But the Lithuanians won’t let them have it, according to this AP story:

Since independence in 1991, successive Lithuanian governments have promised to give the country’s 200,000 Polish-speakers — representing 6 percent of the population — more freedom to use their native language, but little has happened.
Lithuanian language laws still require passports and street signs to be written in the Lithuanian alphabet, which doesn’t have the letters q, w and x and uses diacritical marks on the bottom of letters a, e, i and u.
Resentment is growing in the Polish-speaking east, in rural villages like Maisiagala, whose 2,000 residents celebrate New Year’s one hour after the rest of Lithuania to conform with Poland’s time zone.
“They should have amended that stupid law a long time ago and let us live in peace. This has gone on for too long,” said 60-year-old Stanislawa Monkewicz, a retired teacher. Her name is Stanislava Monkevic in Lithuanian.

I have to agree that it is a stupid law. (Thanks, Bonnie!)


  1. Oh, what the heck. I’ll argue with you.
    It’s Lithuania. Passports, street signs, and official documents are written in Lithuanian. Why should they be written in Polish? In the US we don’t issue passports in Russian or Polish or Chinese etc for American citizens from those countries or who are descendents of people who came from there.
    The article doesn’t make clear if Poles are discriminated against in other ways (if there are schools in Polish, etc.). Language is a touchy issue everywhere, and particularly in the Baltic states, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the Poles have a legitimate gripe about using their language. But I don’t agree that their Lithuanian passports should be written in Polish.

  2. Perhaps they’re getting their own back for the great kingdom being called Poland-Lithuania rather than Lithuania-Poland?
    More seriously, I wouldn’t be surprised if the language laws are aimed at the Russian inhabitants, the Poles suffering merely collateral damage.

  3. Yeah, mab, American passports should be in American. Iroquoian, preferably, or Navajo.

  4. I don’t agree that their Lithuanian passports should be written in Polish.
    It’s not a matter of passports being written in Polish, it’s a matter of people’s names being written the way they should be. Would you like it if you weren’t allowed to spell your name correctly on official documents?

  5. The same problems were reported in Latvia for Russian names written in passports with the addition of Latvian nominal case suffix “s”.

  6. Mab:
    There can be no question that the Lithuanian government has the technical capability of printing w on its passports, which might serve as a (feeble, in the age of Unicode) defense in the case of ć, ł, ń, ó, ś, ź, ż. Lithuanian orthography is partly derived from Polish anyway (they share ą, ę, though with different meanings), and Polish printing must go on all the time in Lithuania.

  7. They wouldn’t be having this problem if they printed all these names and everything else in hanzi. Knuckle-dragging barbarians. They probably even put milk in their tea.

  8. michael farris says

    Poles most decidely do not put milk in their tea. The concept exists (called bawarka) but is very limited in distribution, being associated with pregnant women. People used to look at me funny when I asked for milk for my tea (so I stopped and started having lemon like everyone else except at home).
    On this issue: This low grade hostility has been going on for years and years and supposedly a compromise is just around the corner and the compromise somehow never happens. I don’t know why the w is such a big issue since ł,ś,ć,ń and ó aren’t used in Lithuanian either. Technically with current technology both countries should be able to accomodate the orthography of both languages (if it were a technological problem).
    As you might expect, the Polish (government) side is not blameless either. I’m not sure about documents (though native names do rarely use v). But IINM Poles have better access to native language education in Lithuania than the Lithuanian minority in Poland has. I remember an articlea few years ago on local government short funding Lithuanian medium schools in the NW in violation of the latest agreement.
    I’ve read that Polish language and culture is felt to be more of a threat to Lithuanian identity than Russian is because Russian culture was forced on Lithuania and wasn’t as attractive while in the past Lithuanian nobility had a habit of Polonizing in speech and customs (Adam Mickiewicz and Czesław Milosz were ethnic Lithuanians who wrote in Polish).
    There might be something to that – I’ve heard from colleagues who’ve been there that knowledge of Polish is surprisingly widespread in Lithuania (and was flabbergasted to hear a Lithuanian friend from esperanto circles converse in pretty fluent Polish a couple of years ago as I’d had no previous indication that she knew the language at all).

  9. Can one have an ñ on an American passport? On most state drivers licenses?

  10. It’s not a matter of passports being written in Polish, it’s a matter of people’s names being written the way they should be.
    But Hat, “the way they should be” is… in Polish. It’s Lithuania. Lithuanian doesn’t have a “w”. It’s not the Latin alphabet they are using, it’s the Lithuanian alphabet, because…well.. it’s Lithuania.
    Would you like it if you weren’t allowed to spell your name correctly on official documents?
    Well, my last name ISN’T spelled “correctly” on my official documents. This probably won’t come out right (the coding problem), but the “correct” spelling of my last name is Áåðäié. On my American passport it’s Berdy. On my Russian documents it’s Áåðäè. Why is that so heinous? Your name gets written in the language of the country you are a citizen of — or in the case of visas, etc., in the language of the country you are visiting. When Poles become American citizens, their US passports aren’t written “the way they should be.” There are no diacritical marks used. Why beat up on Lithuania?

  11. Tell me about it. It’s just plain old Latin-1, I tell them, but do they listen?

  12. It’s not a “stupid” law – it’s simply malicious. To me a stupid law is one that makes no sense – this law makes perfect sense, the point being to let Poles know that Lithuania is not theirs. I don’t any Poles who want to reincorporate Lithuania, so I imagine the law is mostly motivated by projection and paranoia. Still Poland’s “national poem” (Pan Tadeusz) begins “Litwo! Ojczyzno moja! Ty jesteś jak zdrowie” (O Lithuania, my country, you are like good health) so even Polish school children are taught, at some level to think of Lithuania as “theirs”.
    Dearieme – Lithuania actually was not heavily Russified during the Soviet Era, not like Latvia or Estonia. I was there back when it was still in the USSR (1990), and had trouble finding people who could speak decent Russian. Lithuania’s national pride issues are definitely with the Poles.

  13. On the other-hand, to play Devil’s advocate, are German-Americans allowed to use Eszett or umlauts? I think the name Große has to spelled “Grosse” and Müller is always spelled Mueller.

  14. Would you like it if you weren’t allowed to spell your name correctly on official documents?

    You mean how I had to be йенс on my Russian visa?

  15. michael farris says

    “Stanislawa Monkewicz, a retired teacher. Her name is Stanislava Monkevic in Lithuanian.”
    I’m pretty sure her Polish name is Monkiewicz (the sequence ‘ke’ doesn’t really exist in Polish.
    Also, the w is a relatively minor issue in comparison with previous name disputes where the Lithuanian government wanted Polish names to take Lithuanian endings so that Kowalski and Kowalska became Kovalskas (and Kovalske with a dot over the e IIRC).
    Also, that issue is relatively minor compared to a proposed education law that would increase the number of subjects taught in Lithuanian (even in minority language medium schools) and close some Polish schools altogether. It’s been postponed a couple of months but it’s a more important issue than the one mentioned here.
    Also, umlauts and tildes are different from w which is an ASCII ad latin 1 character which can be written with no extra effort on any latin based keyboard….

  16. J. W. Brewer says

    See also English is one of the relatively few languages which standardly uses all 26 letters of the “Roman” alphabet (post the very post-Roman adoption of the I/J and U/V distinctions) and also standardly uses no diacritical marks. So it’s easy from our POV to say the Lithuanians should and could costlessly accommodate the Polish-speakers as to the W but perhaps not as to the diacritics. And it’s probably right, since most computer hardware/software is designed to be used by Anglophones in the first instance (do Lithuanian bureaucrats have special W-less keyboards for their computers?). But it’s still kind of imperialistic.
    I understand from a learned Lithuanian-American friend that back during the Czarist era Lithuanian nationalists were divided between a more cosmopolitan faction that sought some degree of common cause with the Poles and a romanticized restoration of the old polyglot Grand Duchy and a narrower, more linguistic-nationalist faction (whom he claims were also more prone to be “cafe socialists”), with the latter faction prevailing in the smaller-than-present-boundaries Lithuania that existed between the world wars and thus having the leg up when practical sovereignty was finally restored after its unfortunate post-1940 interruption (with no one interested in giving post-Soviet Poland back the land Stalin had reassigned to the Lithuanian SSR, including Vilnius/Wilno itself).

  17. vanya, I stand corrected.

  18. Vanya: As Fluellen says in Henry V: “If the enemy is an ass and a fool and a prating coxcomb, is it meet, think you, that we should also, look you, be an ass and a fool and a prating coxcomb? in your own conscience, now?”
    (The hesitation phrases “think you” and “look you” give him time to finish translating from Welsh in his head.)

  19. I think there is a difference between immigrant countries like the U.S. and these Old World countries, so it’s slightly misleading to equate their situations too closely.
    The difference is that German-Americans make no potential territorial claims or claims to independence from the U.S. It’s a case of ‘we came to your country, so we accept that we should try and fit in’. In places like Lithuania/Poland, it’s more like ‘We’ve always lived here and we belong more to the neighbouring country than we do to you. If there’s ever another realignment of boundaries, don’t worry, you might find a little chunk out of your territory’. That’s one of the most toxic aspects of ethnicity and territorial nationalism and in long-settled nations.
    Americans (and Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, etc.) don’t face the problem of indigestible national groups that Old World nations face because they’ve basically ‘neutralised’ most problems of national identity among the ethnic groups who originally inhabited their territories.

  20. do Lithuanian bureaucrats have special W-less keyboards for their computers?
    In LST 1582:2000, W and Q are over on the right near the Įvesti key.
    There is a Latvian keyboard layout which requires AltGr to get q, w, y and x, so they aren’t on the keycaps.

  21. But the “Litwa” of Mickiewicz’s poem is not the Lithuania of today but a much larger area populated mostly by Slavic speakers. It included most of present-day Belarus, and the Grandduchy’s official language was Slavic — first Old Belarusan (let’s call it so), then Polish. Vilinus (Wilno, rather) was a Polish and Jewish city before WWII. Mickiewicz himself was Lithuanian in that broad sense, which does not mean his ancestors ever spoke Lithuanian.

  22. Bathrobe, I agree that the situation in the Baltics is different than in the US. Borders changed and national groups found themselves in another country. Or Russians were moved to a place that spoke Russian and then woke up one morning to learn that the national language was now Estonian. The new nations are small and feared that their language and cultures would disappear or become marginalized. Language and educational policies were generally pretty awful at first (discrimination against minorities). On the other hand, the minorities were sometimes pretty awful at first, too. It’s complicated and when you listen to arguments on both sides, you tend to agree with one, then agree with the other, then argee with the first…
    So I understand that this is just a focal point for anger and discomfort about other issues. But I still think a country has the right to issue passports in the national language. In fact, I think they have to. For one thing, if they issue ethnic Poles passports in Polish, then they’d have to issue ethnic Russians passports in Russian, etc.

  23. Forgive me if I’m wrong, but I thought they were aggrieved not because passports weren’t in Polish, but because they couldn’t use their Polish names in their passports.
    If it comes to that, the Chinese are far worse because ethnic minorities are forced to use Chinese characters to write their name in their passports. This I’ve found from looking at the passports of ethnic Mongols. Of course, some Mongls actually have Chinese names (i.e., they have both a Mongolian-language name as their native name and a Chinese name for public use), in which case they use their Chinese name in their passport. But even if they don’t have or use a Chinese name, their Mongolian name is rendered in Chinese characters in their passport. And the alphabetic rendition of that name is a transliteration of the Chinese characters into pin’yin. I suspect the same applies to Uighurs, Tibetans, etc.

  24. I think there is a more or less established practice: if there is a regional (ethnic) autonomy then passports and other documents are printed in the language of that ethnic group as well as the main language of the country. British passports have parallel texts in Welsh and Irish, but not in Hindi or Bengali or Arabic. New Zealand passports have the text in Maori. Old Soviet passports had Russian and comprising republican, including autonomous republics, versions, including Lithuanian.
    What’s the current situation, do you know, Mab? There has been a lot of grumbling about the new Russian passports.

  25. Thank goodness we can have a civilized disagreement about this without anyone calling anyone else names!
    And mab, while I respect your point of view, nobody’s talking about “passports in Polish”—it’s just a matter of writing a person’s name the way that person spells it. Of course it’s a different issue when a different alphabet is involved, which is why I don’t think Russia (let alone China) is relevant here, and I can, by stretching my credulity, imagine that Polish diacritical marks not shared by Lithuanian might be an issue, but to refuse to let people write their names with w is (or seems to me) sheer malice.

  26. mab,
    Your name gets written in the language of the country you are a citizen of
    You are, like many before, confusing language and script.
    Why beat up on Lithuania?
    Because THIS. IS. (EASTERN) EUROPE!!!11! where good manners demand that you make allowances for the fact that your country used a part of a multilingual state and many things, including people’s names, still reflect that. Even the stupid Slovak government lets me have a Hungarian ö in my name, so for the Lithuanians to deny the Polish their w is really petty and, well, stupid.

  27. J.W. Brewer says

    Again, it seems the reasonable-compromise position being promoted by hat is that: a) Lithuania need not necessarily provide for Polish-origin names to be written in passports in the Polish alphabet; but b) it is “sheer malice” for names in Lithuanian passports to be written mandatorily as transliterated into the Lithuanian alphabet, such that at a minimum c) Polish names should be written in Lithuanian passports as transliterated into the English alphabet. (We can call the English alphabet the “ISO basic Latin alphabet” if we want, but, really, who’s fooling whom — the ISO was probably just recognizing the reality that in the modern era these different silly groups of bloody foreigners will get along better with each other if they can all function in English to some extent.) Note, for what it’s worth, that “W” was not part of the original Roman inventory of letters and is used for native-origin words only in a decided minority of European languages using Roman-derived alphabets (a quite narrow belt running east-west from Polish to Welsh, says wikipedia).

  28. J.W. Brewer says

    Which doesn’t mean bulbul’s point is unreasonable.

  29. Sash: British passports have parallel texts in Welsh and Irish
    Well, kind of. I’ve just renewed my British passport. They’ve got “EUROPEAN UNION” as Yr Undeb Ewropeaidd and Aonadh Eòrpach; they’ve got “UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN AND NORTHERN IRELAND” as Teyrnas Gyfunol Prydain Fawr a Gogledd Iwerddon and Rioghachd Aonaichte Bhreatainn is Eireann a Tuath; and they’ve got Pasbort, Cead-siubhail and PASSPORT. Everything else is only in English, except for “THIS PAGE IS RESERVED FOR OFFICIAL OBSERVATIONS ONLY/”, which is also in French, as are the words “Name, Address, Telephone”. There are footnotes at the back in 22 languages (including Welsh), translating words like “Surname” and “Sex” (not “gender”, thank god). Solely in (old) French is “HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE” and “DIEU ET MON DROIT”. Some of this seems to be as much to acknowledge the existence of these languages as to impart information, so that’s nice. It’s not just some EU rule either, since Wales isn’t a separate member of the EU. The modern French is, I suppose, a leftover from the days when French was Europe’s diplomatic language.
    The really important stuff is, of course, only in English, in copperplate script: Her Britannic Majesty’s Secretary of State Requests and requires in the Name of Her Majesty all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance, and to afford the bearer such assistance and protection as may be necessary. They’re too chicken to translate that bit.

  30. michael farris says

    “Polish names should be written in Lithuanian passports as transliterated into the English alphabet.”
    That makes no sense whatsoever. Jan Kowalski is a Polish name, Janas Kovalskas (the form previously required by the Lithuanian government) is a Lithuanian name. Jan Kovalski is a name in neither. Yan Kovalsky might be an English transliteration but Jan Kowalski isn’t
    IIRC there was a proposal for official records to allow for the use of (paraphrasing) ‘letters found on the keyboards of both countries). But it

  31. michael farris says

    “good manners demand that you make allowances for the fact that your country used a part of a multilingual state and many things, including people’s names, still reflect that”
    Good point. But …. THIS IS EASTERN EUROPE!!!
    Good manners (or rational considerations of any kind) rarely enter into political issues into confrontational blustering has been exhausted.

  32. In British passports “Rìoghachd Aonaichte….” is Scottish Gaelic, you can tell the difference from the use of diacritics “ì” (Irish “í”).

  33. Bob Violence says

    “The modern French is, I suppose, a leftover from the days when French was Europe’s diplomatic language.”
    The International Civil Aviation Organization (the closest thing to an international regulatory body for passports, although it can only make recommendations and not actual rules) still says that all passports should have English and French. Lots of countries don’t bother with French anymore, but U.S., Mexican and Australian passports still have it, at least. The EU has its own passport regulations and English/French are mandatory for the ID page.

  34. There is no W in the Lithuanian alphabet.
    There is no V in the Polish alphabet.
    For that matter, there is no W in the Latin alphabet either. It’s a bastard letter introduced by Germanic tribes, and my anglophone wife makes fun of me all the time because I tend to mispronounce it as V (or swap the two).
    None of these alphabets have the perfectly legitimate Icelandic letter ð either.
    While a monolingual passport makes sense, I think Lithuania could allow multilingual street signs without risking the formation of a secessionist movement.

  35. michael,
    Good manners (or rational considerations of any kind) rarely enter into political issues into confrontational blustering has been exhausted.
    Indeed. Which is why my name starts with the Slovak č and not the Hungarian cs 🙂
    Ah well, Eastern Europe, gotta love those guys…

  36. Eel, I missed the diacritic – the eyesight isn’t what it once was – but Scottish would make more sense. That’s the other side of having foreign languages in your passports, the implication that Ireland might be part of the UK isn’t to everyone’s taste.

  37. Andrew Woode says

    AJP Krone:
    Does anyone know why the Welsh text on UK passports uses “Teyrnas Gyfunol” rather than the standard “Teyrnas Unedig for “UK”? Possibly just incompetence (“Observations page” is translated “Sylwadau tudalen” as though the English were random unconnected words not a possessive/adjectival construction, while “Place of Birth” is translated as “man geni” (Birthmark) ).
    (I’m looking at my own passport, issued in 07, so it’s just possible they’ve corrected some of these since then.)

  38. Her Britannic Majesty’s Secretary of State Requests and requires in the Name of Her Majesty all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance, and to afford the bearer such assistance and protection as may be necessary.
    Tell that to the TSA !

  39. “Tell that to the TSA !”
    Yes, exactly. But “Requests and requires” is a bit much; it’s almost like saying “Look, moosh, we can do this the easy way or we can do it the hard way”. The US passport, for example, only “requests”.
    Andrew Woode, “Place of Birth” is still Man Geni. If after going to the trouble of translating it it’s wrong, then it behooves Welsh speakers to make a fuss about it until it’s fixed. Otherwise, the Welsh version might just as well not be there.

  40. Andrew Woode says

    I may have spoken too soon on “man geni” – the Wicipedia article is definitely about birthmarks with no mention of birthplaces, which explains why it is the meaning I knew, but some other sites do use it for “Place of birth”. The other oddities don’t seem to have such an obvious explanation.

  41. aquilluqaaq says

    According to, both Teyrnas Gyfunol and man geni are fine:
    Enwebiad ar Gyfer Un o Anrhydedddau’r Deyrnas Gyfunol: Ffurflen gais.
    Mae’n adeilad pwysig sydd ag arwyddocâd hanesyddol, fel man geni’r Parchedig Rhys Pritchard, sef pregethwr a changhellor nodedig Tŷ Ddewi.

  42. Utterly unrelated comment shamelessly exploiting the fact that I know there are brilliant linguists here who will research anything it’s drawn across their path, like cats who can’t resist a twitched string. I recently came across the medical name “innominate bone” for the hip bone (the fused ilium, ischium, and pubis) and a cursory search — the only kind I know how to do — landed me with this (to me bogus sounding) etymology: that it was call innominate because nobody could come up with anything that it looked like. That of course is absurd: it looks very like an elephant’s ear from one side, and like a brooding vulture from another; hell, there’s hundreds of things it looks like. But if does any of you know the real story here, or care to sniff it out? Before Hat rightly deletes this as a piece of utterly non-Polish and non-Lithuanian effrontery?

  43. “man geni” (meaning ‘birthmark’ as well) is a set phrase; the usual word in its general sense for ‘place’ being “lle”.

  44. michael farris says

    “Before Hat rightly deletes this as a piece of utterly non-Polish and non-Lithuanian effrontery?”
    Won’t happen (unless you’re address is selling penis enlargement pills or something like that). He hates spammers almost as much as I do but Hat’s always welcomed other kinds of off-topic comments.
    Can’t help with the name thing though, sorry.

  45. No pills. Rich in typos, though, sorry about that.

  46. @dale: The Oxford English Dictionary (; currently freely available with the username and password “trynewoed“) points to the Latin phrase “Os innominatus”. Searching Google for that Latin plus “etymology” turns up Mohammad Diab’s 1999 Lexicon of Orthopaedic Etymology as indexed by Google Books, which says that the Latin is Vesalius‘s translation of Galen‘s Greek ὀστέον ἀνώνυμον osteon anonumon “anonymous bone”. [direct page-link] A Google search for the Latin phrase plus “Galen” pulls up other sources that corroborate that (more or less), but — tellingly — none, so far as I can find, that explain why Galen called it that. So I imagine that Galen didn’t explain it, and that that’s probably as much as we can know; but if you want to track down the source (presumably his On Bones for Beginners) and find out for yourself, I’d be interested to hear!

  47. Sashura, as far as I know, Russian passports are entirely in Russian, but I’m not sure sure about, say, Chechnya or Buryatiya. Good question.
    Am I confusing script and language? A bit, I suppose. But if the Lithuanian alphabet doesn’t use “w,” I still don’t see why they should make an exception for the Poles. (That would involve using a different alphabet, Hat, so why not then use a different alphabet for the Russians?) Yes, I see that’s it’s part of a bigger issue, but I think “sheer malice” is way too strong. Yes, I understand why the Poles are disturbed, but I suppose because my name gets spelled variously in various documents, I’m used to it. I know that my last name is Lemko (small transcarpathian ethnic group) despite the fact that it looks Italian in Russian and who knows what in English.
    This might be illogical, but I’d probably feel differently if the Poles made up a larger part of the Lithuanian population or if they had some kind of autonomous status. Perhaps that’s what they want.

  48. Dale,
    what Ran said, except I have here a copy of Jesenius’ De ossibus tractatus where here traces the Greek name ὀστέον ἀνώνυμον to Oribasius (Оρειβάσιος Σαρδιανός), not Galen. And as this book points out (p. 269), Galen didn’t really call it that, in De ossibus ad tirones (sometimes incorrectly given as ‘tyrones’) he merely said of the bone “Ossa, quae nullum nomen sibi totis impositum sortiuntur” (roughly: “bones for which no name at all was established”*), Greek “μηδὲν ἐφ᾽ ὅλων ἑαυτῶν ὄνομα κείμενον ἔχοντα” (according to this). I can’t judge the reliability of that information, but if it is indeed correct, than I guess the explanation would be “it’s called that because it’s been called that since someone misread the words of an authority.”
    * Can anybody help me out with sortiuntur here? I know the form and the meaning, but can’t figure out the meaning here. Thx.

  49. Mab,
    That would involve using a different alphabet
    No, it wouldn’t. It would just involve using a character they don’t normally use, something most nations in Europe that use the Latin script are pretty comfortable with.
    And considering Lithuanian history, it is pretty ironic (though not entirely unexpected) that the Lithuanians would deny someone else the right to write as they wish.
    I suppose because my name gets spelled variously in various documents, I’m used to it.
    But do you understand AND accept that other people might not be and legitimately so?
    In other words, do you acknowledge and affirm that not everybody is like you? If you do, welcome to the First Church of Bulbul, where this is the chief commandment. Others include “Don’t be a dick”, “Share”, “Set your cellphone to vibrate at all times” and so on, but I think this one is really the most important one as so much suffering has been cause throughout history by people who believe that everyone is and/or must be just like them.

  50. >> But if the Lithuanian alphabet doesn’t use “w,”
    It is just denial. Although w is not used in Lithuanian names for all practical purposes Lithuanians use letter w daily. Just look at their government web sites most commonly starting with www 😉
    Long live Latin-1 charset!

  51. I have just joined the First Church of Bulbul, which resonates strongly with my inner beliefs.

  52. aquilluqaaq says

    ossa, quae nullum nomen sibi totis impositum sortiuntur
    […] μηδὲν ἐφ᾽ ὅλων ἑαυτῶν ὄνομα κείμενον ἔχοντα.
    It looks to me as if the Latin clause pretty much translates the Greek word-for-word with quae … sortiuntur for ἔχοντα: ‘bones, which receive no name (that has been) established for them all’.

  53. Jurģis Pušķītis says

    Yes, yes, stupid law. I hope all other countries, except our stupid two Baltic countries, have laws in place that ensure that my name would be written correctly …
    It is impossible to view this problem from the point of view of another, different language – I do not discuss English/French/Chinese language issues from the point of view of Latvian.

  54. Ah, y’all are magnificent! Now this is an etymology I can believe in. Galen threw up his hands and said “you know, the whatsit bones, everyone calls them something different!” and centuries of dutiful students solemnly wrote down “Whatsit Bones.”

  55. Jurģis: It’s funny you are mentioning this as recently the Supreme Court of Latvia had to make a decision regarding even more trivial issue – whether the state was right in denying parents the right to give their child a name “Otto”. According to the Latvian orthographic rules double ‘tt’ is not used in names, so the Birth Registry insisted that it should be registered as “Oto”.
    The Supreme Court, while noting that the Latvian orthographic rules have a legitimate and cultural reasons for maintaining cultural and linguistic unity, nevertheless decided that the rights to the privacy were violated in this case and the state had no reason to reject the name “Otto”.
    Many pseudo-linguists have decried this outcome with statements that “the courts have no right to decide on grammar laws (sic)”. And that this decision is “degrading the Latvian language”. I think that the opponents should look closer in the face of reality. As the Supreme Court rightly noted, previously there have been more than a hundred children registered with a name “Otto” by the same Birth Registry without objections.

  56. Well, I see we’ve left the realm of polite discourse. Bulbul, if you read what I wrote, you’d know the answer to your question.

  57. mab,
    please be assured that the “Don’t be a dick” part was not aimed at you and no offense at all was meant.
    As for the answer to my question, well, thing is, you seem to be arguing that the outrage on the part of Poles of Lithuania is not legitimate. Am I wrong?

  58. hat,
    I’m proud to announce you have just been elected a presbyter.
    that makes sense, thanks. Still, doesn’t the usage of that verb strike you as odd? Or is it just my Latin that fails me?
    LOL. Perhaps we could double check, but it does sound right.

  59. Yes, bulbul, you are wrong. If you read everything I wrote, you’d see that.

  60. michael farris says

    mab, you wrote: “Passports, street signs, and official documents are written in Lithuanian. Why should they be written in Polish?”
    When the issue is not the entire passport (which no one is saying shouldn’t be in Lithuanian) but the strange insistence by the Lithuanian government that the names of Lithuanian citizens can’t have the letter w in them.
    That is beyond bizarre in the context of modern European countries that use some form of the Latin alphabet.
    Especially since I just looked up a Lithuanian newspaper and found
    “A.Schwarzeneggeriui kainavo 200 mln. dolerių”
    “NBA rungtynėse – neįtikėtinas „Timberwolves“ žaidėjo D.Miličičiaus metimas į savo komandos krepšį”
    which would tend to indicate that w can appear in Lithuanian after all.

  61. michael,
    did you catch this one?
    “ragiški įvykiai Vilniuje 1991 metų sausį prisidėjo prie galutinio komunizmo žlugimo Vidurio ir Rytų Europoje, ketvirtadienį teigė buvęs Lenkijos prezidentas ir šalies išsivadavimo simbolis Lechas Walesa.”
    OT: While searching for the Lithuanian version, I found this. Executive summary: signs with street names in Polish were ordered to be removed from the streets of Vilnius and even before that, a Polish school bearing the name of Emilia Plater was ordered to be renamed to Emilijos Pliaterytės mokykla (or something like that).
    well I know you understand why the Polish are disturbed, but there’s nothing in what you said that would indicate you think they have a right/good reason to be so. You think they would if there was more of them (how many more, I wonder) or if they had some sort of autonomous status.

  62. There are quite a few anatomical things called “innominate” because no traditional name exists for them, either because they are parts of something else that is named, or (as in this case) because their parts have names but they themselves do not. There is even a Fluvius Innominatus (“Central Creek” vulgo dicitur) in California. So “innominate” is paradoxical: the very namelessness itself becomes a name. While I’m at it, here’s a list of ten innominate protagonists.
    Emilia Plater: What a story! Of course, as a Liv (or perhaps a German) she’d probably say “A curse on all your houses” today.

  63. Argh.
    In my first post my rather cavalier beginning should indicate that I’m not fighting to the death on this issue. I also wrote somewhere that when you listen to all the sides in these conflicts, you tend to argee with all of them. In my role of devil’s advocate (“what the heck”) I’m reminding you of the position of Lithuania, which youse guys seem to forget. They are sensitive — probably/possibly overly so — to their language after decades of not being able to develop it freely. They are nervous about Polish influence. They’ve also got a Russian population about the size of their Polish minority and a nasty Russian neighbor, and that makes them nervous, too. I’m not a specialist in this, but it seems to me that countries transcribe/write people’s names on their passports and documents in the country’s language/alphabet (unless there is a minority with some kind of autonomous status). So Lithuania is following international practice.
    I’d also like to point out that nowhere in the article is there any indication of how many of the 200,000 Poles in Lithuania are angry about the missing “w.” So maybe you all are getting ready to storm the streets of Lithuania for 15 Poles.
    And I’d like to point out that there is a difference between what newspapers and stores do and what the government does on official documents.
    And yes, I understand the Poles’ desire to have their name spelled the way they want even if it doesn’t make much of a difference to me.
    My point is not that I’m firmly on the side of the no-w Lithuanians and totally against the w-loving Poles. It’s this: there are two sides to the argument. I don’t think it is a clear-cut “one side is wrong” issue, and I think the outrage expressed here is a bit over the top.

  64. J.W. Brewer says

    American passports are now trilingual with respect to some parts (e.g. “Place of birth / Lieu de naissance / Lugar de nacimiento”). But don’t go thinking those bits of Spanish mean you can demand a tilde in your name on such a government-issued document; here in American, your name can reflect any ethnic/linguistic origin you want as long you express it within the limitations of our character set. I can’t tell from the NYT story if the ethnic-Poles would settle for the W as a stable compromise, or if they’d then be emboldened to demand the L with a diagonal thingie through it (which is of course the letter used in written Polish to mean “W” since they use “W” to mean “V”, perhaps following the errors of the Germans).
    There’s discussion of this and related topics at the Economist a few months back:

  65. Interesting (endless) comments on the Economist piece, from which I learned (in a bad translation):
    “If a person wishes, the following information shall be additionally included in the passport:
    8.1. on page 3:
    8.1.2. the original form of a personal name of another language in the transliteration of the Latin alphabet or the historical form of the family surname if the orthography of the personal name on page 2 of the passport differs from the orthography of the personal name in the document of the person, in which it is written in the original form of another language or differs from the personal name, or the historical form of the family surname. The person shall documentarily certify the orthographical difference of the personal name. Transliteration in the Latin alphabet shall be carried out in accordance with the transliteration table (Annex 1) determined by the ICAO”

  66. Jurģis Pušķītis says

    kaspar m, ej ieskrieties 😛 Tu par morfoloģiju esi ko dzirdējis?
    (not to be rude, I will translate the above:
    kaspars m, shut up, have you ever herd of morphology)

  67. Jurģis Pušķītis says


  68. michael farris says

    mab, I’m sympathetic to Lithuanian concerns (really) and in the same region I was firmly on the Latvian side in their dispute with the EU over Eiro vs Euro.
    But the w thing just seems so …. petty. I could understand them not wanting to mess with Polish diacritics like ś or ń or ł (I think non-local diacritics should be a matter of local discretion) but w? I wonder how they handle names thst are made up of letters from the Lithuanian set but which might be pronounced differently?

  69. Of course it’s a different issue when a different alphabet is involved, which is why I don’t think Russia (let alone China) is relevant here
    I’m not sure why this should be regarded as a different issue. Are you saying that letting the Poles use ‘w’ in their names is such an easy thing to do that failure to do so is just being mean and spiteful? Whereas the wholesale imposition of what is essentially an alien, distorting script, and the insistence that all names should then be transliterated into Latin letters via that alien script, is an issue of a totally different dimension and can thus be ignored? I’m not sure of the reasoning here.
    One thing I’d like to point out is that when governments create ‘standards’, there is a strong inclination on the part of many to religiously stick to those standards, even trivial standards like enforcing an alphabet. Some have pointed out that the Lithuanians are selective about enforcing the ‘w’ issue (e.g. use of the spelling Schwarzenegger). This is perfectly understandable, because what is at stake here is not foreign movies stars and governors; it’s the ability of the state to enforce national uniform standards within its boundaries. The Lithuanians feel that they have a right to ensure that street signs and names within their country conform to their own national standards, and not those of a neighbouring country. In a sense, it’s an issue of ‘national sovereignty’.
    I’m not defending the Lithuanians by any means. But while you might see it as a trivial issue for the Lithuanians to allow the use of ‘w’ if they really wanted, it is in fact the same issue as the imposition of (simplified) Chinese characters and putonghua as the standard language and script for all citizens of China, whether ethnically Han or not. The fact that ethnic minorities are forced to write their names in Chinese characters in their passports, and forced to transcribe their name in the highly distorted form of pinyin, is just as much the imposition of majority ethnic standards as the refusal of the Lithuanians to let the Poles use a ‘w’. In fact, it has a far greater distorting effect than the insistence on excluding ‘w’. Whether it’s a trivial issue like letting ethnic Poles spell their names how they want, or a major issue like forcing one language and one script on important ethnic languages in the outer regions of China, the issue is the same: the enforcing of the standards of the majority ethnic group within the nation state. I would argue that it’s not an issue of pragmatics; it’s really about the imposition of a state standard by the ‘majority’ or ‘defining’ ethnic group — and, what we both probably find distasteful — about the chauvinism of the dominant group towards smaller groups within the country.

  70. Jurģis: Your reply seems rude. Why should I shut up for stating my agreement with the decision of the Supreme Court?
    The SC agreed that the state certainly can put certain rules about how names are transcribed and written. On the other hand the state cannot disregard the rights of citizens to their private life. A person’s name is certainly a part of a private life. It is a question of balancing personal interests with a public good.
    I won’t go into details how the name “Otto” can be against a public good in Latvia or letter w in Lithuania. But in both countries a lot of people consider these extremely strict rules to be a relic of Soviet times when there was much less personal freedom.

  71. The examples from the British passport aren’t really about a kindly and thoughtful nod to minorities: both Welsh and (Scottish) Gaelic have a degree of official status.

  72. Bathrobe, if you read through the comments on the Economist piece, after your head stops spinning you’ll see that yes, of course it is a question of national sovereignty. But it isn’t just the ethnic majority in Lithuania being unsympathetic or chauvinistic to the Polish minority. Polish politicians are just about ready to go to the mat over this. So it’s also a larger and more powerful country (Poland) threatening (in the Lithuanian perception) the national sovereignty of a smaller country (Lithuania). The fact that they had a shared past and that in that past Poland was the dominant cultural/political force, the Lithuanians get nervous.
    Again — boringly — I’m not fighting the Lithuanian position to the death. Just sayin’ that it’s not cut and dried.

  73. Picky, my point was different. I didn’t say or mean that it was a kindly or thoughtful nod, merely “Some of this seems to be as much to acknowledge the existence of these languages as to impart information, so that’s nice”. The Welsh and Gælic don’t explain the meaning of the the few words that are translated (clarity, a foreigner needing an explanation is one reason for making a translation), they are there for symbolic purposes. Surely any native Welsh-speaker reading a passport would know that the English word for pasbort is “PASSPORT”.
    John Cowan: Hideous Kinky by Esther Freud
    The child narrator of Freud’s autobiographical novel omits all sorts of information that an adult would provide. Her account of living in Morocco with her sister and hippy mother is minutely observed, yet unsettled by our awareness of the missing facts about her life – which include her name.
    In fiction, I like the idea of the innominate protagonist. Paradoxically, it’s more real to me. I hardly ever think of myself as “AJP Crown” (or whatever my name is) doing something, I am more anonymous to myself than that. I’m more like Christopher Isherwood’s “I am a camera”.

  74. Jurģis Pušķītis says

    Kaspar, atvainojos, iekarsu.
    a court order is bureaucracy, not linguistics. having a court order on your hands does not mean that linguistic laws can be thrown in a dust bin…

  75. Jurģis Pušķītis says

    As I said, one cannot discuss these issues from the point of view of different languages. In Lithuanian it is the pronunciation that matters. In English it is the spelling (- The name is “Bouqet”. – Could you spell it? – Bucket. 🙂 ) So how you can defend an opinion about Lithuanian based on English?
    The argument about Lithuanians using ‘w’ is lame. It is used on the Internet, not in Lithuanian. We just know that it is www (and we still call it ‘ve’, not ‘double v’ as it should be technically), whereas with surnames we would end up asking what v/w is there.
    The same about Latvian name Otto. Instead of knowing the language principles and knowing accordingly that it is Oto without questions, we now will have to ask every time those Oto/Otto persons whether it is single or double ‘t’… The next step would be allowing register names like ‘Chick92’ and ‘me_gorgeous_prince’, and Ottto with three ‘t’s.

  76. Jurģis Pušķītis says

    The point is, if we admit that language logic (which is there with purpose, not out of the blue) can be violated to allow characters not existing in the language’s alphabet(i.e. ‘w’) or double consonants where they are impossible in the language (Otto), then anything is permitted; for if we allow violating the language principles who is then entitled to draw the line behind which violations are not tolerated (e.g. you can have ‘w’, but not ‘x’, you can have Otto, but not Ottto etc)

  77. …oh, and I thought Kaspar’s comment was really interesting, Jurģis Pušķītis. What you call “linguistic laws” are laws in the sense of scientific laws, i.e. they could not be “broken” even if you wanted to, they are facts of life. Laws in the sense of a country’s legal code can (should) always be looked at again, amended, and sometimes reversed. Kaspar wrote:

    The Supreme Court, while noting that the Latvian orthographic rules have a legitimate and cultural reasons for maintaining cultural and linguistic unity, nevertheless decided that the rights to the privacy were violated in this case and the state had no reason to reject the name “Otto” [in favour of “Oto”].

    I personally find the idea of the state interfering in what I call my children, to be loathsome. It was hard enough for my wife and me to negotiate an agreement.

  78. Jurģis Pušķītis says

    To cut it short, Baltic languages are very well regulated (which means pros and cons, as all the things in the world have), so why take them to court just because a person feels like it…

  79. Jurģis Pušķītis says

    AJP Ratty,
    I agree that we can have freedom. But then it is either complete freedom (children having names like Wrtfdgs or Sexy69) or no freedom. As i understand it, you offer court-regulated freedom? Or am I mistaken 🙂

  80. J.W. Brewer says

    By analogy to the Latvian court ruling concerning “Otto,” maybe Stanislawa’s Lithuanian-government-issued documents could spell her name not Stanislava but Stanislavva, respecting the limits of the Lithuanian character set but not the language-specific rules for available combinations, and hearkening back to the middle ages when “W” started out as the simple digraph its English name still recalls. has a chart surveying 63 Latin-derived alphabets that use fewer than the full set of 26 letters employed in modern English, and W is tied with Q as most-frequently omitted (it also seems extremely common for such scripts to have V or W but not both).
    Re AJP’s point, here in the U.S. you can name your kids absolutely whatever the heck you want (including Ottto and worse), as long as you accept that the name will be spelled on government-issued documents without use of any letters outside the standard set used for American English. (Of course in prior centuries in Latvia there were no doubt plenty of boys named “Otto” born to the German-speaking gentry who lorded it over the Latvian-speaking peasantry — which may be exactly why the bureaucrats got upset in the first place.)
    But I’m thinking of starting a pressure group for the oppressed ethnic-Middle-English minority in the U.S. demanding the right to use edh, thorn, yogh, etc. in our names on government-issued documents.

  81. Actually, where I live (Norway) has regulations about names, but (thank goodness) my daughter was born in the USA, so it was too bloody late when the Norwegian authority wanted to put in their 2 cents. But in Britain and the USA (and, I’m sure many other countries) there’s no problem. It turns out no one wants to call their offspring “Sexy 69” – well maybe one or two, but with them that’s just the tip of the iceberg, they usually have much bigger social problems – that’s a self-imposed, internet phenomenon.
    And if you believe in a world of either complete freedom or no freedom, isn’t it illogical, if you’re going to control people’s names, to then allow them to color their hair blue or do other things that outrage the majority? I’d stop everyone from eating canned vegetables, I think it’s revolting.

  82. Jurģis Pušķītis says

    Furthermore, till 1918, most Latvian children were recorded in church books by German priests. So there were Jahnis (Jānis) (ā – long a), Jurris (Juris), Zappe (Zape), Jutta (Juta) etc etc, because in German (and other languages) they need to ‘close’ the syllable. Seems that Otto is the only one that has survived and is so sacred that the issue was taken to court 🙂

  83. Jurģis Pušķītis says

    AJP Ratt,
    somebody having blue hair concerns only and only them. there is no system. You don’t have court rulings allowing blue-yellow hair 🙂
    Whereas a language is a common system. If one exception is allowed, why stop (and where)…

  84. >> Of course in prior centuries in Latvia there were no doubt plenty of boys named “Otto” born to the German-speaking gentry who lorded it over the Latvian-speaking peasantry — which may be exactly why the bureaucrats got upset in the first place.
    Right on the point. In fact, the Latvian language didn’t have a phoneme [o] in the past and “Otto” was pronounced as “Atis” that is still a popular Latvian name. I am not sure about exact historic dates but gradually loan words with [o] became more common and it was accepted as a part of native phoneme inventory. Furthermore, Latvians distinguish [o] from [ō], so Otto/Oto is actually pronounced as [o^tō]. ^ indicates a short pause or a geminated [t].
    Latvian and Lithuanian doesn’t have a clear [v] or [w] phoneme but something in between, so only one letter is sufficient. But I would see no harm to allow Polish names to be written with ‘w’. If phonemes can change, why not orthographic conventions?

  85. Jurģis Pušķītis says

    so complete freedom then?:)
    I would call me Ttttt. Depending on my mood, I would claim one day that it is pronounced Ti: , but another day I would claim that it is pronounced Ti:ti:ti:ti:ti:, and still another day that it is Ti:ti: 🙂

  86. mab,
    I’m not fighting to the death on this issue
    Whatever issue worth fighting about comes up in these hallowed halls of hat, it is always fought over until death. The death of the thread, that is 🙂
    So Lithuania is following international practice.
    They certainly aren’t, see my comment on my own name above.
    I don’t think it is a clear-cut “one side is wrong” issue
    Well, it’s not an issue of Lithuanians vs. Poles as much as it is an issue of government vs. citizens. And in such cases, my position is that the government is nearly always wrong.

  87. >> If one exception is allowed, why stop (and where)…
    I would say that no language ever stops changing except dead ones.
    Latvian orthography is less phonetic than many of us want to believe. There are pronunciation changes creeping in and more and more exceptions accruing. Therefore I think that it is inevitable that sooner or later Latvians will discard the transliteration of foreign names. Inevitably it means that Latvians will have to get used to ask “how do you spell your name?” but is it such a bad thing?

  88. a language is a common system. If one exception is allowed,
    You aren’t acknowledging any difference between the rules of language and the rules of society. You’re fighting a battle that you are bound to lose. The Académie française can’t stop French people from using Anglo-Saxon words any more than the Anglo Saxons could stop Norman French words from infiltrating English.

  89. Jurģis,
    The next step would be allowing register names like ‘Chick92’
    Ah yes, the old ‘slippery slope’ argument.
    As i understand it, you offer court-regulated freedom?
    Also known as ‘rule of law’. Do you have any problem with that concept?
    Whereas a language is a common system. If one exception is allowed, why stop (and where)
    Except any language is an evolved system and any regulation of language makes choices that are, for lack of a better word, arbitrary. There is no particular reason other than human concensus for, say, Lithuanian lacking w or Latvian disallowing the consonant cluster -tt- in names. And if it these particular rules are nothing but a convention, we can change them any time we like, especially if the language or our attitudes towards it change.

  90. Jurģis Pušķītis says

    How do you imagine pronunciation changing in Latvian (except foreign proper nouns)?

  91. Jurģis Pušķītis says

    AJP Kverner,
    I am not fighting a battle. I care less than it seems 🙂 I just know, that there is no ‘W’ in Lithuanian and no Otto in Latvian. Some are battling to get them. So let them do the battle. And if they get Otto, let there be Otttto too. If Lithuanians implement w, let there be ß too.

  92. Just to give you a different perspective:
    According to the official Slovak Orthography Guide (Pravidlá slovenského pravopisu), the following letters make up the Slovak alphabet (Section I.2):
    a, á, ä, b, c, č, d, ď, dz, dž, e, é, f, g, h, ch, i, í, j, k, l, ĺ, ľ, m, n, ň, o, ó, ô, p, q, r, ŕ, s, š, t, ť, u, ú, v, w, x, y, ý, z, ž.
    Yet section III.1 goes on to say that
    V slovách cudzieho pôvodu, najmä v cudzích vlastných menách, niekedy sa používajú aj písmená alebo zložky, ktoré sa pri zapisovaní slovenských slov nepoužívajú
    (In borrowings from other languages, especially foreign names, letters are used which are normally not employed for writing native Slovak words)

    such as w, ö, ł, ś, ć, ã, ø and so on.
    Remember, that’s the über-purist Slovak linguists we’re talking about here.

  93. when you listen to all the sides in these conflicts, you tend to agree with all of them.
    Very true! But then one has to sort out the shades of agreement and decide who one agrees with more. Which is where the Church of Bulbul comes in:
    Well, it’s not an issue of Lithuanians vs. Poles as much as it is an issue of government vs. citizens. And in such cases, my position is that the government is nearly always wrong.
    And this is why I’m proud to be a presbyter!
    How do you imagine pronunciation changing in Latvian (except foreign proper nouns)?
    Pronunciation changes in all languages. This is the iron law of historical linguistics. And as others have said, your “if one tiny exception is allowed, EVERYTHING IS ALLOWED!” argument is untenable in the real world. It is the same argument that is used against various forms of social liberation that I won’t mention here because this is a language blog and I don’t want this thread to get any more contentious than it is!
    But seriously, even though it’s gotten a bit heated (no more “shut up,” please, even in semi-jest), it’s still been a civilized discussion of a touchy issue. I love you all!

  94. Also, this thread falls into the “How did this minor news story I tossed out there because I had nothing better to post wind up with over 90 comments??” category.

  95. Jurģis Pušķītis says

    I prefer linguistic debates. We may fight over different things, have different opinions, which may or not be right, and hold or move the grounds.:)
    But I am not interested in discussing linguistics with arguments like “bad government”, “court ruled”, “me likey/me likey not”.

  96. I think that in Latvian the biggest changes are in pitch accent system. Three intonations (sustained, falling and broken) are merged into two. Some linguistics say that it has already happened.
    Also long vowels are being shortened. They used to be twice as long as their respective short counterparts. The studies show that young people now pronounce them only 1.5 times longer.

  97. Jurģis Pušķītis says

    language hat,
    I cannot see, in current conditions, how pronunciation in the highly formalised Latvian could have major changes. Unless it gets replaced with the Latgalian or other dialect or gets influenced by Latvians returning from the UK and starting pronouncing “a” as “ey” or “i” as “ai”.

  98. Jurģis Pušķītis says

    yes, i agree about the intonations and length. I was thinking more about changes like saying “kelns” instead of “kalns”. But yes, as I said, even that is possible if many Latvians return from the UK 🙂
    Thus, I see no major internal changes, but there are more and more external factors. Nevertheless, the Latvian language probably will extinct sooner than undergo major changes…

  99. Changes do not happen in one day and people don’t even notice over the span of decades that they are speaking slightly differently.
    Sometimes it becomes apparent only when the spellchecker objects 🙂 For example, I am not alone among those who believed that there is a word “balzāms” not “balzams” as dictionaries instruct. But the list of common misspellings grows longer each year. That would not happen with ideally phonetic spelling. Here are some more examples:

  100. Almost (but not entirely) solely to be comment 100, despite the mention of the Welsh words in the British passport, I’m surprised no one has brought up the subject of Welsh names such as Llŷr: I would imagine the actor Llŷr Ifans, for example, finds it almost impossible to get his name written correctly on official documents outside Wales …

  101. As an American civic nationalist (yeah, that again), I think it’s a disgrace that an American citizen can’t get his own name properly spelled on his passport because it has non-English letters in it. Unfortunately, the spirit that renamed the town of De L’eau in Mississippi to Dlo (now generally D’Lo) is not yet dead.
    I can see the argument for banning non-Latin letters in names, never mind symbols and punctuation marks or non-Unicode characters like the “Prince” glyph. But people whose native script is Latin, however iggerant, can trivially learn to distinguish letters with and without diacritics (Italians excepted).

  102. michael farris says

    At the risk of double posting I’ll rephrase a post that seems to have not made it here.
    I stumbled across another comment thread on this topic where a Brazilian mentioned that the Brazilian government allowed people (immigrants and native born) to use k, w and y decades before they were officially admitted to the Portuguese alphabet.
    If the Brazilians could do it, why can’t the Lithuanians?

  103. Jurģis Pušķītis says

    Because Lithuanian is not Brazilian? 🙂
    And yes, we Balts are very cruel to foreigners. we put endings to all your names 🙂 (about declensions in Lithuanian
    We just need them to be able to make a meaningful conversation about you. So sorry, Michael, but you will be turned into Maikls (nom)- Maikla (gen)- Maiklam (dat) etc.
    Maybe one day it will be changed and then we will do Michael-s, Michael-a, Michael-am. But the ending will still be there 🙂

  104. michael farris says

    Hey I’m not entirely close-minded. I pronounce my last name differently in Polish than in English – roughly [‘faris] vs [fer@s] and have no problem with using a spelling pronuncation of my first name (pretty close to the German pronunciation) and have no problem with people declining my name (and do so myself when necessary) or even writing notes addressed to ‘Maik’ instead of Mike.
    That said, my residency documents in Poland are all under ‘Michael Farris’ which conflicts with Polish spelling/pronunciation rules at least as much as w does with Lithuanian.
    Finally I wonder what the Lithuanian government does with y are Poles obliged to use the Lithuanian pronunciation [i:] vs the the Polish one [I] when dealing with the government?

  105. Jurģis Pušķītis says

    But why insist so eagerly on introducing it (the w)? There is no letter w here and it can be easily replaced with the v we use. To me – if it gets introduced, OK, if not – it’s still OK.
    If in the UK/US/Australia they introduce all š, č, ž letters – I will be happy, but I have never even thought of asking for it.

  106. Jurģis Pušķītis says

    That is why the Polish y should be changed for Lithuanian i. And yes, if left unchanged , it would be pronounced i:. And again cause anger of the Polish person?:)
    I have not explored it much, but I think that in Latvia they now use to give the original spelling in parenthesis. So it is recognised that you are Michael Farris, but we call you Maikls Feriss to be able to handle your name to make a meaningless text with case endings. The solution I mentioned (doing Michael-s – Michael-am -Michael-u)could be better and might get introduced some day. It has been used in the 1930s.

  107. michael farris says

    “Maikls Feriss”
    I could live wit Maikls for conjugation purposes, but would prefer Faris (or maybe Fariss), does Latvian allow final vowel +s?

  108. Jurģis Pušķītis says

    Isn’t this funny – we are discussing a hypothetical case of Michael moving to Latvia 😀
    No, unless we introduce the Farris-s thing, you will be Feriss 🙂 If we write Fariss in Latvian, it means that it is something like Furris in original… (yes, we must have two ‘s’ in the ending. one English and one ours 🙂 ) It’s the pronunciation vs spelling that is so different here.

  109. Jurģis Pušķītis says

    And there is no evil intended on crippling your name. it is the way we pronounce it (and we write more or less exactly the same as we pronounce it). We transliterate your name and then ask you for the original spelling. In English it is the other way round. The name Jurģis Pušķītis would be written as Jurgis Puskitis and you would ask for the original pronunciation.

  110. Jurģis Pušķītis says

    To summarise:
    Linguistics is complex. 🙂 No general solutions there.

  111. Actually, mab, I think I was largely agreeing with you in my posts.
    As for importing foreign spellings, this is less straightforward than it seems. For example, if your national orthography reads the letter ‘c’ as ‘ch’, as in ‘church’, what do you when Coca Cola comes in with its irregular spelling? Do you force it to change to Koka Kola? And if Coca Cola comes in without change, how many other irregular spellings do you tolerate before you get the situation that obtains with English — a potpourri of different and conflicting spelling rules? Let’s face it, English is fine and democratic when it lets all kinds of foreign spelling into the language, but that’s precisely why English is such a mess.

  112. The Latvian government used to transliterate the names of resident foreigners in official documents but it no longer does so. Farris would have to wait 5-10 years until he was awarded a Latvian citizenship to have his name Latvianized. It’s a privilege available only to citizens, not a punishment 🙂
    But in non-official texts like newspapers etc. your name would be almost always transliterated as Feriss or Fariss. ‘a’ vs. ‘e’ is actually controversial and it is one of the arguments against transliteration. There is only an approximate correspondence between phonemes of two languages that you can never get it right.
    Just look how “Assange” is transliterated by the press: the most popular form is ‘Asanžs’ followed by ‘Esanžs’, then less common is ‘Asānžs’. But practically no one uses the most correct form according to the official transliteration rules – ‘Esānžs’.

  113. One advantage of a language like Chinese is that there is much less temptation to use English spelling, unlike the poor Lithuanians, who draw international censure if they try to enforce conformity to their orthography. Chinese newspapers use 阿桑奇 Āsāngqí for ‘Assange’. ‘Wikileaks’ is 维基解密 (Wēijī Jiěmì, wēijī being a transliteration of ‘Wiki’ and 解密 jiěmì meaning ‘decryption’ or more literally ‘solving of secrets’.

  114. Jurģis Pušķītis says

    Yes, Coca Cola looks nice in Russian. Koka Kola/Kока Kола.

  115. There might be a day in future, when all the Lithuanian Poles and their supporters, fighters for language freedom (dominance?), will be too busy to fight over a ‘w’ because they will be learning Chinese hieroglyphs 🙂

  116. In the end, we will all have to bite the wax tadpole and let everyone use their own spellings in each language as they see fit. The world is becoming too complicated for anything else.

  117. David Marjanović says

    The accent on my name was added to my passport by hand by the resident bureaucrat-in-chief.

    I recently came across the medical name “innominate bone” for the hip bone (the fused ilium, ischium, and pubis) […] does any of you know the real story here, or care to sniff it out?

    I was going to say it was Victorian for “that which must not be named out of prudery”. Obviously, that can’t be it…
    However, the term is only used for mammals. For other vertebrates, everyone just says “pelvis”.

  118. you tend to argee with all of them

    I missed this before, but what an excellent typo! It can be read as agree (obviously what was intended in context) or as argue (which is what I saw first in this reread). Metathesis vs. anticipation, which wins?

  119. Rob Rinkus says

    My Great Grandfather emigrated from Lithuania in the early 1900’s and I’m trying to find out the correct spelling of our last name… We currently go by “Rinkus”, but I was told it was originally “Rinkeweus” which I think should actually be “Rinkevičius”. Can some one help me figure this out Please? Thanks!

  120. I’m afraid we can’t help you with that; you’ll have to delve into genealogical records. Have you tried

  121. AJP Crown says

    Gintaras Rinkevičius is a Lithuanian conductor. His wife is Rinkevičienė and the children are either Rinkevičiūtė or Rinkevičius, so it seems you need to know noun endings a bit. Why not ask someone from the Lithuanian blog upstairs?

  122. To a degree to which it is a question of language and language usage, something can be added, perhaps of use.
    Lithuania wasn’t yet a nation in 1900, of course. The official spelling was Russian, and the alphabet, Cyrillic. For some foreign travel documents (like some steamboat contracts), they did switch to Latin alphabet, using Polish spelling. The modern Lithuanian suffixes, like masculine “-us” on top of Polish “-ewicz/evich”, weren’t in general use then, either.

    Oh, and, Rinkus is a known surname in its own right, but Latvian rather than Lithuanian.

  123. Oh, and, Rinkus is a known surname in its own right, but Latvian rather than Lithuanian.

    Aha, that might be very relevant. “Lithuania” was (as you say) a pretty vague concept in 1900, and a given emigrant from that region might well have been what we would call a Latvian.

  124. Most Lithuanian surnames are of East Slavic (a few of Polish) origin, Rinkevičius is no exception.

    It is derived from common Ruthenian first name Hrynko (Rynko), diminutive form of Gregory.

    Hence, Gregory -> Rynko -> Rinkevich/Rinkiewicz (son of Rinko) -> Rinkevičius (Lithuanian form of the surname)

  125. Or, presumably, -> Rinkus.

  126. David Marjanović says

    Most Lithuanian surnames are of East Slavic (a few of Polish) origin, Rinkevičius is no exception.

    The given names not so much – I bet Gintaras is Günt(h)er, straight from GVNDAHARIVS REX BVRGVNDIONVM (there’s “battle” and “army” in there, because of course they are).

  127. January First-of-May says

    The given names not so much – I bet Gintaras is Günt(h)er

    Not necessarily, since gintaras is Lithuanian for “amber”.

  128. David Marjanović says

    Huh – obviously similar to Russian янтар, but also obviously not cognate, and I can’t see how it could be a loan either.

  129. According to Vasmer (from whom the etymology here is taken), it is a loan from Lith. to Russian.

  130. A whole layer of of Lithuanian names are after the beautiful objects and phenomena of Nature (or re-etymologyzed as such), and are of historically recent origin. The national rebirth put an added value on all things Pagan since Lithuania in its day of glory wasn’t Chrstianized yet, and especially waydelot Nature spirit priestesses have become a core national roots story.

    Some traditional Pagan-era names (as well as the familiar sound-change and sound-distortion considerations brought about by the Slavic written language of the era) are summarized here

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