For someone who doesn’t dance, I seem fated to spend a surprising amount of time investigating the names of (usually long-forgotten) dances. Back in 2011 it was the lipsi; last year it was the money musk, in its guise as monimaska (манимаска); now, in reading Sollogub‘s best-known (if not best) work, Тарантас (“The tarantass“), I encounter the following sentence in the chapter devoted to describing the haphazard upbringing of the older of the two travelers, Vasily Ivanovich, born in the 1780s in an estate near Kazan: “Никто ловче его не прохаживался в матрадуре, монимаске, куранте или Даниле Купере” [No one was more adroit than he at dancing the matradur(a), the monimaska, the courante, or the Daniel Cooper]. The monimaska is our old friend the money musk, the Daniel Cooper famously occurs in War and Peace (you can see and hear a lively rendition here), but what’s a matradur(a) (you can’t tell from the Russian declined form whether it’s masculine or feminine)?

I did a ridiculous amount of googling before discovering that it has an entry in Vasmer, which explains that матрадур, or матрадура, is a loan from Polish matradur, itself borrowed from Italian matratura ‘castanet’ (apparently archaic). Dances certainly get around! An amusing side note about this particular dance is that Gogol used it for one of his jokes in Dead Souls: the landowner whom Nabokov called “the braggard and bully Nozdryov” describes a champagne he drank once as “не клико, а какое-то клико-матрадура, это значит двойное клико” [not a Clicquot but a matradura-Clicquot — that means a double Clicquot]. This has confused readers for generations, ever since the dance whose name he’s using fell into oblivion.


  1. Ain’t ever too late, Language 🙂 As to Nozdryov, isn’t the whole idea his use of word he has no clue about? Probably purposefully enhanced by the similarity, to a Russian ear, with “Cliquot, Mother Stupid!” ?

  2. But why matradura-Clicquot means a double Clicquot? Double Clicquot is supposed to mean high quality, but what matradura, dance or not, has with high quality? Maybe Nozdrev misinterprets some French word written on the bottle and which barkeeper Ponomarev convinced him to mean high quality. Maybe mature or something like that.

  3. I believe that’s the point. Nozdrev is presumably thinking of Madeira, but doesn’t really know much about either exotic wines or forgotten dances and gets confused.

  4. As to Nozdryov, isn’t the whole idea his use of word he has no clue about?

    Yes, of course, but the joke falls flat when the reader has no clue either. Also, what MMcM said.

  5. MMcM’s suggestion is very good, but it would be more fun if the original expression contained deux for double. Something like mettre deux (whatever that might mean), but my French is nearly non-existent as well as knowledge of wines. That would make me a Nozdrev, but I am not a bully or braggard.

  6. Clicquot

    The name of the well-known Champagne brand is not just Clicquot but Veuve Clicquot ‘the widow Clicquot’ (who officially took over the business of her late husband). I would guess that among people who did not know French the meaning of veuve was not generally known but there was some understanding that it referred to a (perhaps older) woman, hence the confusiion with the apparently female meaning of “matradura” because of the similarity, to a Russian ear, with “Cliquot, Mother Stupid!” as Dmitry mentioned above. Those who had no idea at all of the meaning of the mysterious word could well interpret it as indicating superior, or “double” quality.

  7. As Maire-Lucie says. And especially so, because Clicquot is known in Russian as Вдова Клико – vdova-veuve Clicquot.

  8. I have another idea. At least current labels on Veuve Cliquot sometimes have also her maiden name Ponsardin. I have no idea why the difference or whether it stretches back to the first half of the 19th century, but suppose it does. Nozdrev looked at somewhat unfamiliar bottle and mixed up Ponsardin with some dance. Maybe Passepied or something like that. Then he forgot the name, forgot the dance, but remembered that it was some kind of dance.

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