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Re: Baboushka-ya-yaaaa

Posted by Bob on March 13, 2002

In Reply to: Re: Baboushka-ya-yaaaa posted by TheFallen on March 12, 2002

: : : : : : : : I wonder if there are any russian derivatives in modern English?

: : : : : : : There are English words which are "borrowed" from the Russian, such as "dacha", "samovar", "troika".

: : : : : : : Having "borrowed" them for such a long time it is unlikely we shall give them back.

: : : : : : : Then there are more recent terms, such as "glasnost" and "perestroika", but they appear to apply to a specific period rather than being in general use.

: : : : : : : psi

: : : : : : There's gulag, too, but not a whole lot more. The Russian language is on a decline mirroring the deathspiral of the Soviet empire. In the '60s when I was in college, those of us who studied Russian called ourselves the optimists. (The pessimists would study Chinese....)

: : : : : These days I am told that the languages most useful to study are Spanish, Cantonese Chinese and Arabic. Trust me to have picked French and German.

: : : : : Anyway there are a fair few more. Balalaika, yurt, taiga (Russian tundra), steppe and cossack (from the same roots that give us Kazakhstan, one of those newer-fangled countries that sound like a death-rattle in a tuberculosis ward. There's also any slangy construct ending in "-nik", as in peacenik, beatnik and so on. Plus a number of socio-political terms such as bolshevik, tsar and pogrom. I also believe that intelligentsia comes to us from the Latin BUT via the Russian. Parka is borderline, since it's Alaskan Russian.

: : : : : However, and I am staggered that anyone could have forgotten this one... there's also vodka, the prime ingredient of any decent martini (any gin-loving Philistines can go take a running jump if they disagree here). Shame on you for omitting this vital word :)

: : : : I don't see tsar much in my reading of modern English, but I see a lot of czar, as in drug czar.

: : : Good point. I found this definition in the American Heritage Dictionary that neatly covers the difference between literal and figurative usages.

: : : CZAR - NOUN: 1. also tsar or tzar ( zär, tsär) A male monarch or emperor, especially one of the emperors who ruled Russia until the revolution of 1917. 2. A person having great power; an autocrat: "the square-jawed, ruddy complacency of Jack Farrell, the czar of the Fifteenth Street police station" (Ernest Hemingway). 3. Informal An appointed official having special powers to regulate or supervise an activity: a racetrack czar; an energy czar.

: : : ETYMOLOGY: Russian tsar', from Old Russian tssar, emperor, king, from Old Church Slavonic tssar, from Gothic kaisar, from Greek, from Latin Caesar, emperor. See caesar.

: : : OTHER FORMS: czardom -NOUN
: : :
: : : USAGE NOTE: The word czar can also be spelled tsar. Czar is the most common form in American usage and the one nearly always employed in the extended senses "any tyrant" or informally, "one in authority." But tsar is preferred by most scholars of Slavic studies as a more accurate transliteration of the Russian and is often found in scholarly writing with reference to one of the Russian emperors.

: : another borrowed from Russian word is babushka.
: : What is the connotation of the word?

: It seems to be the Russian word for a head-scarf, presumably worn by elderly ladies on the steppes. It's related to the Russian word "baba", meaning old woman (as in Baba Yaga, a legendary Russian sorceress).

: Speaking of legends, is there a Russian folk-tale, involving a woman (Babushka/Baboushka) who set out to test her husband's fidelity by pretending to be another woman, sending him a flagrantly explicit billet-doux, and then disguising herself when he came to "visit"? Annoyingly enough, I have no clue how the story ends. Probably tragically - the Russians are often a dour lot.

: My sole source for this, and since I am a male Briton of a certain age, the video to this sticks firmly in my memory, lies within the oeuvres of the flexible Kate Bush, who had a song entitled "Baboushka" released in the early 80's. Of course it may be entire and recent fiction.

babushka, indeed is literally the headscarf ... but the connotation is the elderly ladies themselves. (American equivalent = bluehairs). In Russia, Poland, and other Salvic cultures, the baushkas are a formidable lot, those who run their households with a firm hand. They were the ones who stood in the long lines of Soviet-era shopping, and you really didn't want to tangle with them.