Thursday, October 13, 2011

Gumilev and shrimp

Hooray!  My translation of Gumilev's Giraffe won third place in the Compass Award.  (The winners' names on that page got transliterated into Russian and back into English.  Alyssa Gillespie fared worse than me.)  Thanks to Russian Dinosaur and others for encouraging me to participate.

So I've been forced to think again about my original post on the topic.  Somehow the consonance between корабль (which yes, just means 'ship') and caravel escaped me at the time.  Now I noticed it and ran to Poorly OCRed Vasmer to tell me the etymology.  Poorly OCRed Vasmer told me that both derive from Greek "karЈbion, kЈraboj", which initially meant 'crab', and the Russian -ль and Romance -ela got attached independently.  He also remarks that "the naut. art of the Thracians is highly dubious" and that a native Slavic derivation is "impossible".

The OED article on 'crab', which you need to be at a university to see, clarifies that the English word is "in no way related to Latin carabus, Greek κάραβος, but to Low German krabben 'to scratch, claw'."  It is, on the other hand, "allied etymologically to Middle Low German krēvet," and hence presumably to French crevette, Russian креветка 'shrimp'.

But wait!  The French Wiktionary claims that crevette is a metathesis of a Norman local pronunciation of chevrette, that is 'baby she-goat', and so has nothing to do with the Germanic root. 

All I can conclude is that people really like to use a [k], a rhotic, and a voiced labial obstruent in naming crustaceans, and will go to all sorts of lengths to get them in that order.

Oh yeah.  I'm going to be in New York for the award ceremony and reading on the 30th at the Bowery Poetry Club.  Since the time and place are posted publicly on the web, perhaps anyone who reads this is welcome to drop by.  But I don't know the etiquette of such things. 

Oops! I just posted my travel plans on the Internet.  Anyone who tries to break into my room (which is very easy) will face the vigilance and wrath of my housemates.