Greek Phrases in Armenian Letters.

From Peter Brown’s NYRB review (available in full here even to non-subscribers) of
Armenia! (an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, September 22, 2018–January 13, 2019) and its catalog Armenia: Art, Religion, and Trade in the Middle Ages, edited by Helen C. Evans:

Ancient Armenia was idiosyncratic, but it was far from insular. The Armenian plateau was not a mountain fastness like the Caucasus. Rather it was the meeting point of a series of ridges that stretched southward on either side, like strands of rope knotted in the middle, toward the west into Roman Anatolia, and, toward the east, along the Zagros range, into Iran and Mesopotamia. The roads from the highlands descended gently, most of the way, in a series of wide mountain valleys. For Armenians of the Middle Ages, before the drawing of modern borders, Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean lay closer than one might think. Even within recent memory the two worlds would meet in the upland valleys of eastern Turkey. Scattered across the summer meadows, one could see the white felt yurts of the “cold desert” nomads of Central Asia mingling with the black camel-hair tents of the “hot desert” nomads of Syria and Mesopotamia, within view of the majestic white cone of Mount Ararat.

Throughout Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, Armenia was like the Scottish Highlands of the eighteenth century—an overbrimming reservoir of military manpower and skilled adventurers of every kind. As soldiers, Armenians fought with equal vigor in the armies of Eastern Rome and Iran. They were not only military men. In the fourth century, the Armenian Prohaeresius was a leading professor of rhetoric in Athens. In the tenth century the engineer Trdat, who reinforced the supports for the dome of the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, was also an Armenian. The most remarkable evidence of this constant drift of a hardy and enterprising mountain people into the Mediterranean world was found on an Egyptian papyrus. It was a conversational handbook in which Greek phrases were transcribed into Armenian letters, so that the owner could discuss, in perfect Greek, the pithy sayings of Diogenes the Cynic, among others. [fn: See James Clackson, “A Greek Papyrus in Armenian Script,” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik, Vol. 129 (2000).]


  1. In the tenth century the engineer Trdat, who reinforced the supports for the dome of the Hagia Sophia, was also an Armenian
    More on him here.

  2. I was most struck not by the characterization of Armenia but by, “… like the Scottish Highlands of the eighteenth century—an overbrimming reservoir of military manpower and skilled adventurers of every kind.” Maybe that’s the romanticized Celtic view of the highland Scots (Peter Brown being Scotch-Irish and born in Dublin), but to me—not having grown up steeped in that culture—that sounds like an absurd characterization. Scotland was actually fairly thinly populated at the time (due to having lost a huge number of rural dwellers to emigration during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, when there was a long string of poor harvests, among other reasons), and the highlands especially so. Moreover, Scotland had urbanized fairly rapidly in response to the huge economic boom going on to the south, and by the mid-eighteenth century the only countries more urbanized were the even-more-rapidly urbanizing England and Wales, as well as Italy and the Low Countries, which had become heavily urbanized during the Renaissance. At a local level, the highlander uprisings in 1715 and 1745 (although maybe not the abortive 1719 attempt to bring in foreign Spanish and Swedish troops) may have been as much a reaction to the highlanders’ diminishing status and importance, relative to the lowland Scots (who are genetically as English as the East Anglians), as an attempt to overthrow English rule. And it was only against those lowland Scots that the highlanders had any success, not the English and Hanoverians under Argyll and Cumberland. Finally, if there were a lot of Scottish adventurers wandering the world at that time, it was probably only because of the extensive British naval and merchant fleets, which made transportation of wanderlusting Englishmen, Welshmen, Scotsmen, and Irishmen to the far corners of the world a relatively easy and inexpensive proposition.

  3. Jen in Edinburgh says

    There ‘s a certain amount of truth in it, I think, although it might be a romantic way of putting it – even in 1650 when Alasdair MacColla did it, the idea that you could just raise an army from the land was pretty exotic to more settled parts of Britain and Europe, and by 1715 or 1745 it must have seemed a bit like history coming to life.

    Then exiled Jacobites of each period ended up in the armies of (Catholic?) Europe, as earlier exiles and mercenaries had ended up in the armies of the Forty Years War, while highlanders who stayed behind ended up in the British army for much the same reason that others went overseas, so that by about 1790 there’s a real enthusiasm for the army in the highlands – it’s more exciting than anything at home, and better paid, and you’ve still got that background a generation or two back of every man becoming a soldier at need.

    The highlands are relatively overpopulated at that time, partly because in the clan days it was useful to keep men around you even if it meant keeping them – even up to the Napoleonic Wars and the fortunes to be made from kelp if you have enough people on your land to harvest it. Emigration, forced and unforced, hits quite so hard after that because there never was enough (usable) land for all the people to keep themselves anyway, although it was obviously already going on. And there can’t have been much industrialisation beyond the lowlands, because until the coming of the Caledonian Canal and Telford’s roads around 1800 there’s no practical way to get materials in and out.

    (Don’t look too hard at my dates, I haven’t checked them…)

  4. The only other place I’ve heard Scotland compared to is the former Yugoslavia, in a comparison meant to play down the seemingly bloodthirsty, feuding nature of the latter.

  5. David Eddyshaw says

    I’ve seen premodern Albania compared to the Scottish Highlands, again in just this handy trope of “proud mountain warrior race, noted for fierce loyalty, bloodthirsty feuds, and general romantic rural backwardness of an appealing if somewhat intimidating nature.”

    I blame Sir Walter Scott. (Or confusion with Alba …)

    Still, it’s better than Wales, which only gets used as the Imperial Unit for country sizes.

  6. OK, I thought I knew European history, but it’s the first time I’ve heard of the Forty Years War.

    Who fought it, where and when?

  7. Of course you haven’t heard of it because it wasn’t in Europe. According to Wikipedia, it was “a military conflict fought between the Burmese-speaking Kingdom of Ava and the Mon-speaking Kingdom of Hanthawaddy Pegu. The war was fought during two separate periods: 1385 to 1391, and 1401 to 1424.”

    The Scots certainly got around.

  8. David Marjanović says

    That’s… really early for Scots to end up there.

  9. J in E: exiled Jacobites of each period [the ’15 & ’45] ended up in the armies of (Catholic?) Europe

    Probably right that it was mostly Catholic, but I looked it up, sort of, in Wiki, which says (with refs):

    many Jacobites were Protestant Lowlanders, rather than the Catholic, Gaelic-speaking Highlanders of legend. By 1745, fewer than 1% of Scots were Catholic, restricted to the far north-west and a few noble families. The majority of the rank and file, as well as many Jacobite leaders, belonged to Protestant Episcopalian congregations.

    Jacobitism in Scottish Gaelic: Seumasachas.

  10. I don’t usually remember my dreams, and they’re rarely interesting enough to bother repeating, but last night I had to get up and write down that in my dream I had encountered “an Armenian word so strong that after six letters God clubs you to death when you jump in the pool.” I think on the whole I’m glad I let my Armenian studies slide.

  11. Apparently, there is a book called The Forty Years War: The Rise and Fall of the Neocons, from Nixon to Obama, which sounded like it might be it might be interesting until I saw that one of the authors was Len Colodny, best known for also co-authoring Silent Coup: The Removal of a President. The main thesis put forward by Colodny and his coauthor Robert Gettlin in Silent Coup was that John Dean was almost solely responsible for both ordering the Watergate breaking and overseeing the coverup.

    I never would have finished that book, except that I had taken it with me during the summer that I spent living in a dorm room at Oregon State University, with no television, no reliable transportation, and a roommate who barely spoke English. On the topic of Watergate itself, it was a thoroughly bad book. However, the authors had genuinely put a lot of reporting effort into it; so on related secondary topics—like how the Pentagon had tried to spy on Henry Kissinger when he was National Security Advisor, or what a huge jackass Alexander Haig was—on which the authors were not blinded by their adherence to their bizarre thesis about John Dean, it seemed fairly informative. They also had a lot of interesting information from their interviews with Chuck Colson (who, in the real world, was the only person working in the White House who knew about the break-in ahead of time). Colson became a born-again Christian minister during his time in prison, and as a result, he was much more willing to talk about his criminal activity during the Nixon years than the other conspirators. Reading between the lines of Colodny and Gettlin’s analysis of their interviews with Colson it was possible to infer quite a bit about the character of the Nixon White House.

  12. The recent book entitled Reinterpreting the Dutch Forty Years War, 1672-1713 has a topic that’s a little more Jacobite-adjacent, I should think. At least in English, it is conventional to refer to three separate and separately-named wars where the Netherlands and Louis XIV were on opposite sides (with shifting arrays of allies of both) in that 41-year time frame, with intervening periods of peace. Whether lumping them under that single title is more conventional in Dutch-language histories or is an innovation by this author (David Onnekink) is not known to me.

  13. PlasticPaddy says

    re the name Colodny (= “cold”) Saint George’s Autumn feast day (now 9 December) is also called Jurij kholodni.

  14. The only other place I’ve heard Scotland compared to is the former Yugoslavia, in a comparison meant to play down the seemingly bloodthirsty, feuding nature of the latter.

    I forgot the bagpipes. Macedonia has bagpipes.

  15. David Marjanović says

    Bagpipes are actually known all over Europe; they’ve just never been quite as important as in Scotland.

    Blood feuds are of course back in Kosovo and northern Albania, complete with whole families stuck in their houses because they’ll be murdered if they go out. Communism had suppressed them, just as it had suppressed nationalism in Yugoslavia and as fascism had suppressed the Mafia in Italy, but putting a lid on a problem doesn’t actually make it go away permanently…

  16. The struggle for Dutch independence is the Eighty Years War, from 1568 to 1648. I’m not so sure the first date is legitimate, though: violent protest begin in 1566.

    And then there’s the Hundred Years War. And the Forever War.

  17. The spelling “Kolodny” (which is how Molly Millions spelled it as one of her other aliases in Neuromancer) seems to be about three times as common as “Colodny.” I associate the name with Jews of Polish background. There is a village in (now) eastern Poland called Kolodno, although it apparently had only a relatively modest Jewish inhabitants prior to 1942.

    Regarding Silent Coup, I have discovered just now that Dean and his wife—who the book accused of having been a call girl—apparently sued the authors, and Colodny’s insurance settled out of court with the Deans for somewhere in the six figure range.

    The accusation that she had been working as a prostitute, unimportant and petty as it may sounds, was actually central to the book’s thesis. It is not entirely clear which phone the Plumbers meant to tap when they broke into the Democratic National Committee office in the Watergate building (although it was probably the phone of Larry O’Brien, who was chair of the DNC at the time, in between serving as postmaster general and commissioner of the National Basketball Association). However, the phone they ended up tapping was actually in an empty office, so it turned out that the vast majority of calls made from that phone were personal calls that DNC staffers did not want to make from their desks. A fair number of these were to get arrange assignations with prostitutes. Colody and Gettlin apparently refused to believe that this had been an accident—that the burglars had tapped this worthless phone line by accident. So they came up with the theory that John Dean had actually had that specific phone line tapped, because he wanted to find out whether his girlfriend (and later wife) Maureen Biner was moonlighting as a call girl. So Dean allegedly conned G. Gordon Liddy and the other crooks working for the Committee to REElect the President to break into the DNC office, by disguising the whole endeavor as a dirty trick being played on the Democrats.

  18. David Marjanović says


  19. @Brett: But is the book so bad that when its claims happen to coincide with conventional wisdom (e.g. Haig being a jackass) it actually makes you start to question the conventional wisdom?

  20. Looked for additional info regarding “call-girl theory” and found this newspaper article from 1972

    So the “call-girl ring” sex scandal broke in April 1972 and two months later the Watergate break-in occurred.

  21. @J.W. Brewer: At the time I read the book I didn’t know enough conventional wisdom to let that affect my judgement on most of the subsidiary topics the book discussed. Now, I don’t remember much except for the main thesis and the areas where I thought the authors actually seemed insightful and informative. However, it is entirely possible that there were other things in the book that I decided were just as wack as their ideas about Dean.* I did think perhaps they were a bit too hard on Haig (about whom I didn’t know much of anything, except for his famous idiocy after Ronald Reagan was shot), although I was actually a bit relived that the authors had finally turned their unremitting vitriol on somebody other than Dean in the last part of the book (after the Watergate conspirators had left the government).

    @SFReader: Phillip Mackin Bailley was definitely running a high-end prostitution ring, with a lot of clients in the government, and he also definitely knew Mo Biner (maybe only as a friend of a friend, but the friend who connected them was also involved in running the call girl business). Supposedly, that made John Dean suspicious, and ordered the break-ins.

    Section I here covers many of the key facts and allegations. The link is to a legal case involving Bailey, Liddy, and a former DNC secretary—who Liddy accused of being involved with the prostitution ring. Liddy (who one would think ought to know better) eventually came to be a full-throated supporter of Colodny and Gettlin’s theory that Dean was behind the break-ins.
    However, it is unclear whether he is (or was) sincere about believing that. It is entirely possible he pointed the finger at Dean—who he had hated for a long time, as the man who betrayed Nixon and sent a lot of people to prison**—out of pure vindictiveness. On the other hand, it is also plausible that, thanks to a lot of motivated reasoning, Liddy’s conspiracy-addled brain may actually have come to believe that Dean was actually the primary force behind the break-ins.

    * According to Silent Coup, the famous eighteen-and-a-half-minute gap (which Rose Mary Parks affirmed she had “accidentally” deleted) must actually have been deleted by someone loyal to Dean, not to protect President Nixon, but rather to incriminate him. This was based on a long string of inferences, leading the authors to conclude that whatever Nixon and H. R. Haldeman had discussed in that meeting couldn’t possible have been related to the coverup. According to them, Nixon, Haldeman, and John Ehrlichman were not even involved in the coverup at that point.

    ** Liddy though, who was directly connectable to the break-ins, almost certainly would have gone to prison even without Dean’s revelations. However, many of the higher-ups in the Nixon administration, who (apart from Colson) were only tied to the coverup, might have escaped jail had Dean kept his mouth shut. This includes, ironically, Dean himself, who, as White House counsel, was a relatively minor player the coverup and probably would have gotten off (as long as nobody else in the White House has spilled the beans).

  22. the famous eighteen-and-a-half-minute gap (which Rose Mary Parks affirmed she had “accidentally” deleted)

    An approximately 18-hour recording gap is a major plot element in the 1997 SF movie Contact with Jodie Foster.

  23. Phillip Mackin Bailley

    Apparently that really was his name, so nominative determinism struck: Phillip “Mackin'” Bailley. His parents seem to have favored double L.

  24. David Marjanović says

    which Rose Mary Parks affirmed she had “accidentally” deleted

    That’s now known to be a lie; the tape is still extant, and more recent analysis has shown the “gap” was deleted at least 20 times.

  25. Bagpipes are actually known all over Europe; they’ve just never been quite as important as in Scotland.

    Torupilli (Estonian for “Pipe Instrument”, after a type of bagpipe) is a subdistrict (asum) in the district of Kesklinn (Midtown), Tallinn, the capital of Estonia.

  26. @David Marjanović: I don’t think any reasonable ever believed Woods’ (I misremembered her surname, apparently, although I remembered that her given names were “Rose Mary,” rather than “Rosemary”) claim to have deleted that part by accident, while she was transcribing some of the tapes. To do so would have been required to carry out a very unlikely sequence of physical maneuvers. Perhaps the most interesting question (apart, obviously, what Nixon and Haldeman actually discussed in that meeting) is whether Parks was acting on orders from Nixon, or whether she, after hearing how incriminating the contents were, decided to erase them sua sponte.

  27. It’s certainly possible that during the “gap” N. & H. had discussed something wholly unrelated to Watergate but that was embarrassing/incriminating for independent reasons!

  28. David Marjanović says

    sponte sua, sine lege, fidem nec rectum colebat?

  29. It’s been a long time since I was up to speed on many Watergate-related minutiae and I had completely forgotten the name of Mr. Bailley. The internet seems to know less about him than it does about the more tersely-spelled Philip Bailey of Earth, Wind & Fire.

  30. Via Colodny and Gettlin, I came to this:

    NIXON: Do you not now see why I don’t have staff meetings?

    HALDEMAN: Damn right!

    NIXON: Do you agree?

    HALDEMAN: Oh, yeah!

    NIXON: Don’t you think I’m right?

    HALDEMAN: I sure as hell do!

    NIXON: I don’t have staff meetings.

    This is a good story, the kind of thing we can look forward to with Trumpy & co. The Atlantic.

  31. Mountaineer cultures invite comparison with each other, and the Scottish Highlands are a convenient point of reference. It’s tempting to draw facile parallels between the Highlands and Corsica, the Balkans (including Albania), even Chechnya: clans, vendettas, brutal codes of honor and a certain propensity for predation. I’ve never thought of Armenia in this way (or the Alps): as the author says, ancient Armenia was more of a plateau both geographically and culturally. (Today’s republic is a relatively small, off-center part of historical Armenia.) To me, her “overbrimming reservoir of military manpower and skilled adventurers of every kind” is a new way of looking at Scotland rather that at Armenia.

    @Brett: There is a Ukrainian-Soviet-Russian journalist named Lev Kolodny. Born in 1932, he is six years Led Colodny’s senior. It does look like a toponymic Jewish surname, although the settlement might have been in western Ukraine rather than today’s Poland. Anyway, these surnames sometimes travel far: they wouldn’t have emerged without their would-be bearers moving away from their place of birth. If you grew up in A and have moved to B, that’s when you get known as a person from A.

    @Plastic Paddy: No, Kolodny most likely goes back to koloda, a heavy wooden block or log in Ukrainian and Russian. The word for “cold” would be chłodny in Polish and kholodnyï in Ukrainian and Russian. Kholodny is a legit surname, Ukraine or Russian, but it’s quire rare. Its most famous bearer so far has been Vera Kholodnaya, the first Russian silent movie star (1894-1919). It sounds like a well-chosen stage name to the Russian ear but was actually her husband’s last name. She died of the Spanish flu in Odessa; the Bolsheviks executed her husband shortly afterwards. He had a brother, a biologist: if you’ve heard of the Cholodny-Went model, that’s him.

  32. PlasticPaddy says

    @alex k
    Thanks. Not knowing the original stress, I just assumed the North Ams had changed Kh to K. Acc to both vasmer and DWDS koloda is from the same root as the German word Holz.

  33. The most memorable quote about Vera Kholodnaya is found in Konstantin Paustovsky’s Civil War diary:

    “Under Petliura, rumors acquired character of a spontaneous, almost cosmic phenomenon, similar to a pestilence. It was a general hypnosis.
    … Rumors have acquired a new essence, a different substance. They have turned into a means of self-soothingness, into the strongest drug. People found hope for the future only through rumors. Even outwardly, the people of Kiev began to look like morphine addicts.
    Hearing each new rumor, their dull eyes lit up, the usual lethargy disappeared, their speech turned from tongue-tied into lively and even witty.
    Even the most inveterate skeptics believed everything, even that the Ukraine would be declared one of the departments of France and President Poincare himself was going to Kiev to solemnly proclaim this act of state, or that the film actress Vera Holodnaya gathered an army and, like Joan of Arc, with her army of outcasts entered on a white horse the town of Priluki, where she declared herself the empress of Ukraine.”

  34. Silent Coup starts with a description of the Moorer-Radford affair, involving the Pentagon spying on Henry Kissinger. The authors try to connect it to Watergate, at least thematically, but the two scandals were, in reality, basically unrelated. It may be the best part of the book, since Colodny and Gettlin have no axe to grind, and it also covers material that is not so well known.

    The spying scandal was nicknamed “Moorer-Radford” after the admiral and Joint Chiefs chairman who ordered the spying, and the enlisted sailor who actually stole the documents from Kissinger. Sometimes I actually have trouble remembering which man was which, because there were actually admirals named both Moorer and Radford who were chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (However, Admiral Arthur Radford* actually retired in 1957, and the spy was an unrelated Charles Radford.)

    * Somewhat unusually for somebody who was a top military leader in the 1950s, Admiral Radford’s World War II combat service record did not look that impressive. He was apparently an outstanding manager of aviator training and logistics, but he was not personally involved in any of the war’s major sea battles.

  35. FWIW, here’s a useful short summary of emigration from Scotland with some indication as to how it varied over time, in terms of social class and the Highlands-v-Lowlands dynamic. By some point (probably not until well into the 19th century) it became possible for Lowlanders in diaspora to glom onto the wild-and-romantic reputation of the Highlanders whom they had disdained back in the Old Country and use that reputation to impress their new neighbors. But most Scots emigrants and their descendants assimilated (for most purposes, at least) into their host societies faster than the Armenian diaspora tended to, not least because (except for monolingual Gaelic-speakers) there were typically no strong barriers reinforcing endogamy and discouraging exogamy.

  36. I’d never heard of this Moorer-Radford thing until now, nor the DNC’s call girls. It was submerged for enough years that it never became raw material for subsequent politics, now it’s merely a historical curiosity.

  37. I still remember the Sherman Adams scandal (that vicuña coat!).

  38. Mountaineer cultures invite comparison with each other

    And add Appalachia: romantic poverty, blood feuds, folk music. But somehow not the Himalayas or the Rocky Mountains.

    I only recently learned about the great significance of chestnut blight to the impoverishment of 20th century Appalachia.

  39. @J.W. Brewer: That was an interesting article. One thing I noticed was that in the discussion of immigration into Scotland (in the post-1800 period the article focuses on), there were a lot of people coming from more rural countries to the relatively urban Scottish lowlands. The biggest number, by far, of these came from Ireland, due to its proximity and the longstanding cultural connections between Scotland and Ireland. However, Italy and Lithuania were also significant.

    And the appearance of Italy implicitly points up that talking about a country’s degree or urbanization is always a relative thing. From the thirteenth to sixteenth centuries, Italy had become the most urbanized part of Europe;* only the Netherlands came close. However, after that, the Italian economy had stagnated. By the nineteenth century, Italy was one of the most rural states in western Europe. It had not actually become that substantially less urban thar it has been during the Renaissance, but everywhere else, the cities had seen rapid growth, so Italy was, by nineteenth and twentieth century standards, quite backward.

    * This was, of course, the second period of important urbanization in Italian history. Hoever the first round of urbanization was mostly undone during the European Dark Ages. I think that Italy is, of all the countries in the western world, the most interesting, because, thanks to its central position in the Mediterranean, it rose to host the most urban and most advanced culture two completely independent times

  40. Also, having come across several mentions of kelp harvesting among the highland Scots, I was curious about that rather unusual-sounding agricultural industry. I found this short article, which explains the economic importance of the kelp harvesting and talks about the archeological remains of the early-nineteenth-century kelp boom. It turns out that the kelp was valued as a source of ash that was rich in alkali metal salts.

  41. The piece Brett linked contains the exquisite phrase “Until recently only a few enthusiasts were aware of the traces of kelp manufacture . . .” Far be it from me to judge or condemn the enthusiasms of others, but that’s gotta be a pretty niche one.

  42. Susan Hothersall, 9 Wyndham Road, Rothesay, Isle of Bute

    What a wonderful address.

  43. “Why Kelp Is the Superfood That’ll Actually Help You Lose Weight”

    Kelp enthusiasm is probably not so niche now

  44. I finally found a picture of that vicuña coat. As you can see, it is now safely kept in Warehouse 13.

    Its effects:

    # The coat lets the user effectively run any organization from behind the scenes for someone else, usually a friend or superior. However, the user will eventually suffer a severe mistake in their personal life that will negatively affect their career. The ensuing scandal usually ends with the person resigning from their position. #

  45. The vicuña coat reminds me that Len Garment was one of the many unlikely names of people involved in Watergate. It seemed so at the time in England, anyway. Bebe Rebozo was another as was Bob Abplanalp who sounded like he might be a palindrome. H. R. Haldeman was an early example for me of Americans with no first name; it was before I knew that Scandinavians don’t use the “Hans Christian” and always refer to the writer as H. C. Andersen.

  46. We also have horses with no name. This too I learned from the British.

  47. “Horse” was written while the band was staying at the home studio of musician Arthur Brown, near Puddletown, Dorset. Its earlier name Piddletown fell out of favour, probably because of connotations of the word “piddle”. The press would often refer to Brown as “The God of Hellfire” [and his] use of a burning metal helmet led to occasional mishaps; at the Windsor Festival in 1967, he wore a colander on his head soaked in methanol [which] caught fire; a bystander doused the flames by pouring beer on Brown’s head, preventing any serious injury. [40 yrs later] in 2007, during a concert in Lewes, East Sussex, Brown once again set fire to his own hair. While trying to extinguish the flames, Phil Rhodes, a member of the band also caught fire. Brown carried on after the fire was put out; he had however lost a few chunks of hair.

    Wally. I never liked either of those songs (A Horse with no Name and Fire).

  48. Scandinavians don’t use the “Hans Christian” and always refer to the writer as H. C. Andersen.

    Odd coincidence: Last night I watched an episode of “Borgen” in which the Deputy PM was featured. He was introduced as H.C. Thorsen, and only later did it emerge that his name was Hans Christian.

    Do Danes always refer to people with two first names by their initials, or does the convention only apply to Hans Christians?

  49. only a few enthusiasts

    I think that means ‘enthusiasts for local and recent archaeology’ rather than ‘enthusiasts for kelp as such’.

    Robert Henry Abplanalp (not to be confused with Henry Robert Haldeman) made an actual contribution to civilization, though some people might not think so, by inventing the reliable aerosol-can valve. This is why he had enough money to come to the notice of Richard Nixon, who (to his begrudged credit) was not personally avaricious but did need money to finance his activities in and out of office.

    “Nixon wasn’t corrupt; he just wanted to be king“, my father said once. Italics cannot properly convey the magnificent scorn with which someone who was both Irish and American, and who grew up before the Easter Rebellion, can pronounce that word.

    Etymologically, Abplanalp is < ab Planalp, one of the Walser German settlements.

  50. @AJP Crown: Bebe Rebozo wasn’t actually involved in Watergate. He was just Richard Nixon’s best friend, and as the scandal worsened, Nixon spent more and more time away from Washington on Rebozo’s yacht. (They were apparently introduced when Nixon was a congressman by another member of Congress—and future senator—Florida’s George Smathers, who I mention because I always thought his surname name was cool too.) Bebe’s actually name was the much less interesting Charles Gregory Rebozo, but (perhaps to emphasize his Cuban-American heritage), he preferred to go by his childhood nickname, which he received because he was the youngest of twelve children.

    @Stu Clayton: Although they founded the band in Britian, al the members of America were the children of American Air Force personnel. They were all American citizens, two of them born in the States, and all three settled in America as adults (although they also maintained strong ties with Britain).

    While typing this comment, I just listened to “A Horse With No Name” three times through.

    @John Cowan: Yes, the implication is definitely of archeological enthusiasts, rather than kelp enthusiasts. I am somewhat fond of both local archeology and bull kelp. (Seeing the vast subaqueous forests of kelp, as well as huge accumulations washed up on the rocky shores of the Pacific Northwest can be a really striking experience.) However, I would not consider myself an “enthusiast” of either.

  51. Bebe Rebozo wasn’t actually involved in Watergate.

    You’re right, of course, but even I — who avidly followed Watergate from the beginning (I actually remember seeing the first news story about the DNC break-in in June 1972 and saying “This will sink Nixon,” and being outraged when the story itself sank) — have a hard time remembering it. Bebe is as closely associated with Dick as Sherman with Ike.

  52. David L: I asked my Norwegian wife, Do Danes always refer to people with two first names by their initials, or does the convention only apply to Hans Christians? but she doesn’t know. My guess is it mostly applies to Hans Christians or as they would be called in Norway, Hans Kristian (but HC Andersen).

    I recently watched Borgen partly in English and then in Danish (but with Danish subtitles, so I could understand the words they dropped bits of in speech). I found both the language & politics pretty interesting and by Series 3, I was ready to move there.

    Brett: Bebe Rebozo wasn’t actually involved in Watergate.
    Yeah, I know. Apparently kelp is a cure for farting in Japan. Not only in Japan, it would work anywhere but it’s used by the Japanese. And why listen to America imitate Neil Young when you could be listening to After the Gold Rush or Harvest.

  53. I preferred Ventura Highway.

    A Horse with No Name didn’t make sense to me, going through deserts on a horse with no name and all that.

  54. A friend of mine recommended Borgen years ago but it was only recently I started watching it. It’s excellent — a hard-nosed version of West Wing, kind of. I just started season 3 so I am holding off for the time being on any decision to move to Copenhagen. (And in any case, my UK passport will no longer be enough, I guess, thanks to BoJo and his cabal of ninnies.)

  55. Lars Mathiesen says

    Two initials in Danish: A few generations ago, men in the public eye would commonly be known by two initials and last name. (Women would get their full first name, because even the fact of being a woman had to be signalled.This has changed too, at long last).

    But the ubiquity of two given names, and the paucity of common choices, belong to the past. It was never at Roman levels, but Hans, Jens, Christian, Peter were extremely common, and you didn’t have to check that, e.g., H.P. Hansen (Danish WP has 9 people with that name) was a Hans Peter — if he had been a Henrik, for instance, he would have been known under that name instead. Friends and less intimate family would use both names because there were so many duplicates if only one was used. (But growing up, and to their wives, they would probably be called by only one of them).

    There were other customary shortened forms, for instance the author Johs. V. Jensen was Johannes Vilhelm, but you would usually expand the first name when reading it out. (On the other hand, my mother had a colleague known as Johs, but that was more of a nickname).

    Now a days most people only use one of their names, the only survival I know personally is actually a Hans Christian whose nickname is H-C. So my guess is that H.C. Thorsen in Borgen is in fact named Hans Christian, but is using H-C as a nickname; by default he would be introduced as Hans Thorsen.

    (My father, for instance, Per Axel Mathiesen, born 1935, signed everything as P. Mathiesen and never used Axel for anything. I have two first names as well, and I use both when I need three initials for some employer’s systems, but I correct anybody trying to use both in address).

  56. Lars Mathiesen says

    By the way, Axel < Absalon. I don’t think there are any other instances of that sound change (in Danish), so is it ‘regular’? (Absalon is one LL variant of אַבְשָׁלוֹם‎ (Absalom), the name of the third son of King David, and may have been the only word with that sequence of phones used in 12c Danish).

    Or at least Archbishop Absalon was also known as Axel, but there may have been conflation with the good Norse name Ásketill > Askel (to confound the Neogrammarians).

  57. Also Aksel, as in Aksel Schiøtz.

  58. Lars Mathiesen says

    Yes, Danish orthography from the late 19th and forward shunned x (and ‘German’ spellings like ch/th/ck), but exceptions were always made for given names. Aksel and Axel are seen as the same name, you have to ask for the spelling — as for Christian and Christensen which are about twice as common as Kristian and Kristensen, but you ask. (I would have defaulted to Axel for the singer, in fact, because of a feeling that it was the more common variant back then. It was very rare in my generation so I have no intuition there, but Aksel is trending for baby boys now while Axel is not on the list).

  59. Hans Christian whose nickname is H-C
    So Danes hyphenate first names, at least the initials, as in French? Norwegians and English don’t (or English rarely). Germans do, at least sometimes. I’m not sure about Italian, but I think not.

  60. I just noticed that Axel Horstmann makes an appearance in my new post on philology.

  61. @AJP Crown: I asked my undergraduate advisor, G.-C. Rota, about hyphenation of initials in Italian, and he said that it was only done when the given names were actually hyphenated. His given name(s) were the anomalously hyphenated “Gian-Carlo,” which was how he ended up with “G.-C.”

    My grandmother also has an atypically hyphenated first name, but that’s only because my great-great uncle was a wiseass. My great grandfather sent his younger brother to register Grandma’s birth, under the name Betsy Rose Sax. However, her uncle filled out the forms with no middle name and the hyphenated first name “Betsye-Rose.” While she is particular about having the unusual spelling “Betsye” done correctly, she treats “Rose” as just her middle name (which was what her parents intended anyway) and does not hyphenate her initials.

  62. I can’t stand people who dick around with the names of helpless babes.

  63. David Marjanović says

    Germans do, at least sometimes.

    Oh, Kai-Uwe and Kai Uwe would be two different people, the first with one given name (more may follow), the second with (at least) two. Only spaces are spaces.

  64. January First-of-May says

    Its earlier name Piddletown fell out of favour, probably because of connotations of the word “piddle”.

    It had been suggested that Dr. Foster, having gone to Glo(uce)ster in a shower of rain, had actually stepped into a piddle and not (as the received text would have it) a puddle, because “puddle” doesn’t rhyme with “middle”, and in any case puddles aren’t usually that deep (though they do get quite deep during rainshowers, as I experienced for myself on the 17th).

    IIRC, a piddle is a kind of small stream, though these days it’s probably (mostly) only known from the word “piddling”.

    Incidentally, Bebe Rebozo previously on LH (in the context of a possible reference in Bored of the Rings).

  65. @David Marjanović: Speaking of hyphenated names including Uwe, I noticed a long time ago that the only two living Germans I could actually remember hearing about who carried that name were both actually Uwe-Jens. That’s Uwe-Jens Mey, who was maybe the second-greatest male speed skater of all time, and Uwe-Jens Wiese, a theoretical physicist who knew fairly well when I was in graduate school and he was a junior professor.

    I asked another German physicist colleague about the collocation of those names (it came up because he was going to be attending a conference that Wiese was helping organize), and he said that, in spite of those two prominent examples, he didn’t think there was a particular tendency to name boys Uwe-Jens, as opposed to just Uwe. He said that Jens-Uwe sounded more natural, but he also admitted that was probably just because Jens was so much more common a name.

    I just looked on Wikipedia’s list of people named Uwe, and it does not list a single Uwe-Jens—not even Uwe-Jens Mey! There are two men named Kai-Uwe, however, including, of course, Kai-Uwe von Hassel, who is one of the other deceased Uwe’s that I did actually know of.

  66. I can’t stand people who dick around with the names of helpless babes.
    What did they call you, Dialekt-Chapeau?

  67. PlasticPaddy says

    Not to be confused with Heinrich Böll.

  68. Lars Mathiesen says

    Hyphenation: You can have a hyphenated first name, which I’m pretty sure then counts as one unit for the purpose of the Name Law though getting permission to split it is automatic, IIRC. I’m pretty sure ‘my’ Hans-Christian has the hyphen, and it is univerbated when spoken, or very close to (only one main stress, on Chri-).

    H-C is not an official spelling, it was just my attempt at rendering his univerbated nickname, [ˈhɒ̰ːse] as opposed to the two letter names in sequence ([ˈhɒ̰ː ˈsḛː]) which is the default when reading out H.C. Andersen, for instance. I haven’t watched Borgen so I can’t tell you if Mr. Thorsen is spelled out or univerbated (the difference is subtle) but as I said, for that timeframe the spelled out version is not expected.

    EDIT: By the way, in Askel ~ Aksel the metathesis is almost expected, it’s only because the etymology from Ásketill is known that we can tell which came first.

  69. spelled out or univerbated (the difference is subtle)
    Blimey. But I suppose it’s like bønder & bønner in Norwegian, to make the subtle difference in speech you have to visualise which of them you’re saying (well I do), farmers or beans.

  70. Found this in some documents regarding the debate in Parliament regarding the 1606 union of England and Scotland:

    In the debates about a union with Scotland in 1606, the “multiplicities of the Scots in Polonia” formed one of the arguments of the opposing party, who thought that England was likely to be overrun in a similar fashion. According to Wilson (Hist. of James I., p. 34.), the naturalisation of the Scots—

    “Was opposed by divers strong and modest arguments. Among which they brought in the comparison of Abraham and Lot, whose families joining, they grew to difference, and to those words, ‘Vade tu ad dextram, et ego ad sinistram.’ It was answered, That speech brought the captivity of the one; they having disjoined their strength. The party opposing said, If we admit them into our liberties, we shall be overrun with them; as cattle, naturally, pent up by a slight hedge, will over it into a better soil; and a tree taken from a barren place will thrive to excessive and exuberant branches in a better,—witness the multiplicities of the Scots in Polonia.

    “To which it was answered, That if they had not means, place, custom, and employment (not like beasts, but men), they would starve in a plentiful soil, though they came into it. And what springtide and confluence of that nation have housed and familied themselves among us, these four years of the king’s reign? And they will never live so meanly here as they do in Polonia; for they had rather discover their poverty abroad than at home.”

    This last “answerer” was Lord Bacon. In his speech “Of general Naturalisation” (Works, vol. v. p. 52.), he asserts that the “multiplication of Scots in Polonia” must of necessity be imputed

    “To some special accident of time and place that draws them thither; for you see plainly before your eyes, that in Germany, which is much nearer, and in France, where they are invited with privileges, and with this very privilege of naturalisation, yet no such number can be found; so as it cannot either be nearness of place, or privilege of person, that is the cause.”

    What these “special accidents” were, it would be interesting to ascertain. Large bodies of men were levied in Scotland during the latter half of the sixteenth century, for the service of Sweden, and employed in the Polish wars. Can these have turned merchants, or induced others to follow them? In 1573, Charles de Mornay brought 5000 Scots to Sweden. In 1576, whilst they were serving in Livonia, a quarrel broke out between them and a body of Germans also in the Swedish pay, and 1500 Scots were cut down. (Geiger, ch. xii.)

    I believe Mr. Cunningham will find some notices of Scottish merchants in Poland in Lithgow’s Travels, which I have not at present by me.

    Richard John King.

  71. From Notes & Queries, Vol. 7 (1853), at Google Books here.

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