, muy parecido a la mora, pero de la mitad de su tamaño y, ya maduro, de color blanco amarillento y enteramente dulce.

    3. f. Fruto de la zarzamora.

    4. f. Fresa silvestre.

    5. f. Hond. frambuesa.

    Yes, one word for many fruits. (cf arándano, which is both blueberry and cranberry)
    Note that the fruit is called mora. That is singular.
    Moras is plural in Spanish. Not sure what distinction, if any, there may be is Russian.

  7. I is suspect here it is a diminutive of ягода

    But the diminutive of ягода is ягодка!!!!!!!!!!!!!!. I can find no indication that there is such a meaning for ягодица, and I checked dozens of citations at the Corpus. If you can find any backup for that, I’ll consider it.

  8. Spanish uses the same word for blackberry and mulberry? But they’re completely different fruits (except for the color, arguably).

    When living at home with my parents, I used to climb a tree and eat mulberries off the tree, and then climb down[*] the tree and eat blackberries off the bush. Paradise.

    [*] Note how climb implicates[**] ascension but does not actually imply it.

    [**] Note the way in Anglophonia[***] that we verb the distinction between implicatures and implications; you’d think that implicate and implication go together, but they don’t.

    [***] Note how place-names need not name places.

  9. Giacomo Ponzetto says

    Is there any Romance language that doesn’t call the two fruits by the same name? Besides Spanish and French, so do Portuguese, Italian and Catalan.

    Needless to say, all have different names for the plants bearing them. In Italian, if you must you can distinguish between mora di gelso (the mulberry tree) and mora di rovo (the bramble bush).

    The two fruits seem more similar to me than different colors known in English as “blue”. Revenge of Sapir-Whorf?

  10. The two fruits seem more similar to me than different colors known in English as “blue”. Revenge of Sapir-Whorf?

    White mulberry (Morus alba L.) and black mulberry (morus nigra) look alike, except for the color,
    and taste alike. So much for “blue”.

    Silkworms prefer the leaves of alba.

  11. Lars Mathiesen (he/him/his) says

    Mulberries (morbær) are not common in Denmark, and only grow when cultivated, whereas blackberries (brombær) are endemic. I might mistake the one for the other when harvested, but blackberries are very clearly the next of kin of roses when you tangle with them. (And you don’t see mulberries in shops here).

    FWIW, Danish Wikipedia claims that Morus Alba is so named for its flowers, and shows pictures of berries that are just as black as the other species. It does mention that some cultivars have white fruits.

  12. When I was an innocent young lad of 18 the significance of knotted nylons and bamboo canes in the dialogue “Do You Like My New Car” featured on the album “The Mothers Live at Fillmore East June 1971” had to be spelled out for me by a more worldly friend. Woah… But no doubt the sophisticates who read this blog will have needed no explanation of that final sentence.

  13. I had the same reaction as drasvi. ягодица here is a play on berry and buttock. Even if not attested earlier, it is a transparent nonce formation.

  14. Well, sure it’s a play on berry and buttock — the derivation from ягода is transparent. Plays on words are what poets do, and she’s a poet writing a novel. I’m just saying it’s not “a diminutive of ягода,” it’s a word unambiguously meaning ‘buttocks’ being used with a stress on its internal ягода (it’s used about a berry).

  15. Arabic tut, which Lameen mentions, is an interesting Wanderwort. I am personally familiar with Modern Hebrew תּוּת tut, which, when I was growing up, meant blackberries and such, an exotic fruit known only from jams and flavorings (raspberries have a separate name, פֶּטֶל petel.) These days you can buy mulberries, sold as תּוּת עֵץ tut ets ‘tree berry’.

    Both the Hebrew and the Arabic, I presume, are borrowed from Aramaic tūtā ‘mulberry’, which in turn is supposed to have come from an Iranian language, as has likewise Russian тут, via Turkic. Are there more common Russian synonyms for the mulberry? /tut/ and such also found their way to Armenian and Georgian.

    Wiktionary discusses the etymology of the Farsi word, but leaves some points unanswered. I don’t know enough about Indo-Aryan phonology to tell whether Sanskrit tūta, Kashmiri tūl etc. indicate a common Proto-Indo-Iranian source or a borrowing.

  16. Trond Engen says

    It made me think of Norw. tyt(t)- of tyt(t)tebær “lingonberries”, apparently < ON tutt-, an element used to form words for lumps and lumping. The semantics ain’t bad for knotted berries, but the t- doesn’t work.

    The internal I-I mess, and that “the direction of borrowing between the Iranian and Indo-Aryan words is disputed”, makes me think it’s a substrate word or Wanderwort.

    Extremely annoying that cultivated plant species keep hybridizing. It makes it virtually impossible to work out a genetic family tree for the cultivars.

  17. PlasticPaddy says

    Would a relation to Sw. tutte “tit” be possible for tyttebær?

  18. Extremely annoying that cultivated plant species keep hybridizing. It makes it virtually impossible to work out a genetic family tree for the cultivars.

    Yeah. We had the same lack of traceability for kumara/sweet potato. Specifically, no historical specimens were available from the hypothesised first landing site in Polynesia.

  19. January First-of-May says

    Are there more common Russian synonyms for the mulberry?

    I don’t think I’ve ever heard straight тут, as opposed to the expanded тутовник and/or тутовая ягода. IIRC the more official term is шелковица “the silk one”.

    Hebrew תּוּת is strawberry AFAICT, at least these days. I hadn’t asked what mulberries are called; I probably should, next time they’re in season (March, I believe).
    I think blackberries have a different name but I forgot what it was [EDIT: and I might be mixing them up with blueberries].

  20. Strawberry is, fully, תּוּת שָׂדֶה tut sade ‘field berry’, but you’re right, plain tut is used by default for strawberries because they are the commonest ones by far.

    If you go to Israel, I think you’ll find mulberries in the Mahane Yehuda or Lewinsky markets, places like that. Maybe in health food stores. They are not common yet.

  21. Lars Mathiesen (he/him/his) says

    I can get dried Turkish mulberries from online health food stores, it seems they count as “superfoods”. I will ask in the supermarket with the good produce department if they get them fresh when they are in season (because now I’m curious).

    If I had a garden, I could also buy a tree and report back in three years. But I don’t.

  22. Trond Engen says

    PlasticPaddy: Would a relation to Sw. tutte “tit” be possible for tyttebær?

    Maybe, but it’s a typical nursing word. Ref. English tit, Norw. dial. tatt(e).

  23. Wiktionary discusses the etymology of the Farsi word, but leaves some points unanswered.

    I was curious about how much is known exactly about the family of Persian توت tūt ‘mulberry’. My housemate is Zaza from a village in the mountains between Bingöl and Diyarbakır, and he says tuy [tʲi͡y] for ‘mulberry’ in his rather divergent variety of Zazaki. It’s a word I hear every day—at breakfast, when we dip bread into tahini mixed with mulberry molasses made by his family from the trees in their groves, and then again all afternoon and evening, when we eat walnuts and dried mulberries from his village as a snack with tea.

    In addition to the forms in different languages cited by the Wiktionary, the Southwest Asian areal word for ‘mulberry’ is also found in the Elamite texts as dudda(m). Elamite dudda(m) is well attested among other tree names in a group of texts from the Persepolis Fortification Archive consisting of Elamite inventories of saplings or seedlings prepared for planting. One occurrence of the Elamite term is even glossed with Aramaic twt written in ink on the clay tablet. The words occurs (prefixed with the tree/wood determinative) alongside the names of other fruit trees, such as bayam ‘quince’ (Middle Persian ⟨byhbēh or bīh, Persian به bih); hasur ‘apple’ (Aramaic חזורא ḥazzūrā, Akkadian ḫašḫūru, ḫinzūru, Sumerian ḫašḫur, etc.); umarudda ‘pear’ (Middle Persian ⟨ʾwlmwt’umrōd, Persian امرود amrūd); zayadam ‘olive’ (Aramaic זיתא zētā, Syriac ܙܝܬܐ‎ zaytā), etc. (I believe the variably occurring final -m on this noun indicates it is a loanword. The -m apparently reflects the Old Iranian neuter nominative-accustive and masculine and feminine accusative endings, repurposed—perhaps artificially—as a marker for inanimate nouns on loanwords in Elamite.)

    The Akkadian form tuttu ‘mulberry’ cited in the Wiktionary is apparently a hapax occurring in a Neo-Babylonian inventory text, in a description of a piece of furniture made of mulberry wood, specifically a couch:

    ištēn dargiš ša ḫilēpu ištēn dargiš ša GIŠ tuttum
    ‘one couch of willow (wood), one couch of mulberry wood’

    The term dargiš ‘couch’ (cf. Aramaic דרגשא‏ dargəšā) is almost certainly of Iranian origin, too. It would reflect an Iranian *dargīča- ‘chaise longue’—an Old Persian darga- ‘long’ extended with the suffix *-īča. (For the formation, compare Middle Persian dahlīz ‘portico’ (> Persian دهلیز dahlīz) and the Iranian loanwords in Armenian դահլիճ dahlič ‘hall, assembly room’, Syriac, Mandaic dahlīz ‘portico’. This word looks like Old Persian duvarθi- ‘gate, portal’, extended by *-īča.) So this hapax even occurs in a somewhat Iranizing context.

    The earliest attestation of a word similar to Persian توت tūt ‘mulberry’ in Sanskrit that I have been able to locate is the form tūda- in the Amarakośaḥ of Amarasiṃha, a thesaurus of uncertain date but no earlier than the middle of the 1st millennium CE. (The Amarakośaḥ lists alongside other words for mulberry, such as kramuka-; cf. Vedic kr̥muká-, a kind of tree, and possibly Nepali किम्बु kimbu as well as West Pahari (Kotgarh) cimmu ‘mulberry’; perhaps cf. also Nuristani Vâs’i-vari (Prasun) kumlig ‘mulberry’?) The form tūla- is also attested in a later lexical text, apparently, but I haven’t searched it out. The form tūta- occurs, for example, in the very late Bhāvaprakāśaḥ, a medical treatise composed by one Bhāvamiśra, where it just looks like the Persian word imported into late Sanskrit.

    (For the curious, ‘mulberry’ in Burushaski is apparently biranč̣.)

    In sum, we can note that words of family of Persian tūt ‘mulberry’ are reliably attested in Southwest Asia around a millennium earlier before they are attested in South Asia. Turner at least leans toward taking the Indic words as being ultimately of Iranian origin, wherever the Iranian languages got the word from.

    There is a nice recent study of lambdacism in Iranian (Pashtoپلار plār ‘father’; سل səl ‘100’, cf. Avestan satəm, etc.) here.

  24. Damn, that comment should be a journal article. Respect.

  25. Thanks, Xerîb!

    The question remains, though: what’s with the Sanskrit pair tūla- / tūda-? Is there an argument for one form over the other as the older one? I see three possibilities: 1. Proto Indo-Iranian tūla- is preserved in some Indic varieties, but assimilates to tūta- (later tūda-) in others and in Iranian; 2. As above, but Iranian tūta- is borrowed from an Indic source and then spreads westward to Mesopotamia etc.; 3. Sanskrit borrows the word from two Iranian varieties, one with and one without the earlier lambdacism discussed in Kreidl’s paper that you linked.

    Are any of the above more plausible or less plausible on the grounds of historical phonology, or of the common patterns of language contact and transmission of fruit cultivars?

  26. what hat said!

    and further down the tree, i wonder whether the ivrit comes from arabic or from yiddish, which has טוט / טוטנבױם [tut / tutnboym] for mulberry / mulberry tree (as well as זײַדנבײַם [zaydnboym] “silk-tree” – i don’t know whether generally or only for the white-fruited varieties). mordkhe schaechter (in Plant Names in Yiddish) says “We encounter… the Yiddish term for ‘mulberry tree’ in Brant-shpigl (1676)”, but doesn’t say which word he means.

    there doesn’t seem to be any lexical lumping of mulberries and blackberries in yiddish, though. schaechter again: “Blackberries were regionally known as bérelekh, shvártse bérelekh, yág(e)des, shvártse yág(e)des, zápres, bórefkes, brúsnitses, ózhenes.” he seems to like אָזהענעס as a (proposed by declaration, as usual for him) normative term.

  27. (Something is off with the encoding. I had macron-u in the original comment and it came out fine. After adding a word, each one turned into two other characters, as happens when UTF-8 encoding is reinterpreted as single-byte Western-1.)

    (ed. now it’s OK again.)

  28. rozele: תּוּת is already in the Mishna.

  29. ah! i’d assumed it wasn’t talmudic because the yiddish spelling is phonetic, not etymological! but that’s not infallible, of course.

    though, thinking more, the mishna might actually not be the source of the yiddish word, since i’d expect תּוּת to give “tus”.

    i’ll have to see if i can find a Brantshpigl to see what’s in there (especially since a very cursory search tells me schaechter had the date wrong – unless he’s refering to a specific 1676 edition/recension – and it’s from around 1600).

  30. Lars Mathiesen (he/him/his) says

    @Y: Replacing the original text after editing is done by ECMAscript code in your browser inserting HTML generated by a different call to the “comment formatting procedure” on the server than the one generating the comment’s representation in the original document. It’s no surprise if utf8_encode vel sim is called once too many after editing, but refreshing the whole page will get back to the correct state. Well, it looks surprising, but people like Stu and me have seen it happen so often it’s not even funny.

  31. By the way, in case anyone’s wondering why a Russian author has the Danish name Eltang, it’s her married name. (I don’t know what her maiden name was, but she’s from Leningrad/SPb.)

  32. January First-of-May says

    Blackberries were regionally known as bérelekh, shvártse bérelekh, yág(e)des, shvártse yág(e)des, zápres, bórefkes, brúsnitses, ózhenes.

    Just offhand I can recognize Russian ягода “berry” and брусника “lingonberry”. RuWiki gives боровка as another (dialectal) Russian word for “lingonberry” so there was presumably some kind of confusion of blackberries and lingonberries? I have no idea how, they have little in common.

    The last word looks like an elsewhere-in-Slavic cognate of Russian ежевика “blackberry” (which literally means something like “hedgehog-berry”). “Shvartse” is of course “black”. I don’t know enough about Yiddish etymology to tell if “berelekh” could be related to English berry. I don’t see anything familiar in “zapre(s)” but it could easily be another Slavic term that I just don’t happen to know.

  33. I don’t know enough about Yiddish etymology to tell if “berelekh” could be related to English berry
    It looks like it’s from German Beere “berry” plus diminutive suffix -lekh, so indeed cognate to the English.

  34. Schechter’s book, in the Latin to Yiddish section, under Rubus (p. 255, footnote) says אָזשענעס ozhenes (with a /ʒ/) are black, מאַלענעס malenes are red. But then cloudberries ( R. chamaemorus) are vayse malenes and European dewberries (R. caesius) are shvartse malenes or shvartse ozhenes, while Caucasian dewberries (R. nemorosus) are vald-ozhenes

  35. The following description, by Haaretz restaurant critic Sagi Cohen (who sometimes covers soccer), came from his impressions of Russian food while covering the 2018 Mondial (translation mine):

    Summer at a Russian market is a wondrously colorful experience. The various wild berries reveal the existence of dozens of undreamt-of shades of pink, red, and burgundy. The cherries alone come in a dazzling variety of colors and shapes, including yellow cherries and light green cherries, used in pickling fish. Berries make their appearance everywhere, and in every sort of preparation: from cherry, raspberry, and blueberry cakes, which contain very little dough and a whole lot of fruit, to meat browned with flavorful berry sauces which stand in for spices. There are berries which taste of ginger, vanilla, and even cinammon. Even in the terrible cafeterias of the media centers at the stadiums, two things could be safely eaten: cherry strudel and berry pies, whose delicate freshness stood in utter contradiction to the warmed-up horrors around them.

    I want to taste all those things so very badly.

  36. (I wrote “cinammon”. I’ll go stand in the corner now.)

  37. David Marjanović says

    Mulberries (morbær) are not common in Denmark, and only grow when cultivated, whereas blackberries (brombær) are endemic. I might mistake the one for the other when harvested, but blackberries are very clearly the next of kin of roses when you tangle with them. (And you don’t see mulberries in shops here).

    All the same here, down to the name Brombeeren (in dialects also without -en even in the plural). I don’t think I’ve ever even seen any Maulbeeren, only read about them in explanations of silk production and in the New Testament where Zacchaeus climbs a mulberry tree… apparently a fig-mulberry tree, actually.

  38. zápres… could easily be another Slavic term that I just don’t happen to know

    I was wondering about the origin of this word. Since I don’t have access to Berl Rabakh’s 1952 article in Yidishe shprakh 7, p. 58–61, at the moment, I was wondering if the region in which zápres was used could somehow be determined.

    Here is a list of snippets from recorded interviews with Yiddish speakers in which they are asked about the word זאַפרעס zapres. Most of them seem to say they don’t know the word…

    From listening on my phone, I can’t figure out what the speaker’s response is in this recording of a speaker apparently from Silc (Krasnosielc) in Poland. I wonder if any LH readers can interpret it.

  39. I don’t know Polish, but I was amused to hear the English word “blueberry” used several times!

  40. PlasticPaddy says

    She says borowka, which is another Polish word for berry. After that I hear [zaparke] (field?).

  41. David Marjanović says

    The sound quality is bad, but they’re not speaking Polish.

  42. Surely then it’s a form of Yiddish with Polish loan words? I don’t know any Yiddish, but the Polish borrowings have an -es/is plural ending attached, which is apparently how Yiddish tends to pluralize Slavic words; and the fact that they have a word-initial stress is I think also a Yiddish feature (although it does occur in Polish dialectally).
    Anyway, I can definitely hear ‘jafeny(s)’ at the end. Seems to be a Polish dialect word (along with jafina, afina); not sure how widespread it is, although it’s apparently from Romanian ‘afină’ (which according to wiktionary might itself be from Greek ‘δᾰ́φνη’ via Latin). Before that there’s also ‘czernice(s)’, another dialect word, this time more certainly located in the east of Poland (although the word’s primary meaning, designating some sort of duck, is I think more general). Borówki(s) and jagody(s) are also mentioned. Apart from that, I can’t really make any sense of what the lady is saying.

  43. i couldn’t catch much – though tiredness won’t’ve helped – besides an “efsher” [maybe] from the questioner, “borovkes”, and “yagdes”. yiddish stress isn’t word-initial; the general rule is penultimate (but ignoring diminutive suffixes (thus bérelekh not *berélekh)). and yes, of course yiddish from places where polish is spoken (or used to be spoken) has words that come from polish, but after about 500 years of linguistic interaction, “polish loan words” isn’t really a useful way to understand what’s happening (think “dinner”, “violet”, “ombre”, and “cinema” af english).

    and one of the problems with schaechter is that his normativizing impulses constantly get in the way of his amazing research. not only does he not tell us what regions these different terms come from – when he even bothers to give these kinds of lists of different names (which he only does in passing, not in systematic ways, although they’re probably the most important thing in the book for many purposes) – he gives us no way of knowing why he’s lumping all of these words together as referring to the same plant, or whether that’s a reasonable thing to do!

    i hope someday someone goes back to schaechter’s index cards and gives us the material there, organized as ethnobotanical research rather than a prescriptive dictionary.

  44. PlasticPaddy says

    The context for Xerib’s recording is the interviewer pointing to book illustrations, eliciting words and then going through a list of other words and finding out if they are recognised and what they mean:

    Frage/Question 093.040 (1335) [>]

    װי אַזױ האָבן געהײסן די? [װײַזן אילוסטראַציע 7] [cranberries] [אױספֿרעגן כּסדר די
    װײַטערדיקע טערמינען; נאָטירן נאָר אױב ס’איז באַקאַנט :] זשוראַװ(ל)ינעס / זשערעכלינעס
    / קליוקװע / שפאָנגעלעס / ברוסניצעס / ברוסלינעס / ברוקלינעס / ברוקנע / באָרעפֿקעס /
    זאַפרעס / (ארץ-ישֹראל) סופֿײַפֿעס

    vi azoy hobn geheysn di? [vayzn ilustratsie 7] [cranberries] [oysfregn keseyder di
    vayterdike terminen; notirn nor oyb s’iz bakant :] zhurav(l)ines / zherekhlines
    / kliukve / shpongeles / brusnitses / bruslines / bruklines / brukne / borefkes /
    zapres / (erets-ysrl) sufayfes
    Frage/Question 093.050 (1336) [>]

    װי אַזױ האָט מען געזאָגט אױף די? [װײַזן אילוסטראַציע 8] [blueberries]

    vi azoy hot men gezogt oyf di? [vayzn ilustratsie 8] [blueberries]
    Frage/Question 093.051 (1337) [>]

    ⊕ טשערניצעס?

    � tshernitses?
    Frage/Question 093.052 (1338) [>]



    The interviewer departed a bit from the script (also, as is clear from other questions/recordings, he wanted to be sure whether the speaker had a generic word for berries and whether jagdes meant “berry” or “blueberry”).
    In his fieldnotes (https://dlc.library.columbia.edu/lcaaj/cul:c866t1g2js) he notes the words buřofkĕs “cranberries” and jagědĕs “blueberries”, both with initial stress.

  45. ktschwarz says

    Summer at a Russian market is a wondrously colorful experience. The various wild berries reveal the existence of dozens of undreamt-of shades of pink, red, and burgundy.

    That seems familiar… it was in a previous berry discussion here (2020). Berries are a recurring topic! For example:

    LINGONBERRY. (2008)
    SERVICEBERRY. (2010)
    Cranberries and blueberries, in comments (2012)
    Blueberries, blackberries, bilberries… in Romanian, Polish, Russian, Swedish, … (2014)

    And plenty more.

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