My latest historical reading is a book about a nearly forgotten episode: Lesley Chamberlain’s Lenin’s Private War: The Voyage of the Philosophy Steamer and the Exile of the Intelligentsia, about the 1922 expulsion of many of Russia’s most prominent anti-Bolshevik intellectuals. I’m not even halfway through it, but I wanted to mention an onomastic oddity I encountered on page 14, where the wife of Nikolai Berdyaev, the most famous of the expulsanty, is referred to as Lidiya Yudifovna. There must be some mistake, thought I: Yudif is the Russian equivalent of Judith, and Russian patronymics are called that for a reason—you’re not named after your mother. But I learn from this site (apparently the only place on the internet that mentions the fact) that her father was Юдиф Степанович Трушев, Yudif Stepanovich Trushev. How he wound up being named Judith is a story probably lost in the mists of time.

There are, as is typical these days, an unfortunate number of typos, including repeated references to Tsarskoe Selo as “Tsarskoe Tselo” (and the amusing “The whole auditorium applauded when the Russian flat was unfurled in a burst of gunfire”), as well as a few simple blunders, one of which affects Chamberlain’s argument on page 130, where she suggests that the Lithuanian poet and diplomat Jurgis Baltrušaitis “might have been instrumental in helping Sorokin, since Sorokin wrote in his autobiography that at the railway station in Moscow ‘I carried our two valises into the Lettish [Lithuanian] diplomatic car.'” Alas, Lettish is an old term for Latvian, not Lithuanian.

Update. J Blakeslee found the following passage on p. 289 of Rebellious Prophet: A Life of Nicolai Berdyaev by Donald Alexander Lowrie, which clears up the “Judith” thing:

Berdyaev’s wife and her sister were Lydia and Eugenie ‘Yudifovna’ respectively. Further explanation is necessary in this instance. ‘Yudif’ (Judith) is a woman’s name. Their father was actually named Jude [i.e., Иуда] […] the saint on whose day he was born; but ‘Judovna’ sounds so much like ‘daughter of Judas’ that the two sisters chose to call it Judif.


  1. John Emerson says

    Sorokin was just being forgotten by sociologists when I was a college freshman. Maybe he’ll have a revival.

  2. marie-lucie says

    I once heard a lecture about the morphology of Jewish names, especially about the period when Jews were required to adopt last names (not just patronymics). Apparently many in Russia chose to coin last names based on their mothers’ first names. Perhaps the choice of Judith for a male first name was a back-formation from such a last name? (which would perhaps suggest that it was uncommon as a female name at the time).

  3. I’ve never heard of such back-formation in Russian names. Given names are handed down, mangled, or invented (especially in the wake of the Revolution), but not based on family names.

  4. The babynamespedia asserts that there are, in fact, boys named Judith.

  5. marie-lucie says

    LH: Given names are … not based on family names.
    In this case, the given name would be back-formed or rather recovered from an original “matronymic”, which is based on another first name, not from a “family” name.
    The babynames site is informative but, I think, not totally reliable. For instance, it treats Italian Giulia (from Latin Julia) as a form of Giuditta, the actual equivalent of Judith. Its mention of the name Judith being given to a (small minority of) boys is only valid for English (or perhaps even just American English), and there is no mention of a similar use in other languages. The diagram of “related” names cites names which may be phonetically similar but not always actually related.

  6. Victor Sonkin says

    I wouldn’t be too surprised if Russian memoirists were in the habit of confusing Lithuania and Latvia (as many journalists everywhere do these days). Shaky ground for Baltrushaitis’s involvement, though.

  7. marie-lucie says

    On the above link (courtesy of a commenter at Language Log), there is statistical information on the occurrence of names for babies born between 1880 and 2008. Judith is attested as a name for girls throughout the period, but with a sharp peak around the 1940s, so most American women with this name are now in the 55 to 75 age group. Judith as a boy’s name is also attested in the 1940s, but for a shorter period, and there is apparently no attestation before or after that period (or none that would show up on the graph). But this information is probably not relevant to the use of the name in Russia before the revolution.

  8. It seems that matronymics were sometimes used in mediaeval Russia when a child’s father not known. The modern practice, though, seems to be to pick a random patronymic. When Nicholas II married Alix of Hesse, she became Alexandra Feodorovna, though her father’s name was Ludwig (in full, Friedrich Wilhelm Ludwig Karl) and not Theodor.

  9. marie-lucie says

    JC: Alix of Hesse … became Alexandra Feodorovna
    She had to be known by a good old-fashioned Russian name, and her father’s Germanic names were not suitable for Russianization. And what better name for en entrant into the Imperial family than one meaning “gift of God”.

  10. J Blakeslee says

    For what it’s worth I reconstructed this from Google Books snippet view of p. 289 of Rebellious prophet: a life of Nicolai Berdyaev by Donald Alexander Lowrie:
    “Berdyaev’s wife and her sister were Lydia and Eugenie ‘Yudifovna’ respectively. Further explanation is necessary in this instance. ‘Yudif’ (Judith) is a woman’s name. Their father was actually named Jude […] the saint on whose day he was born; but ‘Judovna’ sounds so much like ‘daughter of Judas’ that the two sisters chose to call it Judif.”

  11. marie-lucie says

    … Then “Yudifovna” was interpreted as a patronymic, and “Yudif” as the male name from which the patronymic was derived, so the boy born in the next generation was named “Yudif” after the presumed name of his grandfather – a case of back-formation.

  12. J Blakeslee says

    More snippet diving, from Собрание сочинений of Vyacheslav I. Ivanov, vol. 2, p. 720 (1971; I suppose this could be an editor’s note):
    “Лидия Юдифовна (отца ее звали Иуда; ей неприятно слышать — ‘Иудовна’, и такое мужское отчество она заменила женским) …”

  13. I didn’t participate in today’s detective work at all, but it’s been tremendous fun for me to watch the LH group mind attack tricky problems of this kind.

  14. marie-lucie says

    the boy born in the next generation was named “Yudif” after the presumed name of his grandfather
    I was getting ahead of myself with this extrapolation. Thus far there has been no evidence that this next step actually happened.

  15. J Blakeslee: Thanks very much for your excellent detective work! One more mystery solved…

  16. “Alas, Lettish is an old term for Latvian..”: wadcha mean, “old”? It was current when I was a boy. Oh. Anyway, it’s also well-known to fans of Cole Porter: “Lithuanians and Letts do it/Let’s do it/Let’s do a Tiger.” Or words to that effect.

  17. I’m certainly glad to see somebody else reading one of Lesley Chamberlain’s books. She’s got a really wide range of titles on both Western philosophy and the cooking of eastern Europe as well as having written some Russian biography. She wrote the book on Nietzsche’s last sentient year, called Nietzsche In Turin; I have pushed it here a couple of times. Emmers was the only one who’d read it. She’s married to the Czech ambassador. I’ve yet to try her cookery books, but I may do so.

  18. I have to admit her style is irritating me in this book. She has pages of imagined conversations between Russian philosophers.

  19. I wouldn’t be too surprised if Russian memoirists were in the habit of confusing Lithuania and Latvia
    Really? I would be shocked. I have never met a Russian who confuses the two countries.

  20. No imagined meals?

  21. Yes, now that you mention it there’s an imagined meal as well. From page 28: “On the night of 27 September the Losskys and the Berdyaevs ate a meal together, perhaps a zapekanka of baked vegetables and potatoes, plain food for old times’ sake…” I hate that kind of You Are There fake history.

  22. I mean, if you’re going to write a novel, write a novel, for Pete’s sake.
    “Ah,” said Lossky, “this takes me back! A good old-fashioned zapekanka of baked vegetables and potatoes, plain food for old times’ sake!”
    “Shut your gob,” said Berdyaev. “I always hated that crap, even back in the old country.”
    And they immediately began drinking.

  23. What kind of vegetables? If you’re making shit up, you should go whole hog. I bet that bitch Mrs. Lossky left the potatoes in the oven too long like she always does. You’d think she’d learn. (Not surprising, given that she’s a Lossky.)

  24. Mrs. Lossky of course wasn’t born a Lossky. She’s a different kind of thing entirely, the kind of thing a Lossky would marry. Who knows where she came from? Probably Mordvinia or somewhere.

  25. a nearly forgotten episode
    Could I take an issue with the claim that it’s nearly forgotten – it is not. There are numerous references to this event from Gorky to the period of Gorbachev’s glasnost, and later. A shameful episode indeed, and one of the clear-cut examples of Lenin’s intolerance of any dissent.
    RE confusion about Lithuania and Latvia. I agree with Vanya: no Russian would confuse the two, but (blame it all on the French) when you consider that, in French, Lettonie is Latvia and Lithuania is Lituanie, you can see how it may become confusing.

  26. Could I take an issue with the claim that it’s nearly forgotten – it is not.
    Sorry, I meant in the West. I’m sure it’s stayed in the consciousness of Russians, who lost a large chunk of their intelligentsia.

  27. Oh, and Lossky married a Stoyunin; his mother-in-law, Maria Stoyunina, ran a Saint Petersburg girls’ high school for thirty years (Shostakovich’s sister went there, as did Nabokov’s sisters).

  28. Decades later distinguished Russian women could still be heard complaining about Stoyunina’s baked potatoes.

  29. marie-lucie says

    French, Lettonie is Latvia and Lithuania is Lituanie,
    I was surprised by “Lituanie”, as I grew up with “Lithuanie”, but my 1968 Petit Robert already has “Lituanie” (the “h” does not mean anything in French, and there is no sound like English “th” in the Lithuanian language). Wikipedia.fr recommends “Lituanie”, calling the form “Lithuanie” désuète (charmingly old-fashioned but definitely out of date). But I don’t think that the French versions of the names are more confusing than the English ones. And how are the French names of the two countries relevant to their names in Russian, anyway?

  30. Bin gar keine Russin, stamm’ aus Litauen, echt deutsch.

  31. complaining about Stoyunina’s baked potatoes
    On the Swedish side of the Nijmason clan, any irregularity in the potatoes is basically a declaration of war on the part of the cook and means someone will be moving out soon. Wait, that was an imaginary meal….

  32. I agree that Lesley Chamberlain should write a novel, to round out her list of titles if nothing else. The best thing would be if Language would write one.

  33. marie-lucie: “And how are the French names of the two countries relevant to their names in Russian, anyway?”
    I don’t know when the common use of French among the Russian gentry became obsolete, but that usage could be relevant.

  34. Dearieme mentions Cole Porter, but I kept humming Johnny Cash’s A boy named Sue all day…
    Sorokin was just being forgotten
    Lenin once wrote an article ‘Valuable confessions of Pitirim Sorokin’ (“Ценные признания Питирима Сорокина”) which is said to have saved Sorokin from being executed in 1918. Years ago I was told an anecdote, circulating among Russian academics. Sorokin who lived well into 1960s, was making the rounds of American publishers pushing a new book nobody wanted. So he started taking Lenin’s brochure to each meeting: ‘Look, even Lenin himself criticized me’. Eventually he got himself published. Has anyone heard about this?
    how are the French names of the two countries relevant to their names in Russian.
    They are relevant to a Russian in France beginning to get to grips with them. But I was actually referring to someone earlier saying that journalists often confuse them. The French name Lettonie for Latvia has made me remember my school history maps, where the area was marked as inhabited by Letts. Latvians call Russians krievi, possibly originated from krivichi, one of the neighbouring Slav tribes.
    The best confusion I remember was when Soviet TV reported American invasion of Grenada in 1983: the newsreader had a map of Spain behind him with Granada shown on it. Grenada in the West Indies got its name from the French la grenade, but Spanish Granada is transliterated into Russian as Гренада (Grenada) and there is a poem “Гренада моя”(My Granada) by Svetlov, made famous during the Spanish Civil War. Considering the paranoia of the early 80-s we are lucky that that mistake didn’t start a war in Europe.

  35. J. W. Brewer says

    I assume the Berdyaevs were not dining with the substantially younger Vladimir Lossky et ux. (if V. was even married by then) but with his parents?

  36. Lettonie/Lithuanie: but what are their names in Russian?

  37. oh, Marie-Lucie, of course:
    Lettonie: ЛАтвия – LAtviya
    Lithuanie: ЛитвА – LitvA
    Like Langlois, I am told, is from ‘the English’, many Russian/Ukrainian surnames are derived from Latvia and Lithuania. Litvinov, Litovkin, Litovchenko, Litvak, Latyshev.
    but I don’t know any based on Estonia, perhaps because there was a different

  38. What’s Estonia in Russian? It’s not exactly eastwards.

  39. oops, I clipped the bit about Estonia…
    Estonia – Эстония – Estoniya
    …don’t know any names based on Estonia, perhaps, because there is a different, now archaic, name for the region and the people – чудь – chud’, which also means ‘strange, unusual’ and related to чудо – chUdo, which means ‘wonder, marvel, miracle’.
    Which gives such names as Chudov, Chudinov, Chudintsev – and, most interstingly, brings us back to Judas/Judith through the well-known Чудо-Юдо (Chudo-Yudo), a dragon or whale-like creature from Russian folk tales. The second part of the word is interpreted as a form of Judas – Юда (Yuda), now unused as a given name, but surviving in surnames – Yudin, Yudashkin, Yudenich. Vasmer, however, doesn’t agree, he thinks it was formed just for rhyming.

  40. marie-lucie says

    Sahura, thank you for the information. I see that ЛитвА and ЛАтвия have the same root, but would not be confused by a Russian speaker. It is nice of you to include all those derivatives too.
    I am intrigued by the Чудо-Юдо.
    Langlois, I am told, is from ‘the English’
    In English, “the English” is plural, but Langlois is singular, an older form corresponding to modern l’Anglais “the Englishman”. The plural would be les Anglais.

  41. Is there any noteworthy linguistic connection between “Judus”, “Judith” and “Jew”?

  42. This is interesting; Livonia (from Wiki):
    The Livonians or Livs are the indigenous inhabitants of Livonia, a large part of what is today the northwestern Latvia and southwestern Estonia. Unlike the ethnic Latvians, Lithuanians, and most of the other peoples of Europe they do not speak an Indo-European language, but speak the Finno-Ugric Livonian language, a Baltic-Finnish language which is closely related to Estonian and Finnish.
    Historical, social and economic factors, together with the ethnically dispersed population …. According to the 2000 census there were only 177 Livonians in Latvia.
    I also read something about Alexander Nevsky having fought the Livonian Knights, who spoke a Germanic language.

  43. “Livonian Knights” is another name for the “Brothers of the Sword”, a crusading order located at the east end of the Baltic. They were basically all Germans (maybe also Swedes) and, I think, the ancestors of the Baltic Germans in that area today (or at least until WWII).
    Alexander Nevsky was a Mongol vassal when he fought the Teutonic Knights. A century and a half later in 1410 the Teutons were definitively defeated at the Battle of Tannenburg / Gruenwald by the Lithuanians, Poles, and allies (including Muslim Tatars who thus entered the Polish nobility and Jan Zizka the eventual Hussite general). The Polish / Lithuanian leader Jagiello / Jogaile had been a pagan up until a few decades earlier. His descendeants ruled most of E. Europe as late as 1520.
    In WWI another battle was fought in the same area and called the Second Battle of Tannenburg for propaganda / nostalgia purposes.
    The Hussites invented the háček, the pistol, the howitzer, and the arquebus, and their contribution to civilization has been grievously underrated.

  44. Alexander Nevsky was a Mongol vassal when he fought the LIVONIAN Knights. The Teutonic Knights were later, I think.

  45. I see that ЛитвА and ЛАтвия have the same root
    Nope, according to Vasmer they have different etymologies.
    Until the 20th century Latvia and Lithuania were not contiguous, being separated by the Duchy of Courland, one of my favorite forgotten historical entities. In the 17th century it had colonies in Africa!

  46. “There was a small but vigorous Jewish population”.
    By contrast, the Lithuanian Jews just lounged around all day, eating bonbons and getting fatter and fatter.

  47. I am intrigued by the Чудо-Юдо.
    I’m not well versed in Saami folklore, but there are said to be legends of bands of evil men, the Čuds, coming from the east and falling down on the Saami population. Nils Gaup used this as the plot for his film Ofelas (Veiviseren, The Pathfinder). The word Čud looks suspiciously similar to ON þjód “people, nation” = German Deut of Deutsch.

  48. Thanks, Emers. You’re not such a bad old sod.

  49. Thank you, Trond. The Chudo-Yudo though seems to be some kind of dragon (a single one), not bands of people, which most likely have a historical basis. Perhaps the Chud- part is a coincidence?

  50. I think that enemy peoples merge with dragons and monsters pretty often.
    There’s quite a lot of mystery about the prehistory of the Baltic Finnic peoples (and the Saami). As I understand the linguistic and the genetic data don’t coincide.

  51. I suppose it doesn’t help that they were all wandering around so much, but I’d never heard of the 176 Livonians living in Latvia. “Livonians” get underlined by the spelczecher, poor things.

  52. marie-lucie says

    I think that enemy peoples merge with dragons and monsters pretty often.
    I am not sure. On the one hand, the Saami have legends about bands of evil men coming from the East to harass them. This sounds like a historical memory, unmixed with supernatural elements (even if such elements are attached to some details of these legends). On the other hand, the Russians (or some of them) believe in a kind of dragon living in a lake. This does not sound like a historical memory but like a mythical explanation, common to many peoples, for the mysterious power of water, which can appear calm and peaceful or rise up in vengeful storms, causing capsizings and drownings. This mythical morif is likely to be an ancient one, preserved from a probably pre-Slavic past, and having nothing to do with human enemies.

  53. marie-lucie says

    … motif, not morif.

  54. Trond Engen says

    I agree that the motives seem unrelated, but that doesn’t mean that the names are, too. If the presumably Finnic people(s) of Northern Russia came to use ON þjóð as a self-designation, then the naming in the Saami legend is trivial. As for the monster, the ON words had meanings beyond my glossing “people, nation”. In compounds it takes meanings like “crowd”, “common”, “universal”, “mankind”, “great”. There’s also a derived form þýða/i “friendlyness” but the original sense must have been “(being like) people”, as we can see from alþýða “the whole people”. If I’m not too mistaken the phonology in Eastern Scandinavian was slightly different with -jú- for . If that’s the first element of the name of the Russian monster, the second part might be a garbled version of almost anything, so a guess might be worthless. But if we limit ourselves to those that are close, how about (poetic register) lýðir “worm, snake”. We’d have a synonym of Miðgarðsormr, only more scary since the connotations were more about mankind than earth. This *þjúðuljúðir “world wide worm” would then become Finnic *ċu:doju:di and eventually Russian Чудо-Юдо. A lot of ifs, and I don’t really believe it. But still.

  55. marie-lucie says

    Yes, Trond, very ingenious, but an awful lot of “ifs”.

  56. In support of Trond’s derivation of CHUD from Old Norse THJOD, having ethnonyms deriving from nouns which originally designated human beings does appear common in the area: the Ludes Karelians derive their ethnonym from Russian LJUDI, the Mordvinians theirs from an Iranian word meaning “human being” (cognate with “mortal”, in fact).
    Regarding Saami legends about being harassed by evil men from the East: at least one authority claims that the Saami URHEIMAT was located in the Gulf of Finland, so perhaps the reason later legends tell of men “from the East” was because the Baltic sea to the West wasn’t much of an invasion route (for men, at any rate)…

  57. чудо-юдо
    I’d never expect Chudo-Yudo to produce all these amazing connections.
    The mention of Alexander Nevsky’s tatar-mongol connection made me look South-East for a possible explanation of the -Yudo part of the folklore monster – and I remembered about the Khazars who from the 7th to the 10th centuries dominated the lower Volga region, the steppes between the Volga and the Don and the area in Eastern Caucausus where Daghestan is now.
    Now, khazars have a special place in Russian lore from the mention in Прощание Славянки (The Farewell of a Slav Girl) in C20 to the story of the adoption of Christianity in Kievan Rus by Prince Vladimir in 988. At some point the Khazars adopted judaism as their state religion. While raiding Southern Russian principalities they also proselytised, and it is said that Vladimir considered judaism as a choice religion for Kievan Rus.
    I looked up khazars + Judas/Yuda (хазары и Иуда) and discovered numerous khazarean Judases, historical and fictional, including military commanders. There is even a drama in verse ‘The Khazars’ (Хазары) http://forum.coldwar.ru/showthread.php?p=10791 with this passage
    Забыть нас заставляют время
    Когда неведомо откуда
    Привел на Русь хазар Иуда —
    Безбровое, степное племя.
    (They make us to forget the time
    When no one knows where from
    On Russia Yuda led the Khazars,
    A browless tribe of the steppes.)
    The dominance of the varangian (viking) theory of the origin of the Russian state (early tsars called themselves Рюриковичи – Ryurikovichi – claiming descent from the viking prince who came to rule Novgorod in the 9th century) and, later, anti-semitism coloured both studies and popular perceptions of the khazars. However it seems plausible to me that a khazarean Judas might have been the original ethymological source for the -Yudo part in Чудо-Юдо.
    Chudo-Yudo appears in Yershov’s tale The Little Hunchback Horse (Конёк-Горбунок) as a whale suffering from stomach pains and in the tale Ivan the Peasant’s Son (Иван, крестьянский сын) as a 6, 9 or 12-headed fire-breathing dragon. There is a Russian punk-rock group Chudo-Yudo and at least two Russian cities have sculptures of the Chudo based on Yershov’s tale.
    Rather than a scheming mongol satrap who used their patronage to expand his domains Alexander Nevsky is remembered today more as a patriotic hero who leads the Russians against the ‘German’ invaders in Eisenstein’s 1938 film with Prokofiev’s score. Incidentally his most famous feat was defeating the crusading knights in the ‘Ice Battle'(1242) on the frozen Chudskoye Lake (Estonian lake Peipsi) where Chud- comes from the same root as chud’ and chudo-yudo.

  58. Trond Engen says

    ON Þjóð as origin of the ethnonym is the least of my problems (and, indeed, I’m not the first to suggest it). With its connotations of “general population”, it’s concievable as a term used by Swedish rulers (or traders and travellers) for — say — the indigenous population of the principality of Novgorod. Then the evil men of the Saami could simply be Karelian tax collectors (licenced robbers) for Novgorod. The early Norwegian and Swedish kings likewise outsourced tax collection from the mountain Saami to local bigshots, and the deal was essentially “take whatever you can carry but kill collectors from the other states”.
    It’s the compound that’s a meaningless longshot. I’m not even sure that my assumed adaption to early Finnic phonology is possible. When did Finnic lose the affricates? OTOH, it might have gone straight into Slavic. But it’s still just a guess. And even if it were from Scandinavian, there’s a number of other words that are equally close to the second part, and the nature of the name makes it likely that that part is thorouhgly garbled. Or even, with Vasmer, a nonce rhyme.

  59. David Marjanović says

    Some now doubt the idea that the battle was on the frozen lake and think it was somewhere on the shore. Spoilsports.

    the ex-Germanics obviously retained adjective-noun agreement and verb tense from their former language

    Interesting. Details, please.

  60. Hat: Ethnologue puts Lettisch and Lettish into scare quotes, which marks them as derogatory, at least in the opinion of the people for whom they are exonyms.
    Kroon, are you saying that the Est- in Estonia, Estland etc. is east??! Surely that would have emerged as Ostland or something of the sort. Anyway, the vowel is long in both Estonian and Latin Aestii.
    As for Judah/Judas/Jude and Jew, certainly. The Jews are the descendants of the patriarch Judah. Judith is the same as Judah with a feminine ending.
    John E: It’s not that the linguistic and genetic data don’t coincide. It’s an unconscious assumption on the part of IEists (and IE-speakers generally) that “once IE-speaking, always IE-speaking”. The notion that a bunch of Scandihoovers could have given up their North Germanic language in favor of a crude and barbarous Finnic jargon is just too weird to be mentally assimilated, producing a classic case of cognitive dissonance, even when it’s pointed out that the ex-Germanics obviously retained adjective-noun agreement and verb tense from their former language.
    Hat: Courlanders were the first Europeans to settle Tobago, according to Wikipedia: “It changed hands 33 times between Courland, Spain, England, France, Sweden, and the Dutch Republic until in 1814 it became part of the British Empire.”
    Trond: Perhaps the proto-Baltic-Finnics retained their old name for themselves in a simplified form, consistent with imperfect learning of the new language. There is precedent elsewhere: some Anatolian Greek villages had Turkish morphosyntax in their Greek because the prestige speech was that of the non-local Greek Orthodox priests, who had become turcophone and learned their Greek imperfectly.

  61. Some pictures of Chudo-Yudo: Yershov’s whale and fire-breathing dragon. Best of all bronze sculptures of Chudo-Yudo in Omsk and Tobolsk.

  62. Kroon, are you saying that the Est- in Estonia, Estland etc. is east??!
    I’m not saying nothing, I’m not the linguist around here. All I kno is east is l’est in French. “Yeast” comes from the old-fashioned “ye east”, because the sun rises in that direction. I bet you didn’t know that.

  63. Chudo-Yudo is reminiscent of some of the archaic Chinese monsters such as Gonggong, Chiyou, etc., which were associated with cannibalism, etc. At the deepest cultural levels they were assimilated to monsters, but they could also be assimilated to cultural heroes in order to purge the barbarism — Gong-gong and his father Gun were the gods of flood control and, by extension, floods. They also could be assimilated to savge tribes, e.g. the Sanmiao, a name that survives in anthropology as the name of the Miao/Hmong.
    The >taotie motif in Shang art (which has a striking resemblance to Pacific Coast art in the NW US and Canada) seems to portray these monsters, and an argument has been made for a very archaic northern pacific cultural zone stretching from Shandong or thereabouts to British Columbia or thereabouts.
    The China-NW America hypothesis was argued by a legit Australian author whose name I forget. Mark Edward Lewis’s “Sanctioned Violence in Early China” (a much more interesting book than it would seem from the title) has interesting stuff too. Lewis also has a book on flood myths which I haven’t read.

  64. The relationship between Gun and Gonggong is more uncertain than I thought. The father-son version may be one variant, or it may be wrong.

  65. I bet you didn’t know that.
    I didn’t know that, Crown. I’ve always heard people sing about a “star in the yeast” at this time of year, but I never understood until now.
    Did you know that “Austria” means “Great Southern (or according to some sources Eastern) Continent”? The seafarers who found it thought that they had succeeded in finding Australia.

  66. Sashura: Why do you think that чудь and чудо are related? Softness/hardness are not allophonic except for general yekanie, so I’m assuming you’re not just looking at the two words and saying “well, the ‘чуд’ is the same,” because then you could argue that плот/плоть, лен/лень, пена/пень, цеп/цепь, etc. are related, which they aren’t.
    Also, exonyms meaning “other” (i.e., “чужой”) are common (cf. “Welsh” originally meaning “foreigner”).

  67. I didn’t know that. Empty, you’re a mathematician, I bet you’d like this. I just got it for myself for Christmas. Not that I’m a mathematician, just that Oulipo was started by French mathematicians who liked language.

  68. For reference:

  69. exonyms
    You are right – also pan-Slavonic (and Hungarian and Romanian) nemets (German) originally meant ‘nemestny‘(not from here, or, according to another version, nemoy – non-speaking, mute) and covered all foreigners, mainly from the West. But with the Welsh, I think, it was the other way round, first, it was a name for Celts, and then acquired a broader meaning of a stranger, strange neighbour.
    I thought it was so obvious that I didn’t bother checking. I agree with you, it’s not about allophony, but semantics. I’ve looked it up – good old Dahl, for instance, puts both in the same nest of words, chud’ and chudo-yudo are there.
    Allophonic pairs can be of different roots, but they can also be related. In the pairs you quoted цеп/цепь (tsep/tsep’) are definitely related. Think, for example, of цепной пёс (chained dog). Or in the pair мут/муть – мутная вода, t is not aspirated, but in мутить воду it is soft/aspirated.
    But, yes, of course, it is a bit philosophical: where do subspecies stop being subspecies and become a species in their own right?

  70. Actually, palatalization before -ить is mandatory in Russian, as is loss of palatalization before -ный.
    As for Dahl, a lot of his etymologies have been superseded, as can be seen by the fact that Vasmer (which was originally based on Dahl’s work) has separate entries for чудь and чудо.

  71. Krone, I certainly did not.

  72. David: I got it from this list of Baltic-Finnic innovations in Uralic at WP.
    Sashura: I’ve only ever heard the nemets < nemoy theory, which seems more plausible on its face to me. As for the wal- root, see this LL posting by Tolkien himself.i

  73. Oulipo sounds like a Bourbakis spinoff.

  74. John,
    thanks for the link about wal-, I enjoyed it.
    I couldn’t find the source for non-local etymology of nemets, but it is mentioned in this discussion (in Russian) and here another, even more interesting, theory is put forward, of which I didn’t know. Tacitus and Plinius mention nemetes as one of the main Germanic tribes. I googled for Nemetes in English – and here is another discussion mentioning the same theory:
    (quote)What do these demonstrate? It demonstrates that the Slavs had basic understanding of simple statements in the Germanic language, and henceforth it would make no sense to have called them “mutes”. Why weren’t Greeks and Romans called “mutes” also?
    It would rather be much more logical to assume that the word “Niemcy” (Nemet in its original form, still so in Russian), would likewise come from a specific Germanic tribe that the Slavs came into contact with.
    And here it is, Germania by Tacitus, line 156, 157: “The Vangiones, Triboci, and Nemetes, who inhabit the bank of the Rhine, are without doubt German tribes.”
    Hence the Slavic name for the Germans – Nemeti.
    I believe it is likewise illogical to propose that “Slavs” means “speaker” or “word”, Aryan tribes did not name themselves in such fashion. (end quote)
    Both seem to ‘supercede’ old Vasmer’s interpretation.

  75. “Nemets” could be “dummies” with the overlapping meanings.

  76. It would be strange for the Germans to be called by a tribal name in almost all surrounding languages, but not in Russian. I hadn’t heard of the Nemetes, but when you look at the Alamanni, Germani, etc., it makes sense that the Slavs would pick their own tribe to name the whole.

  77. I’ve just looked up ‘german’ on wikiled.com in Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian – they are all different from Slavonic ‘nemets’. In Estonian it’s saksa keel, presumably from the Saxons. Welsh ‘saesneg’ for English also means ‘saxon’.
    There seems to be a pattern in forming exonyms by the name of the main known tribe. In fact, Vasmer mentions Tacitus’ reference to ‘nemetes’, but brushes the theory aside on ‘phonetical and geographical’ grounds – living on the Rhine, they couldn’t have much contact with slavs. But this doesn’t explain why the word only applied to West Europeans. Could it be that ‘nemets’ came into Slavonic languages through Central Europe, Czechs?

  78. Welsh ‘saesneg’ for English also means ‘saxon’.
    Some Cornish were known to use the expression ‘Meea navidna cowza sawzneck!’ to feign ignorance of the English language. See Wikipedia, under Sassenach.
    I especially like “However the Cornish word Emit meaning “ant” (and perversely derived from OE) is more commonly used in Cornwall today as slang to designate non-Cornish Englishmen.”

  79. Welsh ‘saesneg’ for English also means ‘saxon’.
    Some Cornish were known to use the expression ‘Meea navidna cowza sawzneck!’ to feign ignorance of the English language. See Wikipedia, under Sassenach.
    I especially like “However the Cornish word Emit meaning “ant” (and perversely derived from OE) is more commonly used in Cornwall today as slang to designate non-Cornish Englishmen.”

  80. (Emets have no connection with nemets, presumably.)

  81. (Emets have no connection with nemets, presumably.)

  82. So this ethnic group can be called either ants or WASPs. Can we think of a good excuse to call them* bees, too? That would cover the rest of the well-known hymenoptera.
    *Maybe I should say “us”. I’m largely of English stock.

  83. You don’t need an excuse, just do it. i like bees.

  84. I like bees.
    Me, too. OK, maybe I’ll try it. Of course, how it strikes anyone will depend partly on what they associate with bees. Stings? Cheerful industry? Bumbling?

  85. Honey?
    … Watch out, here comes a swarm of bees! …Are you from a WASP background? No, both my parents were bees.

  86. Honey?
    … Watch out, here comes a swarm of bees! …Are you from a WASP background? No, both my parents were bees.

  87. I just got to this in Rosamund Bartlett’s excellent bio of Tolstoy (p. 403):

    In 1905, after many miscarriages, Tanya gave birth to a daughter, also named Tatyana, who was affectionately given a ‘matronymic’ rather than the usual patronymic in deference to Tanya’s heroic achievement in becoming a mother. ‘Tatyana Tatyanovna’ became the Tolstoys’ fifteenth grandchild, and was particularly beloved.

  88. @ Trond Engen. Is “(poetic register) lýðir ‘worm, snake” Old Norse? If not, to what language does the word belong?

  89. Trond Engen says

    It’s Old Norse, so an Old Norse compound. I had forgotten all about that derivation. Fun, but I still don’t believe it.

  90. @Trond Engen. Thanks. Is that compound attested in the meaning ‘worm, snake’?

    In that sense, I find only ormr (listed here: https://oldnorse.org/2020/09/06/the-old-norse-dictionary/).

  91. Trond Engen says

    No, the compound is all mine, built for purpose here at LanguageHat. The word þjóð is very common in Old Norse, while lýðir “snake” is known only from poetry and has no descendants in the modern languages, hence “poetic register”. I think I just found it in the ON dictionary when I looked if there was a chance that both elements might have been borrowed together.

  92. PlasticPaddy says

    lýðir “snake” –is this etymologically slitherer or lurer?

  93. lýðir

    Apparently a hapax? The source can be read here, and note the following comment here:

    As a heiti for ‘serpent’, lýðir is not attested elsewhere, and it is an obscure word which may be related to ModIcel. lúðra ‘creep, crawl’ (for details, see ÍO: lýðir).

    The cross reference in the Íslensk orðsifjabók to the etymological treatment of the verb lúðra goes here, evoking possible cognates outside North Germanic in Low German luddern ‘be lazy’ and Middle Dutch lodder ‘boor, churl, clown’, and also in an Old English “loðer ‘amlóði’” (‘idler, lazy person, wretch’), which I cannot follow up on because I am working off my mobile phone with internet on the bus now.

  94. J.W. Brewer says

    I had forgotten this venerable thread, but now feel constrained to point out that certain esteemed commentators back in 2009 may have been misled by inaccurate information found on the internet. (Yes, I know – it’s shocking even to consider the possibility of that.) Sites that give you quantitative information about trends in American baby names over time are almost always directly or indirectly using the Social Security Administration’s massive database with numbers of occurrences of any particular name coded by year-of-birth and sex. Were there American boys named Judith? Well, the database certainly says so. But consider 1941: there were supposedly 23,318 baby girls named Judith and 91 baby boys named ditto. There were also, e.g., 23,722 baby girls but 80 baby boys named Linda. And, to look at a mirror-image situation, 39,109 baby boys but 120 baby girls named Richard. And 20,133 baby boys but 58 baby girls named Larry. I suspect that rather than any of these names being epicene in actual use back then, it is more likely that the database’s coding of entries for sex was only about 99.7% accurate for that birth cohort, but no one has ever invested the time and labor necessary to screen out the likely spurious search results that this miscoding will inevitably give rise to.

    Judah first became a top 1000 name for U.S.-born boys with year-of-birth 1997, and interestingly-enough its subsequent rise has coincided with Judith’s continued fall. In 1997, Judith had just recently dropped out of the top 500 names for girls (having dropped out of the top 100 after 1964 and the top 250 after 1973). By 2022 (most recent year available), Judith was down to #873 on the girls’ side (316 individuals) while Judah had climbed to #181 on the boys’ side (2062 individuals). Jude is even higher at #161 on the boys’ side as of 2022. It had previously been around as a lower-popularity boys’ name from the Fifties through the Eighties (continuously in top 1000 from ’57 until ’82, peaking at #669 in ’69) but then definitively reentered the charts to begin its recent climb in 1999.

  95. David Marjanović says

    Middle Dutch lodder ‘boor, churl, clown’

    verlottert “run down physically or morally”

  96. January First-of-May says

    Alexander Nevsky was a Mongol vassal when he fought the Teutonic Knights.

    In fact he wasn’t yet; the famous battles occurred in 1240 and 1242, respectively at the same time as, and shortly after, the tail end of Batu’s invasion (which bypassed those far northwestern lands, famously stopping at Ignach Cross, ~100 km southeast of Novgorod), and the first Russian prince to accept Mongol vassalage was Alexander’s father Yaroslav in 1243. Alexander himself did not do so until 1247.

  97. Trond Engen says

    The derivation of ON lýðir from lúðra “creep, be stealthy” is awkward, since the -r is part of the stem, but the idea of a monstrous serpent as a hindrance to travellers is attested in 19th century Norw. folk belief as Bøygen, famously used by Henrik Ibsen in Peer Gynt as a manifestation of psychological resistance to making efforts to change.

  98. Trond Engen says

    The Saga of Hákon Hákonarson, which was written by Snorri shortly after the king’s death, mentions the arrival to Norway of a group of “Bjarmians”. They were given permission to settle in the fjord district of Malangen, generally regarded as the northernmost reach of unchallenged Norwegian territory. The common explanation is that these were refugees from the Mongol invasion, but if they were Uralic speakers, as the designation would seem to suggest, I suspect they might just as well have been fleeing from increased Russian presence in the north.

  99. Trond Engen says

    (Incidentally, I overcame my own Bøyg and decided to mentiom the association with Lýðir after David E. mentioned an association with Peer Gynt in the Böögg thread.)

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