One of the things I love about New York is the variety of languages you are exposed to in the course of your civic existence. I eavesdrop shamelessly on the conversations of my fellow straphangers, and sometimes when I’m stumped I break the rules of non-interaction and ask the person next to me what language they are speaking (most recent answers: Albanian and Armenian). Today on the N train to Times Square the woman across from me was reading a Korean book, and the woman next to me was reading a Hungarian magazine. On the 2 train from Times Square to Houston St. (I was off to see another Kurosawa movie, this time High and Low, not well known but the equal of the famous samurai movies if you ask me) I heard Spanish and Hebrew in my vicinity. In between, alas, I was the victim of one of the MTA’s impromptu stoppages—”Last stop on this train… there is a train experiencing mechanical difficulties at Chambers St. and there is no downtown service at this time…”—but I was able to give directions to Ground Zero to a family of clueless Midwestern tourists, who will now be able to report to their fellow Midwesterners that New Yorkers, contrary to rumor, are helpful and polite. And the train eventually did come and get me to Film Forum in time. So the universe showed its beneficent side despite initial appearances.

Addendum. See here for explanation of post title.


  1. As in Stray Dog, it took me some time to be sure that that was Mifune, with his modern haircut.

  2. Just visited New York this weekend, and it is still like this. Just walking around the Upper West Side I heard Mandarin, Spanish, Russian, French and Japanese in the space of 15 minutes. That may not seem impressive in Vienna, but after a weeks in monolingual New Hampshire it was a nice change of pace.

    I also managed to catch a classic film on my trip – Marketa Lazarova at the Metrograph. I found it a little heavy handed in its symbolism, and what apparently looked like avant-garde editing and narrative decisions to critics in 1968 look to me a lot like lack of budget. But still a very good film. And the Germans speak German (although stagey Hochdeutsch not authentic 13th century Saxon dialect). It is interesting in the credits that the German characters are listed in Fraktur, while the Czechs are in Antiqua.

  3. Wonderful, thanks for the report!

  4. When I google LYTDYBR, the early returns are for pages in Cyrillic that use a form of the word дневни́к, and at least on the page I checked, LYTDYBR didn’t show up.

    Is LYT… an acronym, or what does it mean? And does anyone understand why it googles as дневни́к?

    > Showing results for дневник english
    >Search instead for lytdybr english

    Okay so does lytdybr mean дневник=diary or maybe daily (paper) in some Slavic language? Even if so it seems strange for google to completely replace it this way.


    I had used it in the title of one of the earliest LH posts without bothering to explain it, which was quite cheeky of me. But in my defense, I’d been immersing myself in Russian blogs and didn’t really think of it as being completely obscure to whoever might be reading (not that there were more than three people reading at that point). So here, belatedly, is the explanation, in Barbara’s words: “it’s how the Russian word дневник, dnevnik ‘diary’, comes out if you’re typing on a QWERTY keyboard with the keystrokes you would use on a Cyrillic keyboard.” And as one of her students says, “It is often … used to tag posts in blogs that are nothing more than boring retelling of author’s life.” (I’m amazed to see that my original post is the #3 hit for it on Google! My apologies to anyone who may have clicked on it over the years hoping for clarification.)

  6. That’s pretty hilarious.

  7. Lars Mathiesen (he/him/his) says

    It works the other way too, which is very convenient when I’m chatting (in English) with a Russian person and they accidentally set their keyboard to Cyrillic. Paste into the search bar and Google will tell you that it’s looking for whatever the Russian person was trying to type in English.

  8. David Marjanović says

    Google has been approaching omniscience for a while…

    a Cyrillic keyboard

    …a specifically Russian one. The Serbian Cyrillic one is the usual 1 : 1 transcription of the Serbian Latin one.

    …with the necessary exceptions. This site, which once jokingly told you to “Serbianize your desktop!” (English in the original) and now collects alphabet fiascos on teh intarwebz, advertizes itself as “њњњ.србованје.цом”.

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