Gammawash and the Jacob Sannazars.

Two minor mysteries I’m hoping some LH reader might be able to shed light on:

1) At, aldiboronti quotes from Beaumont and Fletcher’s Thierry and Theodoret, Act V, Scene 1, in which the following exchange occurs (4th Soldier is Welsh; you can see the context here):

4th Soldier: It is the welch must doo’t I see, comrade man of vrship, St. Tauy bee her patron, the gods of the mountaines keepe her cow and her cupboord, may shee neuer want the greene of the leeke, nor the fat of the onion, if she part with her bounties to him that is a great deale away from her cozines, and has too big suites in law to recouer her heritage.

1st Soldier: Pardon me Sir, I will haue nothing to do with your suites, it comes within the statute of maintenance: home to your coznes and sowe garlicke and hempeseede, the one will stop your hunger, the other end your suites, gammawash comrade, gammawash.

As aldi says, “No gloss for the word in my edition and googling proved fruitless. I’m assuming it’s a Welsh term or a corrupted version of one. Any ideas?”

2) I’m reading Turgenev’s Записки охотника [A Sportsman’s Sketches], and in Татьяна Борисовна и ее племянник [Tatyana Borisovna and Her Nephew] I hit the following passage (the translation is Garnett’s, linked above):

И потому нисколько не удивительно, что эти господа любители также оказывают сильное покровительство русской литературе, особенно драматической… «Джакобы Саназары» писаны для них: тысячи раз изображенная борьба непризнанного таланта с людьми, с целым миром потрясает их до дна души…

And so it is not to be wondered at that these gentlemen extend their powerful patronage to Russian literature also, especially to dramatic literature. . . . The Jacob Sannazars are written for them; the struggle of unappreciated talent against the whole world, depicted a thousand times over, still moves them profoundly. . .

Now, “Jacob Sannazar” is presumably the Italian poet Jacopo Sannazaro (known for Arcadia, c. 1480), but I am unaware of any works about him in Russian (or any other language) well enough known to warrant a phrase like “the Jacob Sannazars“; any ideas?


  1. Sir JCass says

    The note in my copy of Richard Freeborn’s translation of the Turgenev (Penguin Classics) says, “Giacobo Sannazaros: (1834) a dramatic fantasy by N. V. Kukolnik (1809-68), which for Turgenev epitomized the worst excesses of Romanticism.”

  2. Sir JCass says

    Here it is in Russian on

    It also turns out Kukolnik wrote the libretto for Glinka’s A Life for the Tsar, so he does have some historical importance.

  3. GAMMAWASH is likely a Welsh verb gwamalu “waver, behave frivolously”

    Present tense 2nd person plural would be gwamalwch which is pronounced very close to gammawash (according to voice at Google Translate)

    The context appears to fit as well.

    1st Soldier: Pardon me Sir, I will haue nothing to do with your suites, it comes within the statute of maintenance: home to your coznes and sowe garlicke and hempeseede, the one will stop your hunger, the other end your suites, you (plural) are behaving frivolously, comrade, you (plural) are behaving frivolously.

  4. Both mysteries solved within an hour — I’m deeply impressed! Thanks, all.

  5. Dan Milton says

    How will hempseed end your suits?

  6. Plemenik! My Yiddish-speaking grandmother used that word to refer to a nephew. I doubt I’ve ever seen it written (in any language) and surely haven’t heard it in many decades. I’m away from all printed references and online searches are clumsy from a cellular device.

  7. what is it about “plemenik”? Occasionally even “pelmennik” (literally something like dumpling-man)

  8. “Little dumpling” is a metaphor for nice fat babies.

  9. How will hempseed end your suits?

    By rendering you too mellow to be bothered pursuing them, perhaps?

  10. Sir JCass says

    How will hempseed end your suits?

    I’d guess by providing the hemp to make the rope to hang you with. I think I’ve seen this joke elsewhere in Elizabethan literature, but I could be wrong.

  11. I wonder if the pun on ‘suit’ as lawsuit/clothes would have worked back then, but I also tend to think the hanging rope is what’s suggested.

  12. From Sayers’s Strong Poison, lightly spoken though not in fact a jest:

    [Urquhart:] “There seem to be some flaws in your theory, as well as in the egg.”

    [Wimsey:] “I haven’t finished the theory yet. My next bit of it is built up from very trifling indications. Let me enumerate them. Your disinclination to drink at dinner, your complexion, a few nailparings, a snipping or so from your very well-kept hair – I put these together, add a packet of white arsenic from the secret cupboard in your office, rub the hands a little – so – and produce – hemp, Mr. Urquhart, hemp.”

    [Wimsey] sketched the shape of a noose lightly in the air.

    “I don’t understand you,” said the solicitor, hoarsely.

    “Oh you know,” said Wimsey. “Hemp – what they make ropes of. Great stuff, hemp. […]”

  13. The Statute of Livery and Maintenance, 1460 (3 Hen. VIII cap. i) prohibited on pain of heavy fines assisting someone else to maintain a lawsuit from which you yourself will benefit, among other things. Typically the “assistance” took the form of threats and/or bribery applied to judges and juries, a serious problem in the previous reign, and the “benefit” amounted to a share of the verdict.

  14. I believe you mean 1487 (3 Hen. VII cap. i). H VII didn’t become rex until 1485, and H VIII wasn’t born until 1491.

  15. Thanks. “VIII” was a typo; 1460 was the result of adding 3 to Henry VII’s birth year instead of his coronation year.

  16. nephew and pelmeni
    They both have a similar sounding diminutive – plemyash and pelmesh.

  17. Strictly speaking, Kukolnik wrote the play that introduced the whole Ivan Susanin business to the Russian stage, The Almighty’s Hand Saved Fatherland (criticizing it cost Polevoy his literary journal, The Moscow Telegraph), but his contribution to Glinka’s Ivan Susanin (a.k.a. A Life for the Tsar) was limited: baron Rosen wrote most of the libretto. (A curiosity in its own right, since Rosen claimed to have learned Russian in his late teens but was good at writing Russian verse to fit Glinka’s pre-composed music.) Into Soviet textbooks, Kukolnik was portrayed as a monarchist sycophant of inconsiderable talent. (See the 1931 Literary Encyclopedia for an example. It claims that Dostoevsky parodied Giacobo in Netochka Nezvanova.) It did not help that Pushkin apparently thought little of Kukolnik the dramatist and seemed to despise him overall. Mitigating factors were Kukolnik’s friendship with Glinka (the patron saint of Russian opera as it were), his co-authorship of the Ruslan and Liudmila libretto, and his lyrics to Glinka’s art song, including Doubt and The Train Song (Попутная песня ).

  18. David L. Gold says

    @ Paul Ogden.

    The Eastern Yidish word about which you ask (פּלעמעניק ‘nephew’; in romanization, pleˈmenik) has nothing to do with the name of any food.

    That word and its female counterpart (פּלעמעניצע ‘niece’; in romanization, pleˈmenitse) come respectively from Belarusian пляменнік ‘nephew’ and пляменніца ‘niece’, which have cognates in Russian and Ukrainian.

    None of those East Slavic words has anything to do with food either.

  19. I’m sorry to say that Paul Ogden has passed away several years ago. But—his memory and the question live on.

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