I’m reading Странник [The wanderer], by Alexander Veltman (see this LH post), and I’ll have a good deal to say about it (and its undeserved obscurity) when I’ve finished it, but for the moment I want to highlight this typically out-of-nowhere passage from section СХХІІІ (the narrator has just announced that he’s going to change the dedication of the book to a simple Вам [‘to you’] and compares it to the Ishvara Shiva’s laconic “Humm! – Om!” to his wife):

The word “Humm!” contains within itself the entire plenitude of a project or proposal for creation, and the question of agreement. The word “Om!” contains praise, corrections, supplements (especially to entities of the female sex) and finally agreement, confirmation, and the like.
Thus are these words elucidated by the glossarists of Indian words: the sage Father Paolino da San Bartolomeo and Langlès, basing themselves (?) on rebelling against the philologists William Jones, Charles Wilkins, and so on, who say that the mysterious word “Om!” is a representation of divinity and consists of three devanagari letters: A and U, which fuse to produce O, or with the addition of M – Om!, that is, the creator, the maintainer, the destroyer.
This is understandable. The Sanskrit language is that nothing out of which are created all other earthly languages; or that sea out of which flow the rivers of the word.

(Russian below the cut; I’m not at all sure I’ve correctly understood “восставая на,” hence the question mark.) Both “om” and “hum” are familiar from the mantra Om mani padme hum. If you get impatient with all the whale stuff in Moby-Dick, you probably won’t care for this, but if you enjoy (as I do) a healthy helping of encyclopedic brio with your fiction, Veltman is definitely your guy.

Слово Гумм! заключает в себе всю полноту прожекта, или предположения о создании, и вопрос о согласии. Слово Ом! заключает похвалу, поправки, дополнения (особенно в существовании женского пола) и, наконец, согласие, подтверждение и т. п.
Так изъясняют значение сих слов толкователи санскритских индейских слов: премудрый патер Паолино ди Санто Бартоломео и Ланглес, восставая на филологов Виллиама Джонса, Вилькинса и проч., которые говорят, что таинственное слово Ом! есть изображение божества и составлено из трех деванагарийских букв: А и У, кои сливаясь, производят О или с прибавлением M – Ом! т. е. творителя, хранителя, рушителя.
Это понятно. Санскритский язык есть то ничего, из которого созданы все прочие земные языки; или то море, из которого истекают реки глагола.


  1. LH, “восставая” ~ rising against, you may appreciate Klyuchevsky’s passage:
    Редкому писателю выпадало на долю столько озлобленных насмешек и негодующих порицаний, как Гоголю, и редкий писатель давал столько поводов, столько видимых оправданий желавшим смеяться над ним и бранить его, как Гоголь. Смеялись над ним глупые люди, бескорыстно восставая на него во имя здорового рассудка – вещи, им чуждой и ненужной. Бранили его злые люди, целомудренно щетинясь во имя христианской любви и гражданской благопристойности, над которой они внутренно смеялись и которую оскорбляли самой возможностью своего существования.

  2. SFReader says

    From the context it’s clear that “восставая на” should be translated literally “rebelling against [authority of]”
    Pater Paolino and Langles say that “Om” and “Hum” are just approval interjections and disagree with (rebel against) Jones and Wilkins’ opinion that “Om!” is a representation of divinity

  3. I was wondering what happened to Hat’s normal limpid style until I realized that Chrome, fooled by the long Russian comment, had auto-translated his English as if it were Russian. The result looks like this:

    I’m reading Wanderer [The Wanderer], by Alexander Veltman (See this Post LH ), and I’ll have a Good Deal to Say About IT (ITS and undeserved Obscurity) When I’ve finished IT, but for the moment I want to highlight this typically out-of-nowhere passage from section SKHHІІІ (the narrator has just announced that he’s going to change the dedication of the book to a simple to you [‘to you’] and Compares IT to the Ishvara Shiva’s laconic “Humm ! – Om! “to his wife):

    The three Іs after “SKHH” are actually three instances of Roman numeral I rather than a Roman numeral III or three Latin capital Is.

  4. From the context it’s clear that “восставая на” should be translated literally “rebelling against [authority of]”
    Pater Paolino and Langles say that “Om” and “Hum” are just approval interjections and disagree with (rebel against) Jones and Wilkins’ opinion that “Om!” is a representation of divinity
    Of course you’re right; I knew the obvious translation was “rebelling against,” but I somehow thought that didn’t make sense in context, so I checked Dahl and he says “возстать: see встать,” and встать can mean ‘stand’ as in встать на свои ноги ‘to stand on one’s own feet,’ so… The lesson is that I should trust my own linguistic instincts and read the passage more carefully to see how I have misinterpreted it. Thanks, and I’ll change the translation in the post accordingly.

  5. is it clear if Vam is plural or sungular?

  6. Vam is plural or singular?
    Not from the linked page for sure, because the word Вам begins a sentence and therefore one can’t tell from its capitalization if it ought to be singular (anywhere else in a sentence, capitalized would have to be singular)

  7. Trond Engen says

    I’ll vote for translating Om as Hey! and Hum as Wow!, then. Hey, Jewel-lotus! Wow!
    They should also translate Amen as Yeah!, of course.

  8. anywhere else in a sentence, capitalized would have to be singular
    I was actually scribbling a blog about this. Russians are mostly hesitant about capitalising You/Вы singular, I think. It’s a very fine point but I think you should only capitalise You/Vous singular in very formal writing. Think of the addressee as an institution, vous collective, then it should be capitalised. If it’s a simple polite way of addressing a person who you are not ready to tutoyer, it’s better not to capitalise.

  9. The last part (Sanskrit as a sea which produces rivers, i.e. other languages) is interesting: I am certain that this is an Indian image, where Sanskrit was compared to an ocean and Prakrits to rivers flowing outwards.
    I might be able to locate the original quotation, if anyone here is interested.

  10. Sure, I’d be interested.

  11. Hat (And whoever else might be interested): I have found two similar-looking quotations which I suspect I blended in my mind in some fashion.
    The first, from the (8th century AD) poet Vakpati, treats Prakrit as the source of all languages, including Sanskrit, and compares Prakrit to the sea:
    “All languages enter this (Prakrit) and all their languages take their start from this: the waters enter nowhere but into the sea, and start from nowhere else than from the sea”.
    The second, from the grammarian Hemacandra (11th-12th century AD), claims that
    “Sanskrit is the base; what originates in it or comes from it is base-derived”.
    The translations are by Hartmut Scharfe, in Chapter 15 (Grammars of the Middle Indo-Aryan dialects) of his survey, “Grammatical literature”, on the topic of writings from South Asia on grammar (mostly Sanskrit). He gives the Sanskrit originals, which I won’t try to type here as I cannot reproduce the diacritics.
    It is of course possible that I remember some other grammarian who compared Sanskrit to the sea from whence other languages come forth, but if so I’m afraid it will take a hatter better versed in Sanskrit grammatical literature than I to locate it.

  12. Thanks!

  13. “Гумм” – how wonderful. Now it’s, of course, represented in Russian as “хум”, and it’s amusing to see the old “г-” variant.
    Some time ago I had a discussion whether Tibetan “yi dam” (meditation/tutelary deity) should be transcribed in Russian as “идам” or “йидам”. At some point archaicized “гидам” was proposed half-seriously.

  14. David Marjanović says


    *lightbulb moment* My dad has a book on the First Serbian Uprising at home. The title, simple enough, is Први српски устанак.

  15. Have I already recommended Louis Jay Herman’s Dictionary of Slavic Word Families? He has, under the STA/СТА root (which has 16½ pages of tables of derivatives, probably the most in the book) on p. 487 (I replace his underscores with itals):

    восстание – ustanak: Compare Ger. Aufstand “uprising, rebellion” (< auf “up” + stehen “to stand”)

    I often find it useful to look up forms in Herman and find cognates in other Slavic languages as well as that kind of semantic comparison.

  16. David Marjanović says

    I need another parallel life. Or three.

  17. And you’re probably solus, unlike me who has many other John Cowans to help take up the load.

  18. I have a minor-league pitcher (who made it to the Pacific Coast League last year—congrats, tocayo!), a Bay Area investment manager, and a Civil War general (who actually has a different last name, but he still beats me out on Google if you search for “Stephen Dodson”).

  19. David Marjanović says

    And you’re probably solus

    Not at all. To my surprise, I’m number 56 on Farcebork. At least one of my namesakes is even a biologist – but a molecular biologist who works on mice.

  20. marie-lucie says

    David, I tried to look you up on facebook once, but there were too many of you!

  21. David Marjanović says

    I hardly do anything public there than repost jokes.
    Once I was encouraged to join by “there are seven of you there already!”

  22. SFReader says

    —восстание – ustanak: Compare Ger. Aufstand “uprising, rebellion” (

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