Lenin’s Rathmines Accent.

An odd bit of historico-biographico-linguistic trivia, reported by Sam at Come here to me! (Dublin life & culture):

Vladimir Lenin, the Russian revolutionary, spoke with a Dublin accent. Well, according to Roddy Connolly, son of James, who said in a 1976 Irish Times feature that Lenin, more specifically, had a “Rathmines accent”. This was due to the fact apparently that Leinin was taught English in London (c. 1902) by an “Irish tutor, who had lived in Leinster Road”.

There’s more detail on the history and the accent at that link and at the Dublin Review of Books.


  1. “Leinin”?!

  2. I guess he got contaminated by Leinster Road.

  3. Rathmines was over 40% Protestant in 1911, and apart from Trinity College was the only place outside what became Northern Ireland which returned a Unionist MP in the fateful 1918 general election. It resisted absorption into Dublin City until 1930. From the 60s north Rathmines was full of bedsits where most culchies spent their first months or years in the Big City. The more genteel classes moved to still-leafy suburbs further south.

  4. “From the 60s north Rathmines was full of bedsits where most culchies spent their first months or years in the Big City.”

    I just learned two new words (bedsit and culchie). Thanks.

  5. ““Leinin”?!”

    It’s the Irish spelling, Y. The rule is “Broad with broad and slender with slender”. The extra “i” is standard now in that position to maintain the palatal quality of the “n”, conditioned by the following “i”.

    Just kidding.

  6. Well, léine is ‘shirt,’ so Léinín would be ‘little shirt,’ perhaps a localized form he used to fit in better.

    Also just kidding.

  7. In early 1900s, revolutionary Vladimir Ulianov used passport of certain deceased person, Nikolay Lenin. And kept using this pseudonim for the rest of his life.

    Noble family of Nikolai Lenin was descended from 17th century Cossack conquistador Posnik Ivanov, who was awarded by Tsar Mikhail Fedorovich the noble surname Lenin for his role in conquest of Yakutia and founding of several Russian towns on Lena river (from Tungus “Elu Ene” – Big river)

  8. David Marjanović says

    Léinín would be ‘little shirt,’

    Ленинь 😉

  9. Actually, Irish in Cyrillic is very sensible.

    —Ё́г̇ан мак Ё́г̇ань.

  10. Well, léine is ‘shirt,’ so Léinín would be ‘little shirt,’ perhaps a localized form he used to fit in better.

    Or “cutty sark”, in Scots. Which is an interesting Tam o’ Shanter crossover.

  11. “cutty(-ie) sark, a short chemise or undergarment” – Dictionary of the Scots Language.

    Cutty or cuttie (the diminutive form of cuttit, from Early Middle English cutte, kutte, cute “ugly”[2]) is “short” or “stumpy”.

    Sark or serk (from Old English serc; Old Norse serk) is a “shift”, “chemise”, or “shirt”.[3]

    The earliest recorded literary usage of the term cutty sark (as opposed to older usage of the two separate words) is by Dougal Graham in c. 1779 (the year of his death): “A cutty sark of guide harn sheet, My mitter he pe spin, mattam.”

    In Burns’ 1791 poem Tam o’ Shanter, the drunken Tam, riding home on his horse, happens upon a witches’ ceilidh. Among the dancing figures is a particularly beautiful young witch named Nannie (Scots pet-form of Anna), “ae winsome wench and wawlie” (line 164). She is wearing a harn (linen) sark (nightshirt) which fitted her as a child (a “lassie”) but is now rather too short for her:

    Her cutty sark, o’ Paisley harn,
    That while a lassie she had worn,
    In longitude tho’ sorely scanty,
    It was her best, and she was vauntie.
    Ah! little kend thy reverend grannie
    That sark she coft for her wee Nannie
    Wi’ twa pund Scots (’twas a’ her riches)
    Wad ever graced a dance of witches! (lines 171ff)
    lassie, “girl”, vauntie, “joyous, boasting”; kend, “knew”; coft, “bought”; twa, “two”.
    Tam is so enthralled by the erotic spectacle that he cannot contain himself and yells out “Weel done, Cutty-sark!” (line 189). The witches are now alerted to his presence and pursue him. Tam heads for the River Doon, because, according to folklore, witches cannot cross running water. He makes it across the bridge to safety, but not before Nannie, the “Cutty-sark”, has torn the tail from his horse. The poem ends, ironically, with a mock warning to all men of the devilish consequences of thinking about scantily-clad females.

    The popularity of this poem was such that the phrase Well done, Cutty-sark! entered the English language via Scots as an exclamation similar to “Bravo!”[citation needed] Literary allusions to the original Cutty-sark abound. In Ulysses, James Joyce writes: “Laughing witches in red cutty sarks ride through the air on broom sticks”

    The clipper Cutty Sark was built in 1869. It seems a risqué name for the time.

  12. Léinín “little shirt” might be dried on a delightful little branch, “Craoibhín Aoibhinn”, first President of Ireland. Near by a little stallion “Stailín” frightens the mistle thrushes “Tráscaí”.

  13. MM,

    Love it, including Craven Evan!

  14. Trond Engen says

    My 15 year old son thinks of Lenin, Stalin and Trotski as dwarves in the Hobbit.

  15. Stefan Holm says

    Hey, Trond: why do you write Trotski? It’s Trotskij in Bokmål, Nynorsk and Swedish, Trotsky in English, Trotzki in German and of course Тротский in Russian. Is your son studying French where it is Trotski? 🙂

  16. Trond Engen says

    It just looks more Dwarfish that way.

  17. Trond Engen says

    Well, not Dwarfish. Lower case d dwarfish.

  18. It’s a little-known fact that Marx and Engels are characters in the Old Prussian Enchiridion:

    79:19 ans rânkans, twais swints Engels baûsei sen mâim
    111:19 Swints Marx en Dessîmton ast popeisauns

  19. Looks like Jean des Esseintes is a saint too, if not pope. A remarkable document!

  20. It’s “dwarvish” with a v.

  21. What kind of fish is a dwarfish?

  22. It’s closely related to the oafish, the offish, and the selfish.

  23. On investigation, Lenin’s speech defect (mentioned in the article) was not a matter of pronouncing the English /r/ as [w], but of pronouncing the Russian /r/, normally [r], as [ʀ].

  24. REally? Wasn’t the [ʀ] a stereotypically Jewish pronunciation?

  25. Yes, indeed, because of first-language interference from Yiddish or people who picked up their accents from those who had such interference. But it’s not so uncommon for individuals who cannot articulate the standard rhotic sound of a language, whatever it is, to use another: they are all acoustically similar.

  26. Trond Engen says

    I think Piotr once told (here or elsewhere?) that he has an idiosyncralectical uvular r in his Polish.

  27. Yes, a uvular trill, with no audible friction, which makes it a relatively inconspicuous substitute for the mainstream Polish realisation (an apical trill or tap). I have learnt to pronounce all other kinds of rhotics as well, but I use them only when speaking foreign languages.

  28. David Marjanović says

    Wikipedia (including the talk pages) says [ʀ] or some kind of uvular approximant is actually mainstream somewhere in Poland. I have no idea, though, if the one Pole I’ve ever heard using [ʀ] was from there or was anatomically unable to pronounce [r] (as some people are).

  29. Our ex-Prime Minister Donald Tusk has [ʀ] (frictionless trill, very similar to mine or to this). Dorsal and coronal approximants/fricatives can be heard occasionally as idiolectal substitutes, the former sometimes (but by no means always) resulting from adstrate German influence.

    But there are no trills like Czech trills.

  30. David Marjanović says

    I’m impressed!

    Tusk’s [ʀ] should become a textbook example. 🙂

    An approximant that sounds very similar at first can be heard in the video presented here; it’s transcribed “ɣ” in the post.

  31. Piotr: I just realized there’s no link for “this” in “very similar to mine or to this”; if you’ll give me the URL, I’ll add it.

  32. Is there a common way of representing [ʀ] in Russian, in stereotypical Jewish speech? Someone told me that was a distinguishing feature of the accent of the old man with the unusual name in Ivan Chonkin, and maybe I can dig it out online, but it might be simpler to just ask here…

  33. LH: “This” = http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3Kvu6Kgp88 (Edith Piaf, Non, je ne RegRete Rien).

  34. Added, thanks.

  35. George Gibbard says

    The [ʀ] sound of Russians who картавят is often written г’.

  36. George Gibbard says

    I don’t know how to type an apostrophe in Russian, and I don’t know when Russian uses an apostrophe other than this convention.

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