Here’s a where-have-you-been-all-my-life site, Don Livingston’s Russian Word of the Day (“musings on Russian vocabulary”). It hasn’t been updated for a couple of months, but there’s plenty of backlog to catch up with; the latest post, Вымя, gives a good idea of his style:

Every once in a while you just want to know an obscure word in a foreign language just to show off to your friends, so today’s word is вымя, which means udder. It is one of only ten nouns in modern Russian that end in -мя but are neuter. It declines like this:[…]

The udder is the part of the a cow (or goat or sheep) that houses the mammary glands and teats with which they feed their young:
— Сколько сосков на вымени у коровы?
— Четыре.
“How many teats are on a cow’s udder?”

Позови ветеринара. У козы заразилось вымя.
Call the vet. The goat’s udder is infected.

Вымя имеет хорошие вкусовые качества, хотя и не обладает высокой пищевой ценностью. (adapted from this source)
The udder has good flavor qualities, although it doesn’t have high nutritive value.

Есть ли вымя у быков? (source)
Do bulls have an udder?

Via Russian Dinosaur.


  1. D. Sky Onosson says

    At first, I read this sequence as some kind of joke!
    ” — Сколько сосков на вымени у коровы?
    — Четыре.
    “How many teats are on a cow’s udder?”
    Позови ветеринара. У козы заразилось вымя.
    Call the vet. The goat’s udder is infected. ”

  2. Ten words… Let’s see (in plural, because it’s cooler this way):
    бремена (burdens),
    времена (times)
    вымена (udders),
    знамена (flags/banners),
    имена (names),
    пламена (flames),
    племена (tribes),
    семена (seeds),
    стремена (stirrups),
    темена (foreheads – or maybe “tops of [their] heads” – I have never been sure what exactly this word means).
    I am imagining a Russian schoolteacher asking kids to write an essay using all 10 words, in various cases and numbers…

  3. вымена (udders)
    wiktionary lists this plural form as “hypothetical”; generally Russian вымя behaves as uncountable in most contexts. Say at butcher’s you’d ask for кило вымени (also кило мяса, кило требухи), as opposed for countable kidneys or soup bones: кило почек / кило костей.
    In the Soviet times, it was a scientific fact the the cows had a lot of udder but hardly any tongues (arguably the least and the most desirable beef cuts of those days).

  4. PS: per Vasmer вымя may be cognate with udder, through у́дить “зреть, набухать”. Naturally, one has to ask if there is a connection to уд, the more famous form of swelling meat

  5. Does anyone know anywhere (online) I can find the etymologies of those 10 words? They look “old” to me, as in ancient.

  6. @claudius: The English Wiktionary entry for бремя gives this etymology:
    > The so-called н-declension of this and nine other similar neuter nouns stems from the fact that the word-final was the nasal vowel Ѧ, ѧ (little yus) in Old Church Slavonic, resulting in the -ен- before all the case endings in the modern language.

  7. That ending is cognate with Latin -men, isn’t it?

  8. “У козы заразилось вымя” sounds very unusual.
    I would rather say “У козы воспалилось вымя”.

  9. They look “old” to me, as in ancient.
    Yes indeed; it’s a very old formation. I’ll link the entries in Vasmer:

  10. I also happened to check Russian Dinosaur last night and also followed the link to RWOTD. I got nine out of the ten words, but got stuck on стремя. It says something about my mentality, but the entry on сгущёнка made me giggle.

  11. — Он каждый год покупает новую машину. Какой он эгоист!
    “He buys a new car every year. What an egotist!”
    Is that right? I don’t know very much Russian, but in Norwegian egoistisk would be better translated as selfish.
    I love his examples, is he a vet or something?

  12. @ Wimbrel: Readers’ comments on RWOTD are probably on hold too, so what the heck, I’ll comment here. Russian fascination with сгущёнка is relatively recent, and its pedigree is thoroughly American (owing to the US Lend-Lease assistance during WWII).

    70 years on, most Russians would be offended if told that Uruguayans or Argentines consider dulche de leche to be their invention. Like what, they claim that they invented this utterly traditional Russian foodstuff 🙂 ? (Similarly, I once read in an MA state promotional booklet that their great state gave the humankind the gifts of blueberry and cranberry, hitherto unknown!)

  13. Yes, I highly recommend reading the first paragraph even if you don’t know Russian.

  14. I live in Massachusetts, and I know that it’s one of the major cranberry-growing areas. I read something in the newspaper last year about how there has been a big effort lately to create more worldwide demand for this product. I believe that when introducing it in new place the marketing people give considerable attention to finding a good name in the local language. The other thing that sticks in my mind is that in Germany some people drink horribly sour pure cranberry juice for their health.

  15. @ John Cowan re: Vaccinium spp. it may be true that Massachusets pioneered farming of cranberries and blueberries, but the wild berries of the sister species were an article of commerce in Russia for a very long time. It was greatly helped by the durability of cranberries. Mors (cranberry punch) is one of the most traditional drinks, with recipees for mass production dating to XVI c. (It was at first intended to imitate a Roman / Bysantine grape-based drink).
    One of Vasmer’s hypotheses for “klukva”, the Russian word for cranberry derives it from crane-bird too. Vasmer doesn’t mention it but it must be a reference to the characteristic beak-like shape of its flowers.
    “Sous l’ombre d’un klukva majetueux” is a classic Russian meme about stupid foreigners who opine about Russia not knowing a thing about cranberries. So that’s what comes to an average Russian mind as a reaction to Massachusetts claims 🙂 (But I understand that the Britts didn’t have any public forests, and for centuries, the commoners’ entry into British woodlands would have been severely punished. So perhaps the WASP transplants really did have to learn about cranberries and blueberries from scratch when they got to America!)

  16. Mockba:
    It’s true that members of the genus Vaccinium, which includes both blueberries and cranberries, are found worldwide, mostly in the temperate Northern Hemisphere. However, the commercial blueberry is Vaccinium corymbosum and closely related species, and the commercial cranberry is Vaccinium macrocarpon — and these are indeed natives of the U.S. Northeast and Canada. It’s quite plausible that they were first exported from Massachusetts.

  17. Mockba:
    Despite its seemingly transparent etymology, cranberry is not the native name of Vaccinium oxycoccos in Britain, where it was historically known as the fenberry or marsh-{whortle,hurtle,huckle}-berry. Rather, American settlers from the Dutch- or Low-German-speaking lands applied their native name for oxycoccos to the American V. macrocarpon, after which the name was anglicized and borrowed it into American English. When the plant was introduced into Britain from America in the 17th century, its name came with it, and eventually displaced the native names of oxycoccos as well.
    As for the various blueberry species (traditional section Cyanococcus within Vaccinium), they are truly North American.

  18. Mockba:
    Despite its seemingly transparent etymology, cranberry is not the native name of Vaccinium oxycoccos in Britain, where it was historically known as the fenberry or marsh-{whortle,hurtle,huckle}-berry. Rather, American settlers from the Dutch- or Low-German-speaking lands applied their native name for oxycoccos to the American V. macrocarpon, after which the name was anglicized and borrowed it into American English. When the plant was introduced into Britain from America in the 17th century, its name came with it, and eventually displaced the native names of oxycoccos as well.
    As for the various blueberry species (traditional section Cyanococcus within Vaccinium), they are truly North American.

  19. черника Vaccinium myrtillus is common to both continents, and thought to be equivalent to American blueberries by Russian recipe books (although they are botanically distinct, belonging to a continuum of numerous similarly-tasting Vaccinium species of huckleberries, whortleberries, bilberries, and grouseberries). In Russia, there is also another similarly-tasting closely related species, голубика Vaccínium uliginósum, but unlike черника, it never had a comparable commercial value. Dahl’s entry for “berries” lists both species alongside though.

  20. Britts didn’t have any public forests, and for centuries, the commoners’ entry into British woodlands would have been severely punished.
    There’s a thing in Norway called a tyttebær, Vaccinium vitis-idaea, that gets translated as ‘cranberry’ though it’s nothing of the kind. Of course real cranberries are North American. There are two brands, one I think called Ocean Spray, that are sold here in supermarkets during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season. There’s a myth in Norway that the paperclip was invented by a Norwegian, whereas it was in fact invented by a man called Stanley something; ironically, he was also the man came up with the phrase survival of the fittest. This may be what’s confused Mockba about cranberries.

  21. My apologies, I see that it was Tolstoy who invented the paperclip.

  22. I don’t go for most purported health supplements, but a very senior urologist surgeon I know strongly recommends regular cranberry juice or pills for kidney/urinary health, so the Germans have a point.

  23. AJP mentioned Ocean Spray tyttebær in this thread several years ago. I’m beginning to think he’s a commercial representative and that his years-long presence here at LH is all part of a sneaky campaign to get us to buy Ocean Spray.

  24. Yes, it’s all spam. Which reminds me that a plate of spam is always enhanced by a dollop of Ocean Spray™ cranberry sauce.

  25. In January he floods the bogs
    You could get expelled for that at my school.

  26. @ AJP, with respect to British forest land use, I just wanted to underscore that they didn’t practice anything like Nordic Allemansratt (where it’s pretty much a commoners’ basic right to collect edible berries and mushrooms on anybody else’s non-farm property). Instead, in Britain the woods were most commonly set aside as the exclusive hunting reserves for the nobility, and the commoners could pay with their skins for trespassing there. My hypothesis is that it is the reason why the British lost their primordial berry- and mushroom-gathering skills. And why, in America, they had to re-learn it from the locals and from the Northern European immigrants?
    There’s a thing in Norway called a tyttebær, Vaccinium vitis-idaea, that gets translated as ‘cranberry’ though it’s nothing of the kind
    Vaccinium vitis-idaea is known as lingonberry in English, and it is also native to the North-East of the US. So the Nordic migrants couldn’t have confused the two. In fact they are not interchangeable in recipes because the tastes are fairly different. But lingonberry has never been adopted for farming in the US, and about the only place the average American learns about its existence is at the food section of IKEA :)The Russian name for Vaccinium vitis-idaea, брусника / брусёна, is one of the few wildberries with its own Vasmer entry. Lingonberry брусника rivaled cranberry for commercial importance in Russia. That’s the one with a not-so flattering mention in Onegin:
    Боюсь, брусничная вода
    Мне б не наделала вреда
    I had a personal history with lingonberry, having spent several years trying to find an elusive species at the high elevation of the Rocky Mountains, but that’s a separate story. As are many personal stories of European cranberries, which I used to pick by the puds at some secret bogs far, far, away in those days (a glass jar of fresh berries made a perfect wintertime bribe in the starving Russia of the 90s, BTW).
    But let me wrap up this (already too long) post just by a link to Dmitry Sukharev’s Cranberry poem, immortalized by the wonderful “Russian poetry preservationist”, Alexander Dulov (in the humorous preface in this record, Dulov describes the story of the verse, and the Massachusetts cranberry domination too)
    Let the bourgeois bitches bark,
    Let them chew their rotten pineapples,
    But by the sheer amount of cranberry,
    America shall never overtake us

  27. in Britain the woods were most commonly set aside as the exclusive hunting reserves for the nobility, and the commoners could pay with their skins for trespassing there
    You’re no doubt confusing Britain with Mauritius or Iceland, though they’re in many ways quite different. Common grazing land wasn’t enclosed until the 18C in Britain. Robin Hood and his merry men lived in Sherwood Forest in the 13C. Monty Python’s lot were living in a forest when the knight’s arms and legs fell off, that was around 1970, I think we can safely say that you didn’t need to be a licensed toff to pick berries in a forest. If you ate the red-and-white spotted mushrooms you turned into a toad; maybe that’s where you’re confused. I can’t help you with the Tolstoy. Apparently he didn’t rate Shakespeare very highly, but I can’t see why you think he invented paperclips; there are no references in the plays as far as I know.

  28. This fact has been covered, but I can’t resist an anecdote: When I was trying to learn Russian in ninth grade (from a TV course), simultaneously with Latin (in school), nouns in -mya, -mena struck me as one of those random perversities, till I somehow picked up that the -ya had been a nasal vowel, and I went “BANG! Carmen–carmina! Examen–examina!” Thus began my lifelong love affair with historical and comparative linguistics.

  29. Crown, in England I believe you have to distinguish between woods and forests. Didn’t the latter word historically mean something like royal hunting preserve? But a royal gathering preserve would be something else.
    Also, berries may be considered to be staples, but that’s not the same as paperclips.

  30. Bill Walderman says

    “That ending is cognate with Latin -men, isn’t it?”
    And with the Greek deverbative suffix -ma(t), which shows up in English as -m (problem), -me (theme, phoneme), -ma (dogma, schema), and, in adjectives or nouns derived from adjectives, as -mat- (problematic, thematic, dogmatic, mathematics).
    If I’m not mistaken, the original PIE suffix must have been m+syllabic n; syllabic n became nazalized a in Slavic, which became ‘a (a preceded by a palatalized consonant) in Russian, e/i+n in Latin, and simply a in Greek.

  31. Crown, in England I believe you have to distinguish between woods and forests. Didn’t the latter word historically mean something like royal hunting preserve?
    Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Forests (But Were Afraid to Ask).

  32. Wow, that’s interesting. Here might be a place to recommend a book I got from my mother for Christmas. Peter Ackroyd’s Vol. I, Foundation, of a history of England he’s writing. Lots of things I didn’t know. As it says in this Spectator review, one interesting thing he emphasises is the continuity, despite the constant invasion and realignment that went on among the assorted tribes.

  33. This Spectator review.

  34. Language, may thanks for the 2003 piece about all the archaic forest words! These days, one can find this collection of archaisms on wikipedia; worth a long look IMVHO!
    I see that under the English Forest Law, certain forestland-use privilleges (like using it for pig pasture during acorn season, or to cut turf for heaths) could have been granted by the crown, often for a fee. The collection of wikipedia artcles says nothing about wildberry-picking privilleges, but in the 1896 “Annals of the ancient Royal Forest of Exmoor” (now in Google Books) I read that trespasses against vert (in modern words, vert is the habitat of the game) were punished most severely when committed against Special-Vert (compared to trespasses against Over-Vert or Nether-Vert). Special-Vert included all the wildberry bushes or shrubs, which could sustain the deer. (Over-Vert consisted of big trees, and Nether-Vert of other shrubs and heather). However the book hasn’t made it clear for me if mere harvesting the berries was a punishable act; the book goes on to describe trespasses as either Waste, temporary injury to the plants; Assart, permanent destuction of the plants, or Purpresture, fencing away the plants.
    But a recent review of the Royal Forest Law says unequivocally,
    Norman law superseded the prior Anglo-Saxon laws in which rights to the forest (not necessarily just woods, but also heath, moorland, and wetlands) were not exclusive to the king or nobles, but were shared among the people. Feudal forest laws, in contrast, were harsh, forbidding not only the hunting of game with in the forest, but even the cutting of wood or the collection of fallen timber, berries, or anything growing within the forest.

  35. Well that’s not a recent review, it’s someone’s blog your quoting. But if you insist – and I see now you’re only talking about the 12C & 13C, the period immediately following the Norman conquest, not “the Britts didn’t have any public forests, and for centuries, the commoners’ entry into British woodlands would have been severely punished”, as you first said) – if you insist, here’s what she links to: an article about the New Forest, in Hampshire.

    “Forest” in a medieval sense was a legally defined area – subject to special laws – where the “beasts of the chase” (deer & wild pig) and their food were protected for the pleasure of the monarch. It was not necessarily a wooded area in the modern meaning – nearly half the New Forest is open heath, grassland and bog.
    The laws enacted to preserve the deer for the royal pleasure were the Forest Laws. The odious penalties of Forest Law for interference with the king’s deer and its food (“browse”) became less severe over the centuries, but remnants of the legal structure that policed the area for the Crown are still present in the New Forest as the Verderers’ Court.

    What he’s saying is that there was a penalty for poaching, not that anyone was forbidden admittance to the forest – even during the 12th or 13th Century.

  36. AJP, I’m not insisting on *anything*, and it goes without saying that I’m less educated and less sharp than most participants of languagehat (well maybe with the exception of plant biology LOL but it’s a rather peripheral topic here).
    I’m just looking for an answer, why the ancestral knowledge of wild edibles of the forest seems to have disappeared in England, in marked contrast with most of the rest of Europe. Land use restrictions may have been the cause or one of the causes. That’s my best guess to date. But I’d very much love to listen to other possible explanations, or to hear a substantive critique of my hypothesis.

  37. Nordic Allemansratt (where it’s pretty much a commoners’ basic right to collect edible berries and mushrooms on anybody else’s non-farm property) Crown: If your neighbors came and picked all of the raspberries in your garden before you got around to it, would you have a legal leg to stand on?
    I think maybe in England you would.
    Mockba: What is the evidence for your statement that “the ancestral knowledge of wild edibles of the forest seems to have disappeared in England”?
    I would say that here in the USA such knowledge has mostly been lost, at least among people I encounter, but I don’t attribute that to any history of land use restrictions.
    I would have guessed that in most European countries, including England, there are big swathes of population in which this knowledge has been lost and also big swathes in which it has not been lost.

  38. What an egotist!”
    Is that right?

    Both egoism and egotism are both in English and Russian dictionaries. There is only a subtle difference, but, I think, in English egotism is more commonly used for selfishnes, while in Russian it’s egoism.
    I’ve just looked up egotism in Russian and was surprised to the word attributed to Stendhal in the meaning intense self-analysis for the purpose of self-betterment, for sharpening one’s feeling. Another entry on gestalt therapy attributes egotism in the meaning, roughly, of exaggerated self-esteem to Paul Goodman, which means than egotism changed its original meaning around 1940-50s. And perhaps replaced egoism in common usage in English.
    Does that sound right?

  39. I would rather say “У козы воспалилось вымя”.
    I agree, заразилось, is grammatically correct, but doesn’t sound idiomatic to me. Заразилось/ась/ся would be more commonly used for the whole organism, rather than a part or an organ.
    Коза чем-то заразилась, но у козы что-то с выменем/какая-то инфекция на вымени.

  40. темена (foreheads – or maybe “tops of [their] heads”
    temya is the top of the head, crown or vertex.

  41. Having just gotten through the endless Russian winter holidays with three batches of home-made cranberry sauce – one with American cranberries, one with Russian cranberries and one with a mixture of Russian cranberries and lingonberries — I can say with super culinary authority that they are not the same. The cranberries, I mean. Different shape, consistency and taste. Although all make excellent sauce.
    BTW my favorite Russian sweet is cranberries in powdered sugar. I don’t know how they do it — the cranberries inside are still moist, but they are encased in a shell of sugar.

  42. Sgushenka became a common word for condensed milk, because there was no brand name. But some food stuffs did. Oatmeal/flakes were branded as Геркулес/Hecules and (oat) porridge is commonly referred to as геркулесовая каша – hercules kasha to distinguish from the older traditional kashas – buckwheat and barley.
    And manna – mannaya kasha – manka is the name for semolina kasha, a bit like semolina pudding, but liquid. It takes a babushka to make it of perfect consistency.
    And it is wonderful with a dollop of sgushenka or cranberry/bueberry/pilberry/-berry jam on top.

  43. many thanks to LH and Dinosaur for discovering that blog!

  44. I agree with Ø. And in southern England people pick wild berries in the hedgerows more than in woodland. Perhaps that’s the source of you’re confusion.
    Ø, both in Britain & Norway there are rights-of-way that go through people’s property. I think also in the US you can’t be prevented from walking along the beach; no matter whether you’re in Brighton Beach or Malibu the coastline is public. Right-of-way is most extensive in Norway, where you’ll never find a “No Trespassing” sign, because trespassing isn’t against the law. As far as I know anyone can come in my garden, but I don’t think they’re allowed to pick my raspberries without my permission.

  45. cranberries in powdered sugar
    клюква в сахаре, is it made anywhere else?

  46. Sash, I meant the Norwegian egoistisk is normally translated into English as “selfish” not as “egoistic”. Would that be the same from Russian into English, or is there a more common word in Russian for selfish?
    I remember hearing what the difference is between egoism and egotism, but I can’t remember anymore.

  47. In the US we don’t have the word “hedgerow” except in English books. We probably have hedgerows but just don’t know what to call them. Also, some of us are unsure about the difference between hedgehogs and porcupines.

  48. ProudToBeAMammal says

    @ MOCKBA
    Its another name, Гонобобель (Gonobobel’), is one my favorite words. There’s something deliciously unrestrained in it…

  49. Yeah, Гонобобель fascinated me as a child, it sounds both archaic and ..hmm… vaguely obscene. I heard the word from my parents as “you can also call blueberry like this” but we always called just голубика (which one might be tempted to translate as pigeonberry or light-blueberry into English LOL).
    Other irresistibly old-fashioned Russian berry names were шикша (also an ericaceous shrub albeit not Vaccinium) & княженика.
    @ mab – they rinse the cranberries in syrup to make powdered sugar stick. Yum! Of course you can’t make anything comparable with the thicker-skinned American cranberry, and this difference in consistency make homemade cranberry sauces different too. But beyond the different texture, the flavor is the same. I steep homemade berry brandies with either species, and the results are indistinguishable. (A lot of American “supermarket fruit and berries” are selected for giant size, firm flesh, and impenetrable skin, so I’m not even sure if the wild ancestor of Ocean Spray was as big and as thick-skinned as we see it now).
    @ Empty, thanks for the link 🙂 Here is a would-be official English hedgerow berry picking manual 🙂 🙂 BTW my deep respect goes to the unfortunate English guy harassed by the cops for picking rowan-berries for a fruit preserve. My own rowanberry-applesauce is a hit with the friends for Xmas season, and I believe that it comes out the best when both fruit are picked after a frost from the neighbors’ front yards 🙂 but until now I haven’t heard about any kindred souls LOL. Beautiful and nostalgic rowan-bush is called mountain-ash in this part of the world, and is often considered poisonous; most of my crop goes into berry-brandy too, an unsurpassable рябиновка.
    So many names of American wild berries (like cranberries or lingonberries) and edible mushrooms (like shoestrings Armillaria mellea) are traced back to German and Nordic immigrants; and together with the claims that cranberries and blueberries didn’t exist in the Old World, it makes me think that wildberry and forest-mushroom picking have gone extinct in England. But now I see that hedgerow-picking may have become a partial substitute 🙂

  50. I’m sure we have hedgerows in Kentucky, if you call that American.

  51. mockba — I think the flavors of the two cranberries are slightly different.
    Sashura, I don’t know if anyone else makes those cranberries in sugar, but they used to be one of the treats I brought from Moscow to my family in upstate NY. The crunchy sugar coating and the juicy berry inside was a holiday favorite. We’d speculate on how they were made, and so thanks mockba for the inside info.

  52. I think the flavors of the two cranberries are slightly different
    OK, we can politely agree on that 🙂 Although the lone European species of cranberries is also native to North America, the are two or perhaps three sister species in America, all with distinctive crane-beak flowers with their unusually reflexed petals. The cultivated varieties originate mostly from an American species, V. macrocarpon. But as we all know, the taste varies a bit not just between sister species, but also between cranberries picked in different habitats, or between the freshly picked and winter-stored berries. Probably an overlapping continuum of intraspecies and interspecies variation…
    You can buy sugarcoated cranberries in ethnic groceries in the West, but alas, sometimes the berries become almost dessicated in storage. No longer the crunchy crust followed by the blast of tartness, but just a crunchy emptiness 🙁 Please do scrutinize the production dates when you buy ’em!
    BTW America’s strangest Vaccinium berry may be o’helo, once consecrated to goddess Pele. We pick them too, but always trow the first berry into a volcanic fissure before eating any. With Pele, it never hurts to obey the old superstitions 🙂

  53. I’ve just polished off the remains of the Christmas Ocean Spray (AJP, send me the pay form!) cranberry sauce on my roast chicken, and I agree with Mabs – the flavour is different from klyukva, less sharp. Mb, the Massachusetts breeders have changed it over the ages?
    Эгоист – egoist us quite common in Russian, with the home-grown word себялюб – она любит себя – self-lover – someone who loves themselves too much is also used, but less common. Эготист – egotist is only for the connoisseur, methinks.

  54. Other irresistibly old-fashioned Russian berry names were шикша
    Apparently “crowberry” in English; I tried looking it up in Vasmer for the etymology, but there was no entry. I did happen on the striking word шиу [shiú] ‘cry with which kites and hawks are chased away when they attack chickens’ (which is, you will not be surprised to learn, onomatopoeic).

  55. Our hens used to turn over with their legs in the air and play dead when big birds flew over. Works better than “шиу”, I should imagine. How many hawks & kites speak onomatopoeic Russian?

  56. (Especially in Norway.)

  57. Шиу = shoo? And шугать = to shoo.
    In this denouement of The Prisoneress of the Caucusus Hamlet is шиуed away. (1 min into the clip)

  58. Mr Crown, did you ever get any photos of the hens belly up playing dead? Cool!
    Sashura, as you know, Americans LOVE to tinker with food to make it last longer or ship better, so maybe they did with the US cranberry. But my guess is that that tough skin was always there.
    Yes, Mockba, exactly: that crunch of sugar and blast of tartness is the delight of those treats. Russians are also very adept at covering nuts and dried fruits in very rich, dark chocolate. And have I mentioned my guilty pleasure — sukhariki? Little pieces of dark bread, dried and coated with oil (or butter) and salt? Beat chips hands down.

  59. sukhariki
    – or (very) quick fried with salo, or shkvarki or fat (drippings)!
    Why hasn’t anyone thought of mass-producing them?
    The English do with pork scratchings, the next best thing to sukhariki.

  60. mab, unfortunately not. I wish I had.

  61. Sashura, they do mass produce them! Of course, they aren’t as good as homemade, but they are still (guiltily) (okay, that’s not a word) delicious when you are starving and sitting in an endless traffic jam. They come in (probably totally carcinogenic) flavors, like mushroom, bacon, horseradish (it’s Russia, remember), onion, garlic, and cheese. (You can tell I really know my packaged sukhariki…)

  62. packaged sukhariki…
    wow, and they say capitalism doesn’t work!

  63. packaged sukhariki in traffic jam…
    Why can’t we get this here? Better than donuts.

  64. packaged sukhariki in traffic jam…
    Why can’t we get this here?

    You probably have the sukhariki already in most places where you have traffic jams 🙂 We used to bring them over from Russia, but in the last two or three years they appeared in Russian ethnic groceries (the expats are always the last ones to adopt their old countries’ new food cravings!) Perhaps not the wildest flavors (steamed crayfish or pork jelly with mustard, anyone?) and occasionally stale, but they are all over the place now.
    The original brand, Tri Korochki, has been named after a uniquely Russian (bud gradually fading) meme, Buratino’s expensive meal in a company of the Cat and the Fox, but now there is plenty of competition.

  65. I’m not sure there are any ethnic Russian groceries in my part of southern Norway. Still, it’ll be something to look forward to next time I go somewhere. Crayfish-soaked toast sounds just my cup of tea.

  66. There is a Russian grocery precisely a mile from my home. I often see it when I am sitting in a traffic jam on the way home from work. Now at last I have a reason to go in there instead of just saying to myself that I wonder if I’ll ever go in there.
    Surely “guiltily” is a word, mab. Or did you mean, in a figurative way, “the word ‘guiltily’ is not in my dictionary”?

  67. Let us know what you think of them, Ø.

  68. sukhariki sound very much like bagel chips

  69. Try and get bagel chips anywhere here. We do have about forty different kinds of crispbread but none of them are pork jelly flavor, just plain.

  70. right, new year’s resolution: get stale bread from the boulangerie and make it into sukhariki with discarded pork belly jelly.

  71. I don’t think we even have pork jelly here. Traffic jam, yes.

  72. Couldn’t find any mail order sources; Finncrisp is definitely available online though. The classic rye crisps of Finncrisp are a decent match to sukhariki, although they have a refined yuppie quality, and original Russian sukhariki have an appeal of homemade simplicity; yes, with a stale rye bread and a bit of patience, you can approach it at home just fine.
    Nowadays, even PepsiCo makes their own brand of sukhariki in Russia, under a faux-English name of xpyc/team. The manufacturers still seems to be locked in a game of outdoing one another’s flavor lists. “Tri Korochki” has 20: basic rye “bacon”, “garlic”, “smoke”, “mushroom”, “jellied meat with horseradish”, “kielbasa”, “curry chicken”, “spicy macho cheese”, “smoked salmon and cheese”, “tomato & herbs”, “black caviar”, “red caviar”, “kosher dill pickles”, “eggplant caviar”, and more pricey “proscuito de parma”, “argentine steak”, “cheese fondue”, “shrimp cocktail”, “julienned mushroom bake” and “sauteed eggplant”.
    Drats, if they weren’t all expired by the time they reach our quaint towns…

  73. We do have about forty different kinds of crispbread but none of them are pork jelly flavor, just plain.
    It appears that at least one crispbread maker has at least one oddball flavor. But it’s probably not available where you are, Crown.

  74. It says “Made in Norway”, so maybe it is. Norwegians make most of their food vanilla flavored – custard is even called vanillasaus in Norwegian – but there are a few exceptions: my favorite crispbread is ertebrød, made with flour from dried peas. On the Norwegian Wikipedia it says ertebrød is available in the USA, no doubt you’ll find it at your local ethnic Norwegian grocery. The one we buy is made by a company called Holmen.

  75. Trond Engen says

    But it’s probably not available where you are, Crown.
    Huh? That’s a Norwegian cheese factory. They sell the products of the Korni flatbrød bakery internationally under the Kavli brand. And apparently some of those are not sold at home.

  76. “The Kavli Group is one of Norway’s largest and most international food groups, with some 800 employees”
    whereas, over at Holmen Crisp:
    “Today the company has four employees; the General Manager, a Market Manager and three production supervisors.”
    Five. Five employees. (But who bakes the crackers?)

  77. Success! Cut up a stale baguette in long rectangular sukhariki shape and fry-dried them in a shallow fry-pan. Four flavours: garlic, chicken belly jelly, pork belly and pepper. Was banished from the room when crunching distracted people from watching Notting Hill.

  78. my favorite crispbread is ertebrød, made with flour from dried peas. On the Norwegian Wikipedia it says ertebrød is available in the USA, no doubt you’ll find it at your local ethnic Norwegian grocery
    The Russians are still coming aparently, but the Norwegians must be going. There used to be very strong Nordic Mormon immigration and the last names of the locals still attest to it, but our last two Scandinavian delis closed down in recent years.
    Still I had hopes in Portland, Oregon, where for years, we’ve been making a twice-annual pilgrmage to its slightly dilapidated Norse Hall, complete with countless flags, troll figurine displays, monarch portraits, and a giant neon sign outside beseeching to “Dance To-Night”. So there might be Norwegian food aficionados too? And guess what, PDX turned out to have a thriving Norwegian grocery (run by a Lebanese-Quebecois proprietor!) with a massive selection of crispbreads … but no ertebrød 🙁

  79. The Russians are still coming aparently, but the Norwegians must be going.
    This reminds me irresistibly of a classic movie scene. Start at 1:00 if you’re in a hurry.

  80. yes, I remember watching the film in New York with my mother when it just came out, great fun. Isn’t there a full version somewhere?

  81. I saw it when it came out, but not since. I didn’t know of Alan Arkin at that time. He’s one of my favorite actors.
    Were there ever bilingual Russo-Norwegian families or other groups living in the region between Hammerfest & Murmansk?

  82. There must have been, there is, or was, even a Russo-Norwegian pidgin language, Russenorsk.

  83. I didn’t know that, thanks.

  84. Haha. In the Norwegian Wikipedia it says:

    Russenorsk was a Norwegian pidgin used before the First World War as an auxiliary language in trade relations between northern Norway and northwest Russia, the so-called Pomor trade (1740-1917).
    Russenorsk was composed of about as much Norwegian as Russian (about 50% of the words had Norwegian origin, while 40% were Russian), and had loanwords from Swedish, German, French, English, Kven, Lapp and other languages​​. The Norwegians thought they spoke Russian, while the Russians thought they spoke Norwegian. It lost some of its credibility when Norwegian businessmen began to send their children to Arkhangel to study Russian.

    Some of the words are listed in the Wikipedia article for anyone who’s interested.

  85. Trond Engen says

    I don’t think it’s possible to set that exact percentages with an undefined and floating, almost ad-hoc, vocabulary. It would have varied with time, place, context and speakers.
    I’d probably use “prestige” rather than “credibility” for anseelse here.

  86. All agreed. I merely found it amusing. I am eating erter flatbrød.

  87. Russenorsk had a mysterious verbal ending -om/um, pertinent to this thread. Students of that language can’t identify the origins of the ending. Could it be of the same origin as in vymya/bremya type words?

  88. Trond Engen says

    AJP: Nå erter du meg.
    Sashura: I think I’ve seen something on that recently, but I can’t remember the details. Maybe I never got aroynd to reading it. I’ll see what I can find.

  89. Cool, thnx for the Russenorsk links. Apparently the trade was very important in mid-XIX c. (after 1838, the Russian Pomors even got an exclusive duty-free trade status in Norway). My Russian ancestors are from that unusual sea-faring group, although from the lower rungs of the Pomor pecking order (Summer Coast communes wholly dependent on rental salmon fishing locations which were granted to the Church, and growing ever more despondent as the rents customarily went higher with every renewal). After the reforms of Alexander II “freed the peasants”, these Sub-Arctic sharecroppers abandoned their ancestral forbidding coast and headed to the cities.

  90. Trond Engen says

    Cool. I think I”ve heard that the colonization preceded russification of the Novgorod empire. Do you know if your family was of Russian, Karelian or Coastal Sami origin?

  91. I doubt if there was a distinct period of “russification of Novgorod”; with all possible Varanger roots, it still appears to be fairly Russian throughout its known history. In XIX c. all of the Pomors were considered Russian, although the Summer Coast Pomors customarily thought of the Pomors of the North-West shores as of mixed part-Karelians. Of course their language and culture had strong Finno-Ugric influences, but then, the rest of Russia is full of these influences too.

  92. Trond Engen says

    MOCKBA: I know Novgorod was thoroughly Russian, but a large part of its subjects were Finnic Karelians, also those trading and settling in the north. It’s my impression that Karelian interests gradually changed label to Novgorod(ian?), then to Russian.
    JC: Thanks. Another blog to follow.
    I’ve wondered if the influx of Karelians (under Novgorod) to Sami lands was partly a stream of Middle Finns escaping Mongol rule or Russian expansion. I don’t have much to build that on, though, except the legend of the Čuđit from the east as used in the plot of Ofelaš.
    I’ve also occasionally wondered if the mVr-pheme of Mari and Mordvin might be a self-desination of Eastern Finns. The lost tribes seem to conform.

  93. Trond, yes, in hindsight I also realized that your question was about the outlying areas of the Novgorod domain, and not of the Great Novgorod proper (the traditional “Fifths” Pyatiny districts of the Great Novgorod didn’t reach as far as the Dvina Basin and Onega River, which remained subjugated territories, yes you are right, something akin to colonies).
    @ John, I also thought of mentioning Asya Pereltswaig’s blog, but then, the Middle Finnic enigma isn’t directly related to the Pomors, who intermixed and interinfluenced with the Western Finn groups, rather than with the extinct Middle Finn tribes.
    Norse sagas of Biarmia travel clearly define the local tribes as terfinns, whose language (unlike Sami) was intelligible to those who knew Karelian. Until XIII c., there were no Russians in Biarmia (Norse tales and unearthed caches map it to Lower and perhaps Eastern Dvina Basin). The arrival of the Russians in the wake of Mongol upheavals may have caused some domino migration of some Biarmians, who were granted refuge in Hålogaland in 1240. In the Western Dvina and Onega River Basins, known to Novgorod as Zavoloch’ye, “Beyond the Portage”, Novgorod sources describe the local tribes as Chud’ i.e. also Western-Finnish groups related to Estonians and Vepsy. Archeological data tentatively map Chud’ of Zavoloch’ye to Sukhona and Yug rivers.

  94. Trond: in answer to your question on mVr- as an ethnonym, I believe that the initial syllable of MORDvin derives from the Indo-Iranian word for “mortal, human” (cognate with “mortal”, actually): could the Middle Finnic speakers all have adopted this word as an autonym?
    All: I remember a scholarly source on the pre-modern Russification of Northern Russia which argued that, in parallel with this process, both Karelian and Komi must have expanded and eliminated various Uralic languages. I should be able to dig up the reference, if anyone’s interested…
    About the Pomors: is there anything in print on Finno-Ugric influence on Pomor Russian relating to features other than the lexicon (phonology, morphosyntax)?
    About Russenorsk -OM: my own hunch, for what it’s worth, is that -OM was a feature of an early maritime pidgin English spoken at the time: I believe there are a few English words in Russenorsk, suggesting that some of the Norwegians who played a part in the creation of Russenorsk knew this pidgin and transferred some of its features to Russenorsk.

  95. Trond Engen says

    MOCKBA: Very interesting on the Pyatiny and Zavoloch’ye.
    I think there’s a continuous tradition (although at some point shifting direction) from the Norse Biarmian trade to the Russian Pomor trade. If nothing else, that Northern Norway early depended on Russian agriculture, and that Russian middlemen took over the trade. I forgot, but Håkon Håkonsson’s settling of fleeing Karelians in Malangen was another reason. Probably a highly political settlement. The fjord of Malangen was considered the northern border of Norway proper. Further north Swedish and Russian interests and territorial claims were maintained for centuries.
    Etienne: Thanks for weighing in. I’d even hoped you’d visit the gala in another thread.
    Also Finnish and Northern Sami expanded and swallowed intermediate languages.
    It might just as well have been Russiams who introduced English terms. After Norway and Novgorod were erased from the political map, there was direct interaction between the English and the Russians of the White Sea, carried out by the Muscovy Company. For whatever it’s worth, one suggestion for the origin of (mainly Northern) Norwegian sjark “type of small fishing boat” is that it’s a from a Russian loan of English shark. (‘Shark’, of course, is a hobbyhorse of mine.)

  96. There’s a terrific amount of knowledge in this atrlcie!

  97. There’s a terrific amount of knowledge in this atrlcie!
    There is indeed. And talking of dyslexia, why is king Knud nowadays known in English as Cnut the Great? He used to be King Canute, the king who couldn’t stop the tide coming in. In Norwegian he’s Knut, and in Danish Knud. He was apparently a pretty unpleasant character, but so were many Viking kings. Why call this one in particular a great Cnut? I think some historians is having the little joke at Knud’s expenses.

  98. Trond Engen says

    Maybe the verbal ending -om is a grammaticalization of the hestiation when one grasps for the right foreign words to end the sentence. I buy, um, fish. That’s how I sounded yesterday when I spoke English to Lithuanian steelbuilders and didn’t have the terminology at ready hand.

  99. AJP: Cnut is how his English subjects spelled his name, the literate ones at any rate.

  100. Trond, the success of the Muscovy Company was also an indirect cause of the economical near-ruin of the Pomors after the Time of Troubles, when they had to relinquish the profitable fur trade with the English, and were reduced to local fishing and fish trade.
    In 1619, the Czar, fearful that the English could unlock the secret of Mangazeya (or, others say, that the Pomors will smuggle Mangazeya sables directly to the West, bypassing Czar’s customs), forbade any Pomor navigation along the North-Eastern Passage. The Kara Sea route to Mangazeya ceased to exist, and this immensely rich Siberian frontier town has been completely abandoned soon afterwards.
    The only sea-routes still open to the Pomors have become to the North-West, around Nordkapp to Norway and Spitzbergen.

  101. I’m not sure who you mean by his English subjects. Half of Europe was calling itself English back in them days.

  102. Oud: I mean his anglophone subjects, as opposed to his Norse-speaking subjects.

  103. The only reason I pursue it is because I’ve been reading this quite interesting history that I was given for Christmas (he says “Canute”), and it’s quite difficult to keep track what language any one of these groups might have been speaking. Were Angles in Norfolk still able to communicate with Knut in Danish, or did everyone understand one another because the languages were so alike, more like dialects?

  104. They sort of understood one another in a half-broken way. It’s thought that this was a major contributor to the collapse of the complex system of Old English inflections. Here’s philologist, mediaevalist, and Tolkienist Tom Shippey discussing the subject in The Story of English:

    Consider what happens when somebody who speaks, shall we say, good Old English from the south of the country runs into some body from the north-east who speaks good Old Norse. They can no doubt communicate with each other, but the complications in both languages are going to get lost.

    So if the Anglo-Saxon from the South wants to say (in good Old English) ”I’ll sell you the horse that pulls my cart,” he says: ”Ic selle the that hors the draegeth minne waegn.” Now the old Norseman – if he had to say this – would say: ”Ek mun selja ther hrossit er dergr vagn mine.”So, roughly speaking, they understand each other. One says ”waegn” and the other says ”vagn”. One says ”hors” and ”draegeth”; the other says ”hros” and ”dregr”, but broadly they are communicating. They understand the main words.

    What they don’t understand are the grammatical parts of the sentence. For instance, the man speaking good Old English says for one horse ”that hors” but for two horses he says ”tha hors”. Now the Old Norse speaker understands the word horse all right, but he’s not sure if it means one or two because in Old English you say ”one horse”, ”two horse”. There is no difference between the two words for horse. The difference is conveyed in the word for ”the” and the old Norseman might not understand this because his word for ”the” doesn’t behave like that. So: are you trying to sell me one horse or are you trying to sell me two horses? If you get enough situations like that there is a strong drive toward simplifying the language.

  105. Ah, thank you. I think I’m after a book like that.

  106. AJP Oud, John Cowan: one author (I should be able to find the reference, if anybody asks) had argued that the total absence of any reference to Old English/Old Norse interpreters in medieval writings (whereas references to Welsh/Old English, Latin/Old English, French/Old English interpreters abound) indicates that the two were mutually intelligible, and perhaps not even perceived as separate languages (after all, “Old English” itself exhibited considerable diversity) .
    As for Tom Shippey’s claim that morphological differences between Old Norse and Old English triggered the collapse of inflection: I don’t believe a word of it. First of all, English is arguably comparable to Danish itself in terms of morphological simplification: both have eliminated nominal case-marking (except the genitive), for example. Danish still has grammatical gender, but has wholly lost all verbal person and number marking morphology: furthermore, some dialects of Danish, such as (most of) Jutlandic, have lost grammatical gender too. Second of all, there are plenty of instances today of related languages in contact which are morphologically dissimilar. The end result of such contact is NOT a morphologically reduced KOINE. What we find instead is a language whose morphology is either mixed (and often more complex than that of either contributing language) or drawn from one of the languages in contact.

  107. Trond Engen says

    I used to have (but lost in diskcrash) a pdf of a paper by an Icelandic linguist arguing for mutual intelligibility. He gave as example a story of some Norsemen being able to bluff their way out of a penible situation at an English court by faking an intricate skaldic verse, leaving their opponents untangling the text for days before finding out that it was meaningless. His take was that rather than showing that the English were less than fluent, this means that they could even appreciate the almost impenetrable mangled syntax that was seen as an exquicite feature of high end Norse poetry.

  108. Trond Engen says

    If contact caused the simplification, shouldn’t we expect it to start in the north?

  109. Etienne & Trond sound right to me.
    I don’t think inflections and grammar ought to be much of a problem for understanding Danish or Norwegian. The Danes leave the ends off half their words, and that’s what makes it hard for me to understand. However, Danish isn’t unlike a Norfolk accent (though not as similar to Norfolk as plattdeutsch or Dutch is, or a Hamburg accent is to a Yorkshire accent).

  110. Whorf aside, it’s hard to talk about interpreters if you don’t really have a word for them. Here’s Tolkien himself on the point (reparagraphed):

    In this connexion the word wealhstod is interesting; and I may perhaps pause to consider it, since it has not (as far as I am aware) received the attention that it deserves. It is the Anglo-Saxon word for an ‘interpreter’. It is peculiar to Old English; and for that reason, besides the fact that it contains the element wealh, walk […], it is a fair conclusion that it arose in Britain.

    The etymology of its second element stod is uncertain, but the word as a whole must have meant for the English a man who could understand the language of a Walh, the word they most commonly applied to the British. But the word does not seem necessarily to have implied that the wealhstod was himself a ‘native’. He was an intermediary between those who spoke English and those who spoke a waelisc tongue, however he had acquired a knowledge of both languages. Thus Ælfric says of King Oswald that he acted as St Aidan’s wealhstod, since the king knew scyttisc (sc. Gaelic) well, but Aidan ne mihte gebigan his spraece to Norðhymbriscum swa hraþe þa git.

    That the Walas or Britons got to know of this word would not be surprising. That they did seems to be shown by the mention among the great company of Arthur in the hunting of the Twrch Trwyth (Kulhwch and Olwen) of a man who knew all languages; his name is given as Gwrhyr Gwalstawt Ieithoed, that is Gwrhyr Interpreter of Tongues.

    Incidentally it is curious to find a bishop named Uualchstod mentioned in Bede’s History, belonging to the early eighth century (about A.D. 730); for he was ‘bishop of those beyond Severn’, that is of Hereford, Such a name could not become used as a baptismal name until it had become first used as a ‘nickname’ or occupational name, and that would not be likely to occur except in a time and region of communications between peoples of different language.

  111. Fascinating quote; thanks for sharing it!

  112. I missed above mab’s speculation that Americans have tampered with the cranberry. Not so: we do not even cultivate them, we merely harvest them in good hunter/gatherer fashion from essentially unmodified cranberry bogs.
    Trond: Well, an older Icelandic linguist quite agreed: “Ein var þá tunga á Englandi sem í Noregi ok í Danmörku. En þá skiptust tungur í Englandi, er Vilhjalmr bastarðr vann England.” —Gunnlaugs saga Ormstunga

  113. The “Italian Rarebit” thread seems to have just been closed to comments, so may I insert this here?
    empty is repeating a well-established but inaccurate myth
    I hang my head in shame. I think I had a sneaking feeling that I was screwing up, but I hit “post” anyway.
    The fictional President Bartlet of The West Wing also perpetuated this canard about bourbon and Kentucky, but I have learned to take his paradings of knowledge with a grain of salt: he once teased a teacher for not having her students read Beowulf “in the original Middle English”.

  114. The “Italian Rarebit” thread seems to have just been closed to comments, so may I insert this here?
    Sorry about that, but the spammers simply would not leave it alone, and I got tired of scraping off the barnacles. Needless to say, it’s perfectly fine to carry on the conversation here.

  115. while we are on the subject of berries, does anyone know what is a monkberry? or monkberry moon delight?

  116. the verbal ending -om is a grammaticalization of the hesitation
    I like the theory!
    I thought it could be an extension of dialectal use of participles instead of/as verbal endings, present in North-Eastern/Northern Russian. I.e. бежавши/бежамши (bezhamshi – running, was running) instead of mid-Russian бежит/ал.

  117. What is monkberry moon delight?
    There seem to be a lot of theories, ranging from ‘nothing’ to ‘a blowjob’. It probably isn’t a berry, though.

  118. doh!

  119. Paul notoriously didn’t care whether his lyrics made sense or not: “I Am The Walrus”, “Come Together”, “Yellow Submarine”, etc.

  120. David Marjanović says

    If contact caused the simplification, shouldn’t we expect it to start in the north?

    I thought it did start in the north?

    En þá skiptust tungur

    What does that mean?

  121. “But then shifted (the) tongues”. Note Norse /sk/ ~ English /ʃ/, as in such pairs as skirt/shirt, skull/shell, scatter/shatter, skin/shin, and indeed skip/shift.

  122. Oops. For “tongues” read “tongue”.

  123. Trond Engen says

    DM: I thought it did start in the north?

    I’m not longer sure what I was thinking of, or even who or what I replied to, so you may well be right.

  124. Stefan Holm says

    One might add that sk- in Norwegian and Swedish since those days has shifted to /ʃ/ and /x/ respectively in most dialects but only before front vowels (except ‘u’ /ʉ/, the fronting of which is a relatively recent developement). Initial sj-, skj-, stj- have gone the same way but here also before back vowels.

    Whether this is caused by influence from our more numerous Gmc brethren in the south and in the west or not I don’t know. The Icelanders and the Danes however have kept their letter-by-letter pronunciation of those spellings.

  125. “Come Together” and “I am the Walrus” were by John, though.

  126. Whether this is caused by influence from our more numerous Gmc brethren in the south and in the west or not I don’t know.

    Extremely unlikely, I’d say. The /sk/ > /ʃ/ shift was dead and buried before the end of the Old English period, and since then English has taken on not only a bunch of Old Norse words in /sk-/ (notably sky, partly displacing the native heaven), but a boatload of French, Latin, and Greek ones, so there is certainly no continuing pressure against that particular cluster.

  127. Stefan Holm says

    Did you get me right? I wondered why we (much later than West Gmc) turned those initial ‘sk-‘ clusters into fricatives. Was it shine, shoot, shit or even more German scheinen, schießen, Scheiße that triggered a change in our speech – and made it productive: sky in modern Swedish goes [xy:], ski (‘skida’) goes [‘xi:da] and skin (‘skinn’) goes [xin].

  128. Yes, I understood. But I don’t see any reason to think the shift in Norwegian and Swedish happened for any external reason, and particularly not because of supposed influence from English, which is full of /sk/ words from borrowings of all ages.

  129. David Marjanović says

    “But then shifted (the) tongues”.

    Ah. I didn’t recognize the p as /f/ (I know about this phenomenon in general), don’t understand the -st, and have no idea what case/number ending -ur is.

    One might add that sk- in Norwegian and Swedish since those days has shifted to /ʃ/ and /x/ respectively in most dialects but only before front vowels

    That rules out a German source, because the German shift occurred in all environments; rather than [sk] > [st͡ʃ] > [ʃ] (which appears to have happened in English, too, just several hundred years earlier), of which the first step was just the general [kʰ] > [t͡ʃ] change next to front vowels, it went [sk] > [sx] > [ʃ]. This different intermediate stage is preserved (as [sx] or [sχ] in different accents) in most of Dutch, and apparently in some kinds of Frisian (though it’s surprisingly hard to find information on that).

  130. In modern Icelandic, written pt is /ft/ and similarly with ps and pk, but nobody knows when this happened. Because the Icelandic sound-shifts have been “smooth”, they have not induced restructuring, which is why (normalized) Old Norse is still mostly readable to Icelanders, but it makes the changes impossible to date.

    The -st ending signals the Icelandic middle voice, which has the same general force as the Romance reflexives. It is not applicable to all verbs, and it is debatable whether it is a inflectional or a derivational suffix, as most of the verbs which can take it undergo a substantial change in meaning thereby. So we might better translate skiptust as ‘was changed’ than simply ‘changed’.

    Finally, the -ur ending is the nominative singular marker of a-declension masculines; in Old Norse it was simply -r. In modern English borrowings from Old Norse it is inconsistently preserved: thus we write the Norse gods Thor, Odin rather than Thorr, Odinr, variably Frey or Freyr, but always Baldur or Balder, never Bald.

  131. By the way, the next sentence is Gekk þaðan af í Englandi valska er hann var þaðan ættaður. ‘For thenceforward French went current there, for he was of French kin’ (William Morris, 1901). Note valska ‘Roman(ce)’, not longer current in Icelandic as far as I can tell. It is yet another version of the Common Germanic *walh- root.

    So the implication is not that after the Conquest the English language became a language the Norse could no longer understand, but rather that England became (at the upper-class level, at least) a francophone land. The saga was written in the late 13C, almost 300 years after the events it describes, which are set in the time of King Aðalráðr, known to the English as Æthelred Unræd ‘the Ill-Advised’.

  132. Rodger C says

    That should be Odinn (Óðinn), not Odinr. The rule I was taught is to use the accusative (no ending) when the stem ends with a consonant and the nominative when it ends with a vowel. Except Bald just won’t do.

  133. Thanks for the correction. Norðr is a counterexample, perhaps because North would be almost as bad as Bald. Heimdall(r) as well as Ratatosk(r) (the messenger squirrel who runs up and down the World-Tree) are variable. Still, no doubt not everyone knows the rules; certainly I didn’t.

  134. Stefan Holm says

    Adding an –s to a Scandinavian verb throughout the paradigm turns it into the passive (or middle, a matter of definition) voice. Take your actual example ‘skipta’, which in modern Swedish is ‘skifta’ meaning ‘change’ or ‘exchange’: In active voice it is ‘skiftar’ (present), ‘skiftade’ (preterite) and ‘skiftat’ (past participle). Turned into passive it goes:

    skiftas – be exchanged or is exchanged.

    skiftades – was exchanged.

    har skiftats – has been exchanged.

    The origin is generally thought to be the reflexive pronoun in 3p. sik (accusative) or ser (dative). Modern Scandinavian has sig and German sich. It’s lost in modern English and replaced by him-, her-, itself and themselves. In the very last line in the Voluspa poem the seeress says:

    Nu mun hun sökkvask. ‘Now may she descend’, where ’sökkvask’ is believed to come from ’sökkva sik’, i.e. ‘sink herself’. The final ‘-t’ in skiptust is the preterite marker.

    As for Odin(n) – Odinr I think it’s a particular problem with masculine nouns ending in ‘-n’. The ‘-r’ masculine marker (from PIE –‘s’) is otherwise all over the place with a later epenthetic vowel after a consonant (‘-u-‘ in Icelandic, ‘-e-‘ in continental Scandinavian). Thus the beginning phrase in the Older Law of the West Geats (mid 13th century):

    Krister ær fyrst i laghum warum, ’Christ is first in our law’.

    For some reason our ancestors might have had trouble pronouncing the combination ’-nr-’. It’s obvious in the word ’man’, which in the nominative is maðr but in the other cases mans, manni, man(n) (genitive, dative, accusative respectively). So says the same law:

    Dræpar madhær danskan man allæ noræn man böte niv markum. ’If a man kills a Danish man or a Norwegian man he may pay a fine of nine marks’.

    Huggær madhær thumulfingær af manni bötæ IX. markær firi sær ok tolf öræ firi læst. ’If a man hacks the thumb of a man he may pay a fine of nine marks for the wound and twelve pennies for the loss’.

  135. Stefan Holm says

    Sorry, the very last word shouldn’t be ‘loss’ but bandage, I think.

  136. David Marjanović says

    Finally, the -ur ending is the nominative singular marker of a-declension masculines;

    …but how did the tongue suddenly become masculine when it was a feminine-looking tunga just a sentence before? Or am I completely misled by German die Zunge?

    In modern Icelandic, written pt is /ft/ and similarly with ps and pk, but nobody knows when this happened.

    Huh. I knew that, in Old Norse, “after” was spelled aptar, and this is taken as evidence that /f/ wasn’t really [f] but the bilabial [ɸ]… I don’t understand, though, why p would have been considered a closer match than f! Was the Germanic spirant law still active? Is it still in Icelandic?

    The final ‘-t’ in skiptust is the preterite marker.

    …That actually boggles my mind.

  137. Stefan Holm says

    The ’pt’ > ’ft’ case seems non-controversial. The loanword recept is often pronounced as [re’sœft] and köpt (bought, gekauft) was at least in 19th c. Swedish [čøft].

    And what about skiptust? The infinitive is ‘skipta’. The verb is weak, so the preterite marker is simply ‘-t’. Then I’m not sure about the ‘u’. In my ‘Nordic mind’ it could either mark 1p. we or 3.p. they, but in any case plural. About the’-s-‘, I’m however sure that it is the passive voice marker.

  138. Trond Engen says

    “Ein var þá tunga á Englandi sem í Noregi ok í Danmörku. En þá skiptust tungur í Englandi, er Vilhjalmr bastarðr vann England.”

    “One was then tongue in England as in Norway and in Denmark. But then was shifted tongues in England, when William bastard won England.”

    The start of the first sentence is interesting. Is ein used as a dummy subject like English ‘it’, or is tunga used as an adjective?

    The form tungur is the feminine plural, like in modern Swedish (written -or) and conservative Norwegian dialects.

    In skiptust, I don’t think it’s correct that the final -t is a preterite ending. The preterite is in the -u-. It’s probably too late for the more transparent skiptǫðust. (Assuming I classify the verb correctly. No chance, in other words.)

    (The semantics of ON -sk/-st is quite similar to the French prefix s(e).)

  139. Trond Engen says

    No need for “I think”. Read “… the final -t is not a preterite ending.” I started out planning to say something about not thinking any variety of Scandinavian ever had verbal declension endings after the reflexive suffix.

  140. Trond Engen says

    And were shifted tongues, of course. Plural for plural.

    I missed the point about that tunga. It makes sense with a stressed ein:

    One was then the tongue in England, as in Norway and Denmark.” The feminine ein should have tipped me off before.

  141. David Marjanović says

    Now it all makes sense to me, thanks!

  142. Stefan Holm says

    Thank you, David and Trond, for correcting me upon the ‘-st’ passive marking suffix. But I still wonder: Where does it come from? ‘-sk’ is clearly from reflexive 3p. pronoun ‘sik’ but ‘-st’??? And by the way – could you give me any examples where the ‘-st’ is used in the infinitive or the present?

  143. David Marjanović says

    I guess sk > st > s? Weirder things have happened…

  144. Trond Engen says

    Yesu, exactly. -sk is just older. And -st is older than -s. But not completely gone. It’s standard Nynorsk and still current in most Norwegian dialects, including the southeastern variety around here.

  145. Stefan Holm says

    Make me finally surrender, Trond, and give me an attested Norwegian example in the infinative or the present.

  146. Trond Engen says

    Here’s synast.

  147. Stefan Holm says

    Hey, give me a better shot! Danish and Norwegian have deviated from the origin when it comes to the passive voice of the verb syna, “see, overlook”. In Swedish the passive jag syns following the original means “I am seen” (i.e. visible) or jag synas “I am overlooked”.

    But in Dano-Norwegian jeg syns means “I think” , i.e. not a passive at all. It’s as if someone in English would say “I seem Germany played very well against Brazil”. The background is not a mystery. It’s the expression in the dative “det synes mig” (it seems to me) that has lead to “jeg syns” = “I think”

    And as far as I can tell, all the examples in the “Nynorskordboka” are in the preterite. I still suspect you’re right, Trond (and David), about the passive. But I’m longing to be convinced, and enlightend!

  148. Trond Engen says

    I chose that verb exactly because it has developed enough semantically to warrant a lexical entry of its own. But also because the examples covered the infinitive synast, the present synest and the preterite syntest.

    The older meaning “be visible” is still current. Just check with the Government:

    Regjeringa syner dessutan til at ein allereie har gått i retning av auka skatt for dei med aller høgast inntekt og redusert skatt for dei med lågast inntekt. Desse endringane synest ikkje i analysene i denne meldinga, som byggjer på statistikk til og med 1997.

    Even older “be shown” is also current, e.g. in Nynorsk Wikipedia:

    Apperatet har ei kraftig ljoskjelde på baksida (under) av ljosarket som skal synast fram.

  149. Trond Engen says

    Oh, too much evidence!! Moderation is needed.

  150. Trond Engen says

    Also, I don’t write multiple exclamation marks. My new glasses must be causing double vision.

  151. Trond Engen says

    Turning to Bokmål, the meanings of synes are:

    1. be shown, as an active verb mostly arch./dial. “Den nye sykkelen skulle synes fram for hele bygda.”
    2. be visible “Uten lys syntes han ikke i mørket.”
    3. appear “Lys på sykkelen synes (meg) å være en god idé.”
    4. (deponent) think “Jeg syntes i hvert fall det var lurt.”

  152. Trond Engen says

    I forgot to show the middle step between 3 and 4:

    3b (Arch./high) “Meg synes ideen om elektrisk lys lite gjennomtenkt med hensyn på blanding av møtende kjøretøy.”

  153. Seem, like its relative same turns out to be one of those words with English form and Norse meaning, like dream.

  154. But who bakes the crackers?

    Machines. “Production supervisor” means “machine-tender”.

    Canute the Great

    I forgot to mention that this name is anglicized from the monkish Latin Canutus. In any case, if any King of England deserves the label “the Great”, it is Alfred alone. After him they broke the mold. (Henry VIII’s flagship, the Henry Grace à Dieu, was popularly known as the Great Harry, but the greatness was in the ship, not in Harry.)

  155. @John Cowan: I have always taken Canute to be “the Great” as a king of the Danes, not the English. There were, after all, other Danish Canutes from which he might need to be disambiguated, but not really English ones (except maybe the Great’s son Harthacante).

  156. That’s a very good point, and indeed on inspecting WP I find that he was called Knútr inn ríki ‘Knutr the Powerful’. That’s certainly a fitting epithet for anyone who can rightly describe himself, as he did, with the words “King of all England and Denmark and the Norwegians and of some of the Swedes”. By contrast, Alfred doesn’t get the label until the 16C.

  157. David Marjanović says

    and of some of the Swedes

    Such honesty is nothing short of baffling.

  158. I was hoping that there would be a connection between seem ‘appear to be’ and see, but apparently not, though they do look somewhat similar even in PIE, *som-i, *sam-o respectively. It all reminds me of OE þencan ‘think’ and þyncan ‘seem to be’, now merged as think, with the surviving frozen archaism methinks ‘it seems to me’, though as late as Chaucer one could write (and he did) him thoughte ‘it seemed to him’. Both were strong verbs, both were umlauted causatives from *thankjan, *thunkjan respectively, but they do share a PIE root.

  159. I was hoping that there would be a connection between seem ‘appear to be’ and see, but apparently not, though they do look somewhat similar even in PIE, *som-i, *sam-o respectively.

    See is from *sékʷ-e/o- ‘follow’, but you mean same, don’t you?

  160. Johanna Laakso’s 2001 paper on Russenorsk -om considers a connection between -om and English pidgin -um < him, but rejects it on the ground that -om often appears on intransitive verbs like slipom ‘sleep’, spasirom ‘go’. They also often appear finally, which also argues against Trond’s Germanic hesitation noise theory. She finally suggests some Uralic explanations.

    A nice sample sentence: Moja ska si ju: ju grot lygom ‘I tell you that you are a great liar’.

  161. Lars Mathiesen says

    You can actually syne your car in Danish. The current verb is a backformation from syn = ‘inspection,’ but it does keep to Trond’s sense 1; the original verb has gone to 4.

  162. SFReader says

    I wondered what on earth possessed the Danes to name their greatest king “Knot”.

    But then I realized that Canute is actually the same word as Russian кнут (reborrowed into English as ‘knout’) – – knotty whip.

    So now it makes all sense – Attila, the Scourge of God and Knout the Great, king of Denmark and England…

  163. David Marjanović says

    Knut used to be a very common name (down into northern Germany) because knots are magic. Naming your latest child that might just prevent you from having any more.

  164. I’m glad this thread got revived, because I just discovered a beautiful etymology and this is a good place to put it:


    род. п. -а, др.-русск., ст.-слав. съньмъ συναγωγή (Остром., Клоц., Супр.), чеш.-цслав. sinim (Ягич, Kslav.-böhm. Gl. 31), др.-чеш. snem, слвц. snem, сюда же др.-русск. сънѧтисѧ “собраться”. От *sъn- (см. с) + *jęti “брать” (см. взять). Русск. фонетическая форма обобщена из косвенных форм. [Сама форма сонм цслав. происхождения; см. Якобсон, IJSLP, 1/2, 1959, стр. 271. – Т.]

    So сонм and собрание, both meaning ‘assembly,’ are doublets, with the same formation except that сонм is based on the root of взять (‘take,’ perfective) and собрание is based on брать (imperfective).

  165. And you’ve got to love E. Slavic sonm vs. W. Slavic snem.

  166. David Marjanović says

    Let the yers fall where they may.

  167. And Polish sejm is the sejm word.

  168. In America, Knute Rockne (1888–1931) is probably ahead even of Cnut the Great as the most famous holder of that name. Apparently, Rockne’s pronounced his name with the /k/, but most Americans nowadays seem to make it a homophone with newt. Rockne was the head football coach at Notre Dame for thirteen seasons, with three (so-called) national championships and an amazing overall record of 105–12–5, before his untimely death in an airplane accident. (The small plane he was traveling in apparently had the some of the aerodynamic surfaces of its wings glued in place with a water-soluble resin, which disintegrated in a rainstorm.) Rockne was a pioneer both on and off the gridiron, helping to turn Notre Dame football games into major media events with widespread radio coverage. His main contribution to gameplay was the extensive use of the forward pass (which is now the most important offensive tool in American football). While his teams were not by any means the first to use the forward pass, Rockne had his quarterbacks throwing much longer passes than had previously been common. It is probably due, in part, to the first consistent use of long forward passes being at the Catholic Notre Dame that a very long, high risk passing play is called a “Hail Mary.”

  169. Apparently, Rockne’s pronounced his name with the /k/, but most Americans nowadays seem to make it a homophone with newt.

    I learned it with the /k/, but that was in the late ’50s, and the adults from whom I got it would have learned it while he was still alive or not long dead, and his own pronunciation would presumably have been standard.

  170. сонм is based on the root of взять (‘take,’ perfective) and собрание is based on брать (imperfective).

    A complicated tale of the two verbs presses the point about feminine sexuality of the former root, with many examples which seem to be totally made up to my ear … but then, who am I to know

  171. Epstein is always fun to read (I have his book on Russian Postmodernism), but he’s also a nut; I wouldn’t take anything he says too seriously

  172. I wouldn’t take anything he says too seriously

    No, to me it was entertaining rather than truly profound (aka styob), but I was perplexed by his many examples of dialect usage … like, are they real?

  173. Good question.

  174. John Cowan says

    while we are on the subject of berries, does anyone know what is a monkberry? or monkberry moon delight?

    Quoth Paul himself:

    When my kids were young they used to call milk “monk” for whatever reason that kids do — I think it’s magical the way that kids can develop better names for things than the real ones. In fact, as a joke, Linda and I still occasionally refer to an object by that child-language name. So, monk was always milk, and monkberry moon delight was a fantasy drink, rather like “Love Potion No. 9”, hence the line in the song, “sipping monkberry moon delight”. It was a fantasy milk shake.

  175. /John Cowan/ good god! Now you’ve given me an earworm for days to come. (I have a vinyl Band on the Run I bought in Japan nearly 40 years ago, excellent sound. Monkberry is from Ram, though)
    And it’s a good observation on the lasting impact of childspeak. We used to have the F-15s doing low-flight exercises right below our cottage in a narrow valley in Wales, and our son called them ‘llonga/r’, then it became a byword for something worrying or frightening. Now in France, we have Rafales doing the same, though not as low, and every time we shout – ‘llonga!’
    Btw, the wooded hills around us were awash with bilberries, lingonberries and nobody ever stopped us from picking them.

  176. /udders/
    When young students we had a somewhat naughty professor (she wrote a dissertation on mat – obscene words). She encouraged us to look for dubious awkwardities in classic texts.
    One that I remember was in Pushkin’s poem Что в имени тебе моем? – What’s in my name to you? V imeni could be also read as udder – что вымени тебе моем – what’s my udder to you?

  177. PlasticPaddy says

    The one I remember is (naughty bit between asterisks):
    memini in senatu disertum consularem ita eloqui: ‘hanc culpam maiorem an il*lam dica*m?’ potuit obscenius? ‘non,’ inquis; ‘non enim ita sensit.’ non ergo in verbo est. docui autem in re non esse; nusquam igitur est.
    Cicero, Epistulae ad Familiares

  178. David Marjanović says

    Found a better version:

    “Ein var tunga á Englandi sem í Nóregi ok í Danmǫrku; en þá skiptust tungur í Englandi er Vilhjálmr bastarðr vann England. Gekk þaðan af í Englandi valska er hann var þaðan ættaðr.”
    Gunnlaugs saga Ormstungu

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