Ene Bene Res.

Dmitry Pruss wrote me about a Russian counting sequence “эне бене рес” [ene bene res] that he was surprised hadn’t been mentioned on LH; this Pedagogical Encyclopedia page gives an example of the full sequence:

«Эне, бене, рес, / Квинтер, финтер, жес, / Эне, бене, раба, / Квинтер, финтер, жаба».

Ene, bene, res, / Kvinter, finter, zhes, / Ene, bene, raba, / Kvinter, finter, zhaba.

Which was interesting but didn’t seem worth a post of its own (I was going to add it to the “Yan tan tethera” post) until I googled it in the Latin alphabet and found it’s a Latvian thing as well: you can see a woman reciting “Ene, bene, res, Kvinter, finter, džes, Ene, bene, rupucis, Kvinter, finter, pasprucis!” here, and it’s listed with a bunch of other Latvian children’s rhymes on p. 12 of this pdf. So now I’m thinking there’s some Russo-Baltic Kindersprachbund thing going on here; anybody know anything more?


  1. David Eddyshaw says

    Bene is obviously derived from the Proto-Bantu badi/bidi.

  2. Well found! And I see Morozova makes the same comparison I thought of:

    The words “ene, bene, raba, kvinter, finter” may well be modified numerals. They are similar to the Anglo-Welsh count that has been used since ancient times for trading (“aina, peina, para, peddera, pimp”).

    Слова «эне, бене, раба, квинтер, финтер», возможно, представляют собой видоизменённые числительные. Они похожи на англо-валийский счёт — тот, что издревле использовался для торговли («aina, peina, para, peddera, pimp»)

  3. They are called counting-out rimes (or rhymes), which have been gathered and studied at least since 1888 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Counting-out_game). A Finnish student of popular culture published a book (in English) on the subject — the details escape me at the moment.

  4. David Marjanović says

    Ene, mene, muh, und raus bist du.

    Eeny meeny miney moe…

  5. David Eddyshaw says

    I think we’re looking at Proto-World here …

  6. Is there an etymology for rupucis and pasprucis. The others seem transparent if you give a little latitude for alliteration in raba.

  7. Looks like some plain old Latin to me.

    uno, (bini), tres, quattuor, quinque, sex=

    Ene, bene, res, Kvinter, finter, džes

    If, that is, we assume that for “4” and “5” the original Latin forms were blended (quattuor + quinque- =/kvinter/), leading to the /f/-form being an innovation to indicate “5” (German (=High or Low?) influence?), with the older blended form used to indicate “4”.

    The forms seem to have been selected or modified to maximize the difference between these numerals and Latvian ones: Latin DUO or DUAE would be too close to Latvian “divi”, so a form deriving from “bini” was picked instead; Latin TRES would be too similar to Latvian “trīs”, so its initial /t/ was eliminated; and the /f/ attached to “5” is a phoneme which is alien/marginal in Latvian and Russian alike, and not found in basic numerals as a result: and the modifications made to the sibilants in SEX seem to maximize the distance between the new form (“džes”) -again making use of a most un-Latvian consonant cluster –and the Latvian numeral “seši”.

    (Another possibility: if the original form for “5” derived from a shortened form of the ordinal “quint(us)”, perhaps the initial /d/ is due to what is known as “fausse coupe”, i.e. an original */kvint/, */žes/ for “5, 6” was re-analyzed as /*kvin/, /džes/: do note that *kvint/ or */kvin/ would work out fine as a basis for the blend between the forms of “4” and “5” which I postulated above).

    So: a children’s score using Latin numeral elements. I will go out on a limb here: I will guess that these forms were used among nuns and/or brethren in a Catholic orphanage and were picked up by the children: the bastion of Catholicism within Latvia being Latgalia, just a stone’s throw away from Russia, the etymology and distribution of the forms appear to match.

    The only anomaly here is the /f/-initial form for “5”: if it indeed is due to German influence, I would expect this children’s score to have arisen closer to the coast, perhaps in a Protestant orphanage. I guess solving the issue would require answering the question: is German influence in Latgalia more or less likely than a counting score of Latin origin arising in a Protestant orphanage?

    Turning the floor over to the Hatters who could answer this question…

  8. A fascinating analysis that sounds plausible to me.

  9. David Eddyshaw says

    I wonder if, conversely, (adult) number systems have ever been influenced by counting-out games?

    There are, at least, some fairly clear cases of number forms being affected by counting in sequence (four, five; quattuor, quinque; pedwar, pump; девять, десять …)

  10. David Eddyshaw: the fact that “quattuor” and “quinque” share an initial /kw/ is not due to the influence of either numeral upon the other: the initial voiceless labiovelar stop of “quattuor” goes back to Proto-Indo-European, whereas the shift of Proto-Indo-European *penkwe to pre-Latin *kwenkwe is a phonologically regular assimilatory change (found in “Italic” and Celtic: had it not been for this rule Welsh “pump” would have been *”ump” as a result of the Celtic elimination of inherited Indo-European /p/) whereby /p/ shifts to /kw/ if the following syllable begins with /kw/: cf. the stem in Latin “coqu-o” which comes from late Indo-European (the early Indo-European form had an initial laryngeal) */pekw/- (Cf. Albanian “pjek”, Russian “пеку́”).

    Thus, the Welsh forms “pedwar”, “pump” did not influence one another either: Welsh, like all Brythonic languages, turns inherited Indo-European /kw/ into /p/, and the pre-Brythonic initial /kw/ in both numerals is due to the inherited /kw/ in “4” and the same assimilation rule sketched above for Latin for the numeral “5”. Modern Irish “ceathair” and “cúig” owe their shared initial /k/ to this same pre-Brythonic (Proto-Celtic, actually) initial */kw/ for both numerals.

  11. David Eddyshaw says

    I’m aware of the reflexes of PIE *p and *kʷ in Welsh (and Irish)…
    Latin, OK; are there any other examples of p-kʷ -> kʷ-kʷ in Celtic?

  12. Jen in Edinburgh says

    Many British (not necessarily English) variants here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yan_tan_tethera

    Although I would have started the Scots version ‘een, teen’, and have no idea where I got that from.

    (Also a lovely knitting pattern https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/yan-tan-tether)

  13. the early-20thC yiddish folklorists collected dozens of counting out rhymes – i’ll see if i can post a link to one of their articles later on. the one i remember best (from friends who grew up with it) starts “enga benga, supa stenga”, which seems related to the “ene bene” sequence. if i’m right that that’s a polish or litvak version, it could work as part of a regional family.

  14. It sure does seem related!

  15. David Eddyshaw: In answer to your question, yes: Welsh “pobi” likewise comes from late Indo-European *pekw- and must have gone through a stage *kwekw-.

    Incidentally, while the rule seems to be regular in Celtic and Latin, there is good evidence that it did not go back to Proto-Italo-Celtic (assuming for the sake of argument that such a Proto-language existed: I do not believe it ever did, not least because I do not believe there ever existed a Proto-Italic either).

  16. are there any other examples of p-kʷ -> kʷ-kʷ in Celtic?

    Welsh poeth ‘hot’ is supposed to come from the same ‘cook’ root (*kʷokʷ-tos). (ETA: pipped to the post by Etienne.)

    OTOH there’s quercus ‘oak’ : Hercynia, where Latin shows the assimilation but Celtic doesn’t.

    It’s a weird-looking sound change — you’d more naturally expect dissimilatory than assimilatory changes in that kind of consecutive-onset environment.

  17. In my area (left bank Ukraine) it was “Эне-бене-рики-факи [sorry! ] /Турбо-урбо-сентябряки/Еус-деус-космодеус/Бац!” It does indeed sound like some Latin rhyme, but not straight counting “(m)eus deus” is sort of comprehensible, but probably wrongly.

  18. @Jen in Edinburgh.

    A Croatian counting out rhyme starts similarly:
    En ten tini
    Sava raka tini
    Sava raka tika taka
    Elem belem buf

  19. David L. Gold says

    The full form of the Eastern Yidish counting-out rime alluded to above is

    ענגע בענגע סטופּע סטעגע אַרצע באַרצע אײגעלע פֿײגעלע כיק

    (enge benge / stupe stenge / artse bartse / gele shvartse / eygele feygele khik).

    Each word is initially stressed and the last three are said faster than the previous ones.

    Only the fourth and the last five words are now semantically transparent:

    … ribbon … yellow one [a feminine noun is understood] ~ yellow ones, black one [a feminine noun is understood] ~ black ones / very small eye very small bird khik

    Each of the other words is either a nonsense word coined in Yidish or a nionsense word deriving from one that has a meaning.

    Khik (phonetically [χik ~ χɪk]) is an echoic word representing the sound supposedly made by the knife used by someone slitting someone else’s, one’s own, or an animal’s throat, hence the idiom מאַכן כיק (makhn + NP in the dative case + khik) ‘cut ~ slit someone’s ~ one’s own ~ an animal’s throat’.

    The fieldworkers for the Language and Culture Atlas of Ashkenazic Jewry collected counting-out rimes and other research has noted a number of them, all of them in Eastern Yidish topolects. Whether any Western Yidish topolects have counting-out rimes remains to be seen.

    The incipits of counting-out rimes in languages originating in Europe (and maybe elsewhere too) often have this structure:

    word x + word x to which has been prefixed one or more phonemes + word y that is different from words x and y but to which has been prefixed that phoneme or those phonemes.

    For example, English eenie meenie mynie mo (here, the fourth word also has that prefixed phoneme).

    Sometimes just the second word has a prefixed phoneme or phonemes (as in enge benge).

  20. David Marjanović says

    I do not believe there ever existed a Proto-Italic either

    Last time we discussed this, you didn’t seem to have any arguments for this, though. Sure, some of the changes that have been proposed as common Italic (or common Italo-Celtic) innovations must have developed separately, but for others there’s no reason to think so.

    A Croatian counting out rhyme starts similarly:
    En ten tini
    Sava raka tini
    Sava raka tika taka
    Elem belem buf

    Behold the Serbian version:

    En den dinu
    sa raka tinu
    sa raka tika taka
    elem belem buf
    trif traf truf
    amerika buf!

    (No idea if America is intended. Stress on the first and third syllables, not the second one.)

  21. David L. Gold says

    Israeli Hebrew too has counting-out rimes, one of them having an incipit almost identical to the Serbian one given above:

    en den dino / sofa lakatino / sofa lakatikato / elik belik bom.

    It has variants.

    The structural similarity between the Serbian, Croatian, and Israeli Hebrew counting-our times suggests a possible common origin in Turkish.

    Note too the similar structure of the Croatian excipit, the Israeli Hebrew excipit, and the fourth line of the Serbian text.

  22. The Israeli Hebrew one looks very similar to the Croatian one:

    en den dino
    sofa laka ti no
    sofa laka tikato
    elik belik bom

    A Croatian source makes no sense, although Hebrew Wikipedia can’t come with anything better. If I had to take a wild guess, I’d say that it came from the same source into Croatian and Turkish Ladino, and from the latter into Hebrew. The article also says that the first line ultimately comes from Greek ἓν διὰ δυοῖν ‘one out of two’, presumed to be in reference to some forgotten game, but gives no source; it’s as good a folk-etymology as any.

    Ed.: @DLG: jinx!

  23. David Eddyshaw says

    @Etienne, TR:

    Yes, I should have thought of poeth and pobi (especially as I did think of cegin, and then thought: “Hah! Latin loanword! I win!”)

    OK, I concede. Still got the Russian ones, though …
    I don’t know what the consensus is about Germanic “four”, but I expect DM does …

  24. David Marjanović says

    The only consensus is that four is irregular. There could be a dissimilation going on (*kʷ…w > *p…w), which might be regular in wolf (*w…kʷ > *w…p) depending on what the precise history of the Norse “she-wolf” word (ylgi) is, but at the same time there’d have to be an assimilation in five (*p…kʷ > *p…p) for which there don’t seem to be any other examples, and “5” might have influenced “4” after all…

    Disclaimer: I don’t know what Kroonen’s Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Germanic (2013) says about any of this.

    I wondered if the Germanic cognate of the “cook” word (cook being Latin) is the fire-related German verb (-)fachen; the DWDS doesn’t mention that possibility, but is pretty unsure about what it does mention (that it’s a medieval Latin loan ultimately from focus).

  25. enge benge

    Wonder if this could be the source of “inka binka” in the American children’s counting rhyme “inka binka a bottle of ink, the cork fell out and you stink” ?

  26. just took a look at one yiddish folksong collection (bastomski’s “baym kval” [at the well], published in vilna in 1923 – digitally available from the National Yiddish Book Center), and here are a few more counting-out rhymes to play with!

    [II.B.8] en, den, di, a shavele kati, a shavele, kati, kata, eyle, beyle, bat

    [II.B.9] en, de, trua, kater, {madmazel ivid di vaser, madmazel ivid di vu, eyn hoz bistu}

    [II.B.10] eyndl, beyndl, shtupa, tseyndl, osher, bosher, gole, shvartse, {ver dayn חתע, gey an ershte tantsn}

    [II.B.11] egide, pegide, tsugide, me, obul, probul, domine ike, ike, pike, gramatike, eyns, kleyns, {zayn s’tu}

    [II.B.21] une, dune, kvitse, tsune, {fort a vogl, nokhtsoygl, flit a foygl, khapt aroys, di greste beste, shikt fish}

    [II.G.12] eyndl, beyndl, tsuker shteyndl, aker, baker, teyvlsher k…, unk, bunk, shtunk

    the first four are probably from vilne in 1920, the last one might be from somewhere called maretsh in 1913 – bastomski’s layout does nobody any favors in figuring out his sources. all transliterated (YIVO-style) as given (including the ellipsis, which i assume is for an ‘obscenity’), except for the one word that seems to be loshn-koydesh that i don’t want to go downstairs to look up right now (it might be a kid version of “khosn” [bridegroom]).

    the prefix-y structure DLG pointed out runs through them all, as does a lot of alternating ‘normal’ words/phrases and ones that only appear in these kinds of rhymes. most of them switch over to more ‘sensible’ phrases at the end – i’ve {bracketed} those parts.

    B.10 and G.12 are clearly part of a family with the “enge benge” variants. and given how much “e” and “ey” alternate in a lot of informal yiddish, and knowing nothing about the sources or transcribers, the “en” and “eyndl” ones seem like they could just be from “eyns” [one].

  27. “teyvlsher k…” — sic?

    “En, de, tru-a” made it to Israel, too, as the countdown to showing hands in Rock Paper Scissors.

    II.B.8 looks close to the Croatian/Israeli one. What a tangled knot…

    חתע, as is, doesn’t mean anything in Hebrew.

  28. rozele, that’s a fun book!

    I hadn’t read your comment fully before I replied, sorry about that.

    I think that חתע is indeed חתן, but I lean toward thinking it’s a misprint, and that it was meant to rhyme (kinda) with tantsn, below, not with shvartse, above. I see another mistake in G.8, מוראָ for מורא.

    [II.B.8] ends with bam, not bat.

  29. Andrej Bjelaković says

    “Behold the Serbian version:

    En den dinu
    sa raka tinu
    sa raka tika taka
    elem belem buf
    trif traf truf
    amerika buf!”

    The one we did as kids is similar:

    En den dinu
    sava raka tinu
    sava raka tika taka
    elem belem buf
    trif traf truf

    (I’ve never encountered your last line, with amerika 😀 )

  30. @David M and Y

    Very interesting indeed!

    This was the end if the rhyme in Croatian:

    Elem belem buf
    Trif traf truf
    Baba peče kruf

    Though there are other versions.

    I recall a different version in the Croatian language Grade 2 textbook, back in the 80s.

  31. Bulgarian versions, from comments here:

    An dan tina
    Saraka tiki tiki
    eni beni bum!


  32. Can’t refrain from quoting these lines from the Golden Calf:

    Но зато к вице-королю подошел низкорослый идиот и, доверчиво обняв его за талию, сказал несколько слов на птичьем языке.
    — Что? — искательно спросил перепугавшийся Берлага,
    — Эне, бэнэ, раба, квинтер, финтер, жаба, — явственно произнес новый знакомый.
    Сказавши “ой”, Берлага отошел подальше от идиота.


  33. Шел трамвай десятый номер,
    На площадке кто-то помер.
    Тянут-тянут мертвеца,

    История песни: «Шел трамвай, десятый номер»


  34. Can’t refrain from quoting these lines from the Golden Calf

    That made me laugh out loud, as Ilf & Petrov always do!

  35. David Marjanović says

    “teyvlsher k…” — sic?

    “Devilish crapper”?

  36. Lars Mathiesen says

    Okker gokker gummiklokker, erle perle pif paf puf — I have never seen any attempts at etymology for this, though. The third word is clearly reshaped to contain two well known morphs, and the last part is vaguely reminiscent of the end of the FYLOSC ones.

  37. January First-of-May says

    In my area (left bank Ukraine) it was “Эне-бене-рики-факи [sorry! ] /Турбо-урбо-сентябряки/Еус-деус-космодеус/Бац!”

    The version I learned (in Moscow) was very similar, except in the second line: “Эни бени рики паки / буль-буль-буль караки шмаки / эус деус краснодеус / бац!”
    When I discussed this post with my mother (who also grew up in Moscow) I only got as far as эни бени before she produced this exact version; I suspect that I originally learned it from her.

    en, de, trua, kater

    That’s just straightforwardly French: un, deux, trois, quatre. (Nous sommes au théâtre, as this was continued in one of my French textbooks; counting rhymes don’t necessarily have to be synchronically nonsense.)

  38. @Y: thanks for the typo catches (mine and bastomski’s both!) – and yeah! it’s a great collection! but i’m not sure חתע is a typo: i could see a folklorist deciding to write that to show that they thought a kid’s “khose” was ‘intended’ to be (or came from) “khosn”, instead of writing it out phonetically as כאָסע.

    @DM: “kaker” sure would fit the rhyme!

    @J1M: ah! and that works perfectly with the rest of B.9! “one, two, three, four / mademoiselle over the water / mademoiselle over the where / you’re – a – hare!”

    and anyone who wants to follow that hare down a deeper tunnel of yiddish counting-out rhymes (i don’t have time today), i think there are more in a collection shmuel lehman printed in vanvild’s “bay unz yuden” folklore collection (which is a marvel!).

  39. Whoa, what a jackpot! So many counting rhymes! (And so much other good stuff, like the section on the slang of thieves, klezmers, and cart-drivers.)

    No. 46 (from Warsaw) is close to the Israeli version:
    en, ten, tiner,
    sovolo kobiner.

    sovoloko, tiko toko.
    elik, belik, bom.

    No. 36a (from Cherkasy) is close to the titular rhyme:

    ene, bene, resh,
    kunter, kunter, zhesh.


    ene, bene, rabe,
    kunter, kunter, zhabe.

  40. It seems likely to me that the initial sounds for 4 & 5, as well as 6 & 7, have fallen together so commonly because that tends to make children’s counting more euphonious. On the other hand, the final sounds of 11 & 12 have diverged in English, which seems like evidence against the universality of this phenomenon.

  41. sovoloko, tiko toko.

    reminds modern Polish spoko, with variations (spoko loko, spoko orinoko etc.)

  42. kvinter finter – all the way from labio-velar to labial in one second*:) Not too surprising given the pronunciation of Fedor as /Xwedor/

    *I do not mean that the dialect where it was done necessarily has approximant v:) Just kidding.

  43. shmuel lehman was incredible! not just the sheer volume of material he collected, but that he made sure all kinds of un-respectable folks’ words (and melodies!) were recorded, from kids to sex workers. he started doing folklore work before the 1905 revolution, and kept on going until his time in the warsaw ghetto.

    here’s his entry in the Leksikon fun der nayer yidisher literatur, thanks to the mindboggling translation project by joshua fogel.

  44. I see several names in this work, and I can’t tell exactly who did what (because I don’t really know Yiddish.) What was An–sky’s part in this collection?

    (About Ansky’s work.)

  45. Okker gokker gummiklokker

    I’m tempted to continue with korpokkur.

  46. Bay Unz Yuden is dedicated to an-sky’s memory – he’d died a few years before.

    it has pieces by quite a few major figures in it: lehman & pinkhas graubard in the folkloristik section, and noyekh prilutski in the philological part, in particular.

    i don’t remember much of what i used to know about how the book came to be – all of which i learned from itzik gottesman’s Defining the Yiddish Nation: The Jewish Folklorists of Poland.

    while an-sky’s on my mind, though:

    in the last few years, the vernadsky library in kyiv has (finally) made it possible to listen to some of the recordings from an-sky’s expeditions, as well as other important early yiddish recordings (and a few from shirazi, halabi, yemeni, baghdadi, and other mizrakhi sources). if you like that sort of thing, you’ll enjoy what they’ve put online so far.

    and, of course, that may be all we ever get to hear, depending on what happens to the vernadsky. not much of their yiddish collection – huge quantities of paper materials as well as the an-sky expedition’s wax cylinders and other recordings – has been digitized, but what has been (in just the last few years) has transformed what we know about yiddish music in ways that we’ll be reckoning with for decades. the Klezmer Institute’s Kisselgof-Makonovetsky Digital Manuscript Project has been leading that work.

  47. Онче, бонче — (both diminutive of /one/, /bone/ — not actual Bulgarian words)
    счупено пиронче — (diminutive, broken (carpentry) nail)
    риба щука — (pike fish)
    махай се от тука — (und raus bist du)

    That’s the Bulgarian one I grew up with.

    Онче, бонче / счупено пиронче / риба щука / махай се от тука.

  48. Are you in control of your blog, at the moment?

  49. Uh, who are you talking to?

  50. To you? I was trying to post a few times, but it didn’t get through. I thought it might have something to do with the war, it not getting through. I was sharing similar children’s counting poetry in Bulgarian.

  51. Oh! It might have been a good idea to just say that, then. They got trapped in the spam file, but a search on “Bulgarian” found them. Since they were almost identical, I rescued one of them and it should be there when you refresh the page.

  52. It clicked for me when David Marjanović quoted “und raus bist du”. Even with my limited German I thought that’s definitely the same.

  53. Man, this stuff is fascinating — all the similarities across space and time… I wonder if it will ever be possible to pin down anything about origins and transmissions?

  54. щука

    Полученные результаты свидетельствуют, что наиболее широко в ПФ языках представлена лексема славянского происхождения, обозначающая щуку: праславянское *šč(i)auka⁶² (> рус. щука) перешло в праприбалтийско-финский язык, откуда: фин., карел., ижор. hauki, люд. haug(i), вепс. haug’, houg’, эст. haug, вод. autši, лив. aig ‘щука (Esox lucius)’ (SSA 1: 147), а также карел. твер. haugi, ливв. hawgi ‘то же’.

    ИХТИОЛОГИЧЕСКАЯ ЛЕКСИКА В СВЕТЕ СЛАВЯНО-ФИНСКИХ ЭТНОЯЗЫКОВЫХ СВЯЗЕЙ /Slavic-Finnish Language Connections in the Light of Ichthyological Lexis

    If memory serves, it’s not as simple as that. I’ll try to locate a .pdf file with an alternative view.

  55. Not sure what you mean. Which of the comments above are not by you? Maybe there are two “V” posters? (This is a problem with one-letter names…)

  56. I’m not sure either, I thought I saw some spam, but I don’t see any now. There was once another V at language log, but they changed their handle without even me asking them to. ::shrug::

  57. Dmitry Pruss says

    Surprised to see the pattern being so much wider than I expected, even more surpised that it wasn’t much discussed at LH before

  58. Surely there are published collections of Russian and other Eastern European children’s ditties, similar to the Yiddish ones. Are any accessible online?

  59. Y, in Russian counting rhymes are считалка pl. считалки (“counteress” – I will tranlsate -ka as -ress:)).

    It includes rhythmically rhecithed rhymes (as you move your pointing hand, when choosing the person who will “lead” a game (with the same purpose as drawing straws) or as you choosing the moment for action), to do this is считаться.
    A small collection of Russian считалки is here

    and считалки in question are described here as заумные (lit. “behind-mind”:)). Today the word usually refers to something overcomplicated overthought or otherwise cerebral and overscientific here it is used in a dated meaning of nonsensical sequence. Perhaps it is because as most of us know, when you can’t understand someone it is because she is really really stupid. Perhaps polysemy of za-.

    P.S. I will look for more of them.

  60. rhecythed, sorry:-E

  61. David Marjanović says

    I was trying to post a few times, but it didn’t get through.

    Oh, that’s still Akismet being suspicious of everything that doesn’t look like it’s in English. If you put enough English filler text around it, everything gets through.

    *I do not mean that the dialect where it was done necessarily has approximant v:) Just kidding.

    Most of the world’s /v/ are actually [ʋ]; an actual fricative [v] is not often found if it doesn’t contrast with a [w] (or a [ʋ]).

  62. Most of the world’s /v/ are actually [ʋ]

    Definitely [v] in Hebrew (with no contrasts).

  63. David Marjanović says

    Is there any friction in the Hebrew /j/ by any chance? Because that seems to be a class of exceptions.

  64. What does “kısmet” actually mean in English? In Bulgarian it just means luck, good or bad. But it seems to have a more specific meaning in English; and “kef” seems to signify something different to just “have a good time”.

  65. @DM: /j/ has no friction at all. If anything, it’s more open than e.g. English (I think).

  66. If you are right, I wonder if the exceptions are the languages which also have a fricated /f/.

  67. https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Category:Terms_with_audio_links_by_language

    It just occured to me to use this category (I do not understand why I do not see some common languages in the list, though)

  68. David Marjanović says

    If you are right, I wonder if the exceptions are the languages which also have a fricated /f/.

    As opposed to any other kind of /f/? I don’t know what you mean.

  69. David Eddyshaw says


    “Kismet” in English is “fate” rather than “luck” (and is more often bad than good.)

    Admiral Nelson’s famous last words “Kiss, me, Hardy” are sometimes supposed to be a mishearing of “Kismet, Hardy” (this is a well-known tale in the UK.)


    [Kusaal win, “spiritual individuality of anything, genius, soul, god, God” overlaps in meaning with “fate”: wintɔɔg “bitterness of win” is “being ill-fated”, a rather similar concept to “kismet” as it usually appears in English.]

  70. https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/كيف
    Interestingly, for Armenian and Azeri wiktionary gives two words, one pair loaned from Russian.

  71. In Russian kayf is anything from what you feel when taking a bath to narcotic intoxication to an exclamation.
    It has not drifted far from the original, but it has overtones of physical pleasure/enjoying.
    kif, possibly, refers to the specific sort of pleasure originating from North Africa…

  72. @DM: I meant, excluding f being really [ɸ].

  73. Which is not a fricative but a ɸricative.

  74. Perhaps it happens in literary Arabic in careful speech (I associate it with literarly language for some reason), but if I can mishear Arabic /f/ as interdentals (exotic for Russians interdentals), clearly it can boldly go where no /f/ has gone before in Russia.
    There are kinds of d, why not kinds of f?
    I do not know if the outer surface of the lip is touched by the upper teeth (which would indeed give interdental sound), local Algerians must know.

  75. Just asked my mom whether she considers the word късмет as positive or neutral, and she said definitely positive.

  76. for me (late 20thC northeastern u.s. english), “kismet” is neutral to positive, with usage maybe most similar to phrases like “the stars aligned”, as a slightly dated way to respond to ‘fated’ meetings and significant coincidences.

  77. In Bulgarian it doesn’t have a “fate” meaning to it, though; it means “luck”. You have to specify “лош късмет” for it to mean “bad luck”.

  78. I think of “kismet” as more often positive (agreeing with rozele on the sense), unlike “karma”, which is usually negative. I don’t recognize “kef” as an English word at all.

  79. David Eddyshaw says

    Seems that it may just be me who feels that “Kismet” is usually negative in English, then.
    I blame the Celtic Twilight.

  80. I think kismet is a usually positive word for fate in English.

    I think Kismet is nowhere near as good as Borodin’s original music.

  81. David Eddyshaw: I was the one asking about how it’s usually used in English. My (single) anecdote was about how it’s used in Bulgarian.

  82. The thing is that Bulgarian doesn’t have an ordinary word for “luck” other than “късмет”. “Fate” is “съдба”.

  83. Karma is negative? It’s neutral in my idiolect.

  84. David Marjanović says

    I’ve seen karma only in Schadenfreude contexts – “Karma is a bitch!” – and in expressions of hope for future opportunities of such. Probably all American, though.

    German doesn’t have a single word for “luck”; the word has split into Glück & Unglück/Pech.

  85. And don’t forget the immortal “Your karma ran over my dogma.” But I’ve also seen/heard it in positive contexts, like “I won’t get any reward, I’m just doing it for the karma.”

  86. ktschwarz says

    David M: “The only consensus is that four is irregular.”

    The OED says the same; from the etymology of four (revised December 2020):

    Several aspects of the phonological development of the Germanic form are not entirely clear. The initial f- (instead of expected hw- ) has variously been explained as showing a sporadic phonological development, or as showing analogical influence from the Germanic base of five adj. (or its later reflexes).

    And this is a particularly bad example of the OED’s inexplicable decision not to show any reconstructed proto-forms in the Third Edition: from the list of Germanic cognates they go directly to “< an Indo-European base also reflected by Sanskrit catvāraḥa…” How are we supposed to see why an initial hw- is “expected” if you don’t show us the PIE reconstruction? See the comment by Patrick Taylor, several years ago.

    Kroonen accepts the “four”/“five” influence with no further discussion. But I don’t see how that explains it unless you also have an explanation of why it acted only in one direction, and only on the pairs 4/5 and 6/7. If “four, five”, why not “four, five, fix”?

  87. David Eddyshaw says

    If “four, five”, why not “four, five, fix”?

    That would be filly.

  88. David Eddyshaw says

    Kusaal has several cases where successive numerals alliterate: 1-10 go


    (where the a- is a fossilised flexional prefix, continuing the old agreement flexion for the largest non-human noun class.)
    It’s not at all clear what one should make of this, though. The n of “four” seems to be Proto-Volta-Congo, and “five” certainly goes back before Proto-Oti-Volta, at any rate. “Seven” may incorporate “six” as its first component (the form used in counting is mpɔi, where m is a different fossilised flexion.)

  89. In Russian it is rather obvious. Russian count (for 1 “raz” rather than “odin” is used)

    raz-dva, tri-chetýre, pyat’-shest’, sem’-vósem’, dévyat’-désyat’

    désyat’-dvádtsat’, trídtsad’-sórok, pyat’desyát-shest’desyát, sém’desyat-vósem’desyat, devyanósto-stó.

  90. The wonderful thing is that
    feels as an obvious rhyme (apparently not just for me, it is often pronounced very rhythmically), as if tri and -tyre were the same thing with different stress and vowel grades.
    But nothing similar in our poetry.

  91. David Eddyshaw says

    Yoruba has a couple of successive-numeral alliterations: 1-10 go


    Yoruba is, of course, related to Kusaal, and the four-five alliteration is probably a common inheritance, though I don’t know enough about the history of Yoruba to be sure.

  92. Chechen:
    6 – ЯЛХ

    7 – ВОРХI

    8 – БАРХI

    9 – ИСС

    10 – ИТТ


  93. Well, Russian rythmic counting has some difficulty to it. Raz-dva/tri-chetyre doesn’t have the same number of syllables in the first two lines and in Russian even unstressed syllables count for something. And so one cannot start a 4/4 song with the analog of “one-two-three-four” and then the first chord. I didn’t listen to Russian rock for some time and don’t remember what they do (maybe count in English), but obvious solution would be 1-2-3-и (and); 1-и-2-и is too classical. When marching, 1-2-3-4 is not fitting the requirements either and it turns to repetition of 1-[blank]-1-[blank]-…, 1-2-1-2-…, or a strange pattern 1-[blank]]-1-[blank]-1-2-3. [blank] and 2 falling on the weak beat (or right leg as it were).

  94. David Marjanović says

    5-6 pairing also occurs. In a lot of German dialects, 15 & 50 don’t start with fünf-, but with fuff- (which is completely irregular at least in most of them). A subset of those, like mine, has moved on to fuch-, evidently from the sech- of 16 & 60.

    (The allophony of /x/ remains intact: [x] for 5-, [ç] for 6-.)

  95. George Petkov says

    Etymology aside, in counting rhymes we’re looking at old morality tales coded within. They are a kind of collective memory , recording events of importance or just words of wisdom that parents want to pass on to their kids. Hence, whether it’s English ,Finnish ,Russian, Bulgarian or Aramaic the counting rhymes share not only sound similarities and numbers but also purpose.

Speak Your Mind