Red Star Tales.

Erik at XIX век writes:

If you like or are curious about Russian science fiction, you might be interested in supporting this translation project. It’s a collection of stories from the 1890s to the 1980s or 1990s, edited by Yvonne Howell and translated by Howell, Anindita Banerjee, Sibelan Forrester, Muireann Maguire, Kevin Reese, and Liv Bliss.

As a longtime fan of both sf and Russian literature, I hope this project succeeds!

A couple of totally unrelated questions for the Russian-speakers in my audience:

1) In reading Samuil Lurie’s Изломанный аршин, I came across this passage:

Худшее, что можно сказать про любого нежелательного: хочет быть (или: думает, что он) умнее всех. Это — волчий билет. (А комсомольский — на стол! И совету отряда поставить на вид: просмотрели, упустили товарища.)

I knew a волчий билет (literally ‘wolf’s ticket/card’) was (in tsarist times) a passport with a note of the holder’s political unreliability, and metaphorically means someone has a black mark against him or is blacklisted, but I had no idea what “комсомольский — на стол!” meant. Was there some ritual in which a Komsomol member had to stand on a table to be yelled at? Sashura explained to me that when you were expelled from the Komsomol you had to hand in your membership card (комсомольский билет) — ‘put it on the table’ — at a Komsomol group or party meeting, or at a bureau session/meeting, and sent me this clip from the musical Стиляги in which a member does just that. But what I want to know is, is на стол one of those prepositional phrases in which the stress is attracted by the preposition (NA stol)? And is there anywhere a full list of such combinations (which I love, as I love all irregularities and unpredictable phenomena)? Terence Wade’s A Comprehensive Russian Grammar has a partial list on pp. 419ff. which I will pass on here as an aid to others who might want it (the ones in brackets I have added from other sources, and Wade explains that “alternative stress is possible in many literal contexts, while idioms retain prepositional stress”):

до дому, до ночи, до смерти, за борт, за волосы, за год, за голову, за город, за гору, за два/две (три, пять, шесть, семь, восемь, девять, десять, сто), за день, за зиму, за косу, за зиму, за лето, за море, за ногу/ноги, за нос, за ночь, за плечи, за полночь, за реку, за руку/руки, за спину, за стену, за угол, за ухо/уши, за щеку, за городом, за морем, за ухом, из виду, из дому, из лесу, из носу, на берег, на бок, на борт, на воду, на год, на голову, на гору, на два (три, пять, шесть, семь, восемь, девять, десять, сто), на день, на дом, на зиму, на лето, на море, на ногу/ноги, на нос, на ночь, на пол, на реку, на руку/руки, на спину, на стену, на ухо, [на землю, на поле], на море, (бок) о бок, об пол, (рука) об руку, [о землю, о стол], по два/две, по двое, по три, по трое, по сто, по лесу, по морю, по полю, [по льду, по берегу, по лугу, по носу], под воду, под гору, под ноги, под руку/руки, под боком, при смерти, [у моря]

But I wish I had a full list to check, so I’d know whether to say NA stol or na STOL. [Update: Sashura says it’s na STOL, with stress on the noun, but I still want to know if there’s a general resource.] [Further update: I just discovered the cavalry command “Mount!” is “На конь!” [NA kon’], with recessed stress.]

[Further update: More forms here, e.g. показываться нá люди; биться, встать, стоять нá смерть; сразить, убить, поразить, ранить нá зло; идти, подниматься нáверх, and here, e.g. пóд полом, нá сердце. I still wish I could find a full list.]

2) I recently learned the word пай ‘good’ (from Finnish and Estonian pai), used for children, as in пай-мальчик ‘good boy.’ What I want to know is whether it is also used for pets; can I call Lyuba “пай-кошка”?


  1. Dmitry Prokofyev says

    “Пай-кошка” doesn’t seem to sound quite right: the word пай has apparently stuck in just two stable combinations, пай-мальчик and пай-девочка. Vertinsky has used an inversed arrangement, мальчик пай, but I don’t believe it’s to be found elsewhere.

    Strangely enough, the diminutive form, паинька, survived as a separate word and can freely be applied to anybody or -thing, cats included.

  2. add to this Pushkin’s
    со сна садится в ванну СО льдом

  3. Chukovsky has
    только Заинька был паинька
    не мяукал и не хрюкал

  4. Thanks, I will call the cats паинька from now on!

  5. Anyone would understand what you’re saying (a good kitty), but will think of пай-кошка as of a kind of word play.

  6. «Перенос ударения на предлог, по нормам орфоэпии, возможен тогда, когда сочетание существительного с предлогом входит в состав устойчивого оборота или когда оно выступает в обстоятельственном значении и имеет наречный характер. В том же случае, когда важно выделить существительное как объект, на который направлено действие, и когда это существительное выступает в роли дополнения, удар. на предлог не переходит» [].
    И там дальше ещё есть рассуждения — с примерами (хотя список не исчерпывающий).
    Более формально это всё сформулировано, например, здесь: — в § 241.

  7. Большое спасибо!

  8. There exists a somewhat similar expression “деньги на бочку” (with stress on “на” although I am not quite sure ) that sounds like “I want to see the color of money “. One can also say “карты на стОл” both in the context of playing cards and general negotiations

  9. I would like to add that “pai-” has acquired a derogatory sense. Saying about a child that he is a пай-мальчик is not a complement, meaning someone overly obedient and subservient to adults. I don’t think cats have ever been accused of that!

  10. (to Alexander) the point is that it’s a variable stress, you can shift it on the preposition, which stresses the adverbial nature of the phrase, or you can leave it on the noun, which shows that it is an object. Either is ‘correct’ and a speaker makes their choice of stress naturally, depending on the context.
    The passage Kabir quotes above describes it perfectly, I think.

    What languagehat noticed (chapeau bas!) and what I’ve never thought about is that it is not a universal pattern. Some preposition-noun combinations resist the shift, eg на стол, на столе, and it’s hard to see why.

  11. more for you collection: пО фигу, with a noun derivative пофигИзм (don’t care, dontcarism) and *obscene пО хую.

  12. I would like to add that “pai-” has acquired a derogatory sense. Saying about a child that he is a пай-мальчик is not a complement, meaning someone overly obedient and subservient to adults.

    Thanks, I’ve added a note to my dictionary. But does it apply to паинька as well?

    I don’t think cats have ever been accused of that!

    No indeed!

  13. Late to the discussion, but if you still need more confirms, then it’s indeed “na STOL” and totally transparent to or generation; “paj / pain’ka” has a tongue-in-cheek negative connotation indeed.

    “PO figu / kheru / etc.” ought to be related to (and may or may not be rooted in) the proverb “Что в лоб, что по лбу” which is already attested in Dahl

  14. For those playing along at home, “Что в лоб, что по лбу” is equivalent to “(it’s) six of one and half a dozen of the other.”

  15. Yes, the same applies to “pain’ka”, so it is not completely equivalent to “good boy/girl”.

  16. Успенский in his “История русского литературного языка (XI-XVII вв)” associates this with “southern-slavic influence” (p. 439, PDF is googlable).

    Новое церковнославянское произношение обусловило в даль­нейшем произношение высокого стиля, повлиявшее и на современ­ное литературное произношение[uwe: stress on the noun], тогда как старая акцентуационная модель (которая была свойственна как старому церковному произ­ношению, так и произношению разговорному)[uwe: stress on the preposition] стала восприниматься как просторечная.

  17. Sigh. Why are they so terrified of talking like the common people? Thanks for the quote!

  18. Yes, the same applies to “pain’ka”, so it is not completely equivalent to “good boy/girl”.

    So how would you say “Good kitty!” as you’re giving the cat a skritch?

  19. It depends on how postmodern your cat might be.

  20. Maybe this:
    Ой, ты, котенька-коток,
    Котя, серенький лобок.
    Приди, котик, ночевать,
    Стива в люлечке качать.
    Уж как я тебе, коту,
    За работу заплачу:
    Дам кусок пирога
    И кувшин молока,
    Еще кашки горшок.
    Еще пряников мешок

  21. Took me a moment to think about this one. I have never had a cat growing up in Russia, so I tend to speak English to cats (and Russian to dogs). A closer equivalents to good boy/girl that are widely used with children and can be used with cats are молодец, умница, умничка. I can totally see myself telling a cat ‘Умничка-киса!”, but more likely if the cat had, say, caught a mouse or accomplishes something else of notice.

    But while giving a cat a skritch (what a great word!) I am more likely to just repeat various diminutive versions of the word cat (any diminutive-sounding word beginning with кис- or кот- is a fair game.)

  22. I agree with Tatiana, there are endless diminutives. I think, though, a Russian is more likely to use the cat’s name with a diminutive suffix rather than the word cat.

    My grandma used to sing that lullaby and I did too. If you want to listen to the tune, look at this clip from the 60s comedy “Операция Ы и другие приключения Шурика” (Operation Y and other adventures of Shurik). Shurik and grandma are rapping to the tune of the lullaby.

  23. a Russian is more likely to use the cat’s name with a diminutive suffix

    Good, that’s what I do a lot of the time. But I’ll add Умничка-киса to my repertoire, thanks for that!

  24. An interesting article about the history of the prepositional stress:
    Zaliznyak’s lecture on Russian stress:

  25. Wow, that Ilya Itkin article is indeed extraordinarily interesting — many thanks! Here’s a particularly intriguing bit:

    И по-древнерусски, когда нужно было сказать, например, «земля», то так и говорили: «земля». Когда нужно было сказать «землю», говорили: «землю». Но если нужно было сказать «воду и землю», то ударение со слова «землю» сдвигалось на предыдущее слово: «воду ѝ землю», как ни невероятно это сейчас прозвучит. Если нужно было сказать «на воду и на землю», то говорили «на̀ воду ѝ на землю».

    (In Old Russian, the stress on certain nouns was regularly retracted not only to prepositions but to conjunctions: «на воду и на землю» was pronounced «на̀ воду ѝ на землю» with stress on na and i.)

    I’ll watch Zaliznyak’s lecture when I have more time.

  26. Incidentally, having looked at your Onion Sea site, I think you might enjoy these LH posts if you haven’t seen them: Khatul Madan, Pushkin and Nabokov.

  27. Thanks Julia, that’s a very interesting article! Do you know why Itkin is at Oriental studies and not, say Institute of Russian Language?

  28. Thank you so much for your suggestions! As for Itkin, most of his earlier works deal with the Tocharian languages, while later works are about the morphology of Russian. He is an interesting guy who organized his own team for What? Where? When? games.

  29. I don’t know Russian, so I wondered if Dmitry Pruss’ poem was Pangur Ban in Russian. Google Translate says not, but I then noticed that there is in fact a Russian wikipedia page, with translation, for the poem: Пангур Бан.

    There’s also a Ukranian page, I see.

  30. I love “Pangur Ban” (probably needless to say); I wrote about it here.

  31. Haven’t seen Pangur Ban in Russian before, cool, thanks. I don’t think the old poem has a proper rhythmic quality for rubbing a cat to it, though 🙂 The little skritch-poem I posted is a folk lullaby of a thousand versions, and I don’t think it has an author on record. There also many more lullabies sang to the same beat, but again I don’t know if it ever had an author on record … I doubt it.

    Many more Russian lullabies about cats and kittens here

  32. I found a discussion of accented prepositions by Tatyana Gartman.

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