II: 2003-04
The Last Samurai. I still feel this way about the book.
Rdiaeng. I was one of the early sources for this meme, and it got me my first heavy influx of readers.
Tzetzes. Medieval multilingual fun.
The Language Wars. Long and full of ambivalence.
May Have. Interesting discussion of a usage that still bothers me.
Filling the Goblet. Gilbert Seldes and the “minor” arts.
Exercice de Style. I’m proud of this one.
Peaches in Cluj. A classic.
Accents and History. Bile about Brewer.
More Bad Writing. Bile about Winchester.
Chukovsky on Change. And its followup Chukovsky on Change II.


  1. Fascinating. I particularly liked
    “The Mongols called the Germans of SE Europe “Sesut”, from “Saxons” (“-ut” is a plural or collective ending).
    Posted by: zizka at January 27, 2004 12:47 AM ”
    It comes from two references in the “Secret History of Mongols”
    270. ….urida Sübe’etei-ba’atur-i ḳanglin Kibča’ut Baǰigit Orusut Asut Sesüt Maǰar Kešimir Sergesüt Buqar Kerel irgen-[16a]-tür gürtele Adil Jayaq usutan müret ketülün Meket Men-kermen Keyibe teri’üten balaqat-tur ayalaqsan Sübe’etei-ba’atur tede irgen-e berkeldükdeǰü Sübe’etey-yin geǰige Batu Büri Güyük Möngge teri’üten olon kö’üd-i morila’ulbai ede
    … earlier Subeedei-bagatur was given a task to conquer peoples called Kibča’ut, Baǰigit, Orusut, Asut, Sesüt, Maǰar, Kešimir, Sergesüt, Buqar and Kerel lying beyond full waters of rivers Adil and Jayaq together with cities of Meket and Men-kermen Keyibe and since he encountered strong resistance from these peoples, many young sons led by [princes] Batu, Buri, Guyuk and Mongee were sent to help him.
    Kešimir, Sergesüt, city of Meket – have no idea.
    274 Sübe’etei-ba’atur-un geǰige ayalaqsat Batu Büri Güyük Möngge teri’üten olon [27b] kö’üt ḳanglin Kibča’ud-i Baǰigid-i oro’ulǰu Eǰil Jayaq Meget balaqasu ebdeǰü Orusud-i kiduǰu ülüttele talabai Asut Sesüt Bolar Man-kerman Kiwa teri’üten balaqad-un irgen-i dawuliǰu else’ülǰü daruqačin tammačin-i talbiǰu qariba
    Many young sons led by Batu, Büri, Güyük and Möngge, conquered Kanglin, Kibča’ud and Baǰigid peoples, destroyed cities of Eǰil, Jayaq and Meget, killed the Orusud, completely spoiling and destroyng them. Having destroyed and conquered peoples of cities led by Asut, Sesüt, Bolar, Man-kerman Kiwa, they installed there daruqačins and tammačins and returned home.
    Identifying these geographical references is immensely fun.
    The obvious ones – Eǰil – Volga river (still called Ijil-muren in Mongol and Kalmyk), Jayaq – Ural river (called Zai-muren in in Mongol and Kalmyk).
    The Orosud is of course, Russians. Their conquest appears to be rather bloody affair by this contemporary Mongol account, contradicting Gumilev’s view.
    Kanglin, Kibča’ud and Baǰigid – are the Pecheneg (self-appellation Kangly), Kipchak (known also as Kumans and Polovtsy) and Bashkirs
    Asut – most probably the Alans (called Asy or Yasy in medieval Russian chronicles) of Northern Caucasus
    Maǰar – Magyars or Hungarians, obviously
    Buqar – Bulgars (more likely Volga Bulgars, ancestors of Volga Tatars, rather than Bulgarians of Danube). There is also an alternate theory which claimes that they are Poles (Mongols would have heard from their informants something like Pular, which after many mishearings got to be written as Buqar)
    Kerel – strange name, thought by some to refer to the Slavic royal title król/král/korol. Could refer then to Czechs (Poles did not have a king then, their most senior ruler Henryk II Pobożny had a title of Duke/książę )
    Misterious city of Men-kermen Keyibe is thought by many to be the capital of Rus – Kiev.
    So, we come to Sesüt which well could be Germans, most likely German towns of Hungary and Transilvania destroyed by Mongols in 1241.

  2. real fun reading the transcription, thanks, SFR! sounds closer to buriad than khalkh mongol dialect but everything is understandable
    the secret history we read in the school was in the literary mongolian, not this kind of transliteration

  3. It’s a 20th century latin transcription of 15th century Chinese transcription of a 13th century Mongolian text written in Uighur script.
    It’s a miracle that it’s still readable….

  4. -Sergesüt
    Could be Circassians

  5. I really wouldn’t call it bile, Hat. Harsh criticism, yes, but more acid than bitter.

  6. OT: As pointed out by the folks at John Wells’s blog, the NORTH and FORCE lists that I posted here were seriously borked. I have posted an updated version there.

  7. I really wouldn’t call it bile, Hat.
    I was seduced by the alliteration (Bile about Brewer).

  8. Kešimir is definitely the followers of some Slavic lord Kasimir/Casimir/Kazhimir … perhaps a pole?
    Surgesyt could be the followers of a Sergios or Sergei, maybe.

  9. Radan Rusanov says

    Kešimir almost certainly refers to a Slavic polity ruled over by a Casimir, Kazimir, Kazhimir etc. – perhaps Russian or Polish?
    Likewise, Sergesud may mean the followers of a leader Sergios – either a Greek or a Russian.

  10. Just wanted to stop by and congratulate you on 10 years of Language Hat, that’s a rare accomplishment in this day and age (very few sites, especially blogs, have been around, and active, for 10 years).

  11. I very recently read about Subeedei-bagatur in ‘Subotai the Valiant: Genghis Khan’s Greatest Strategist’, a chapter of History’s Great Untold Stories by Joseph Cummins. I grabbed the heavy tome with the rediculous title desperately after spending an exhausting half-hour near the end of the day looking at volume after volume in my favourite sections of our minuscule library.
    At home I saw on the back of the titlepage that it was published by National Geographic and my heart sank. I read a few chapters of stories I didn’t know and they were all as badly written as I expected. I checked the bibliography and lo! they were all secondary and tertiary sources. This kind of research is of course what Simon Winchester does.
    I did read Winchester’s The Map that Changed the World (another rediculous title), because I too will read anything if I don’t know the story, but the main reason was I’ll read anything from the history of cartography.
    And speaking of maps, National Geographic’s cartography section is one of the best in the world.

  12. I was weaned on National Geographic‘s style (my aunt gave me a membership when I was eight or so), and I rather like it, contrary to almost everyone else. Same thing with Scientific American.

  13. SFReader says

    Found what Meket is. It turns out that it was Magas, a capital of the Alans of Caucasus. It is written in biography of emperor Mengu Khan (in
    元史 Yuán Shǐ, “History of Yuan dynasty”) that “in winter, in eleventh month(November 27 — December 26, 1239), the army commanded by Mengu has besieged the Alan city of Me-Ke-Si and captured it after three months”
    * The name of a new town of Magas, capital of Ingushetia Republic of the Russian Federation, is an attempt to appropriate Alan history for the benefit of the Ingush nation. (Ossetes who are their bitter enemies are descendants of Alans, the historical fact which is vehemently disputed by their neighbours)

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