[Foundation-l] Siberian Wikipedia once again

Johannes Rohr jorohr at gmail.com
Wed May 2 21:29:10 UTC 2007

"Mark Williamson" <node.ue at gmail.com>

> Of course, Zolotaryov's answer to your allegations would be that while
> "moskal'ska svoloch'" may be offensive in Russian, it is not in
> Pomorian... 

I know he would reply something of that kind, however in the context
of this verse, it makes little sense to assume any non-offensive

The first line "Skoko es' v belom svete svolochnykh moskalov"
(appr. "How many swinish Muscovites (Moskals) there are in the wide world")
is followed by 

"poshti vse voni nas nenavidiut", which translates as "Almost all of
them hate us"

"Trudovykh i vol'gotnykh sibirskikh ludiov" ("industrious and free
Siberian people")

> I don't know if I buy that excuse, but it certainly has
> some weight. 

It may have some weight when judging the severity of individual
swearwords used in colloquial speech. In colloquial Russian,
expressions like "fuck your mother" are used quite freely and they
certainly don't have the same offensive character as they would have
in German or English. But in this very case, the whole context makes
it quite clear, that this excuse doesn't catch. 

> What does his Siberian dictionary translate those words
> as? 

His dictionary may translate it as whatever he needs at a given
moment. His language is undocumented outside is own work. 

There are, of course, records of real historic Northern and Siberian
Russian dialects, some extensive research has been undertaken at Tomsk
university, right in the city where Zolotaryov lives. However, when
asked to comment on Zolotaryov's work, the dean of Tomsk University
delivered quite a devastating verdict on it. While his language
incorporates some authentic elements (mostly the phonetics), much of
the rest is made up or taken from other sources, such as Ukrainian
(from where he has taken the names of the months), Belarusian,
Mongolian, Tatar etc.

> If it agrees with the Russians that those are offensive, then
> perhaps something can be done; however if the translation is given as
> a non-offensive term then perhaps not.

I highly doubt, that any wordlist existing at Tomsk University or
elsewhere would translate "svoloch" else than "swine" or "scum". 

If Zolotaryov would seriously claim that this was a neutral
expression, this would be a completely childish game. Since there is
no objective point of reference for the language he has invented, he
can make just about any claim concerning the meaning of a particular
expression. There is no way to verify or falsify it.

> The difference in "severity" of certain terms in closely related
> languages, especially the "taming" of offensive words in "peasant
> languages" is not uncommon in the world.
> For example, the word "damn" is used in Singlish (Singaporean Creole
> English) for emphasis of adjectives, as in "he damn kia su lah".
> Similar usages can be seen in Hawai'ian Creole English ("Pidgin") and,
> I have heard, in Scots.
> There is a word in Russian that would sound like a word in English
> that is considered extremely racist, but it is not racist at all in
> Russian... so if we are going to make any calls on the content we need
> to perform due diligence.

The point is, that in contrast to your example, Zolotaryov's
"Sibirskoi govor" is not a natural language. It is a conlang,
developed and controlled by him. Therefore, there is no independent
point of reference.

One suggestion would be to ask real linguists, with real expertise in
Siberian and Northern Russian dialects for comments and accept their
verdict regarding the perceived offensive character of certain

Another suggestion would be to ask Zolotaryov for sources for his
poetry. Personally I highly suspect that both "poems" are his original
works rather than authentic Siberian poetry, else he would have
provided references.




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