From Dr. Weevil:

Someone once told me that the University of Pennsylvania was reshaping its language departments a few years back and briefly considered putting Hebrew in with Russian, Polish, and German. It wouldn’t be easy to come up with a brief and accurate description for such a disparate collection of languages, and someone facetiously suggested that it could be called the Department of Semitic and Anti-Semitic Languages.

And from Alas, a Blog:

Headline from the English edition of Pravda:
“Black to Swallow Planet Earth”
The story (which turns out to be about a black hole about 6,000 light years away, rather than a very hungry person of color) also contains a new definition of “good news”: “This is good news, is it not? It’s like learning that there is a blood-thirsty killer living next door to you.”


  1. Is the sarcasm lost in the translation?

  2. Yes. The original is here:

    The original words “horosha novost'” are sarcastic; this is conveyed here by the use of the short form “horosha” instead of the usual form “horoshaya”. A comparable way to phrase the same thing in English would be “this is some good news!” or something like that.

  3. Huh. Not only that, it’s not “a blood-thirsty killer living next door to you” but “maniacs on every stairwell.” Thanks for the link, Avva!

  4. Ilya Vinarsky says

    If you want to have linguistic fun, read the Russian edition of Renmin Ribao (the official Chinese newspaper). I had a link with excerpts some time in the summer in my LJ (I am a LJ-friend of Avva’s).

  5. John Cowan says

    The secretary of the Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages at CCNY during the time my mother was the chair typically answered the phone not “Department of etc. etc., how may I help you” but simply “Yah?”. It was then suggested that he should switch to Ja, da?.

  6. John Cowan says

    /me snickers

    Three jings, please.

    Ross’s commentary on a Thurber piece named “A Couple of Snapshots”:

    3. Nobody here has got this Java Java business. The latest I’ve had is a note from a checker saying the song is “Java, Jive”, indicating that he’s recalled that combination in some song or other. Apparently Java is a popular word with lyric writers, which astonishes me.

    And Thurber’s 1959 commentary:

    The reference to the “Java Jive” grew out of a strange small problem [Ross] had made for himself, and had mentioned in two previous notes to me. John McNulty had given me a recording of the [1940] song, and I had used this line from it: “I love the Java Jive and it loves me.” That simply threw Ross, who, I am certain, knew neither the melody nor any of the words of “Smiles” or “Hindustan” [I have no clue what this refers to —JC], although he must have heard them, without listening, a hundred times. He finally decided that what I was talking about was that old [1918] song, “Jada, Jada.” I refused to get snarled up in all this anxious nonsense.

    Well, you could look at the record. The story was published in the December 1, 1950 issue, and the line is ” It may truly be said of this great lady that she loved the Java Java and it loved her.” So Ross was right after all.

  7. Three jings, please.

    Well, you could look at the record. Click the link!

  8. AJP Crown says

    Hindustan, my Hindustan, where we stopped to rest our tired caravan

  9. John Cowan says

    Obviously there wasn’t room for the third “jing” on the paper label on the vinyl. But it’s there in the lyrics and at Wikipedia:

    Ja-Da (Ja Da, Ja Da, Jing, Jing, Jing!)” is a hit song written in 1918 by Bob Carleton. The title is sometimes rendered as “Jada.” Ja-Da has flourished through the decades as a jazz standard.

    As usual, the part in parentheses is not part of the official title, which is just “Ja-Da” (as shown on the sheet music). I am happy to see that no less than Sharon, Lois, and Bram covered it almost 70 years after its publication. As the song says, it’s a funny little (read: trivial) melody, and the lyrics are nothing much, but when I was trying to goto sleep last night in not only earwormed me, but transformed in my head into “Eta, eta, eta eta epsilon”.

  10. AJP Crown says

    Composed by Oliver Wallace and Harold Weeks in 1917, Hindustan is a standard for trad jazz bands. . You can get the gist of it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wl7_R33mJK4

    Personally I prefer Istanbul not Constantinople.

  11. I saw the Preservation Hall Jazz Band forty or so years ago and am glad they’re still going strong.

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