[ANSTHRLD] Name Construction Check - Katerinka Lilieva Ikonnikova

Lisa Theriot lisatheriot at ravenboymusic.com
Fri May 20 18:11:14 PDT 2011

Gracias, Leonor, you said it so I don't have to.

Honestly, Magnus, if I offend _you_ then please tell me; otherwise do me
the kindness to assume I speak as I find and mean neither insult nor

I do admit frustration with heralds who view Paul's Dictionary as Holy
Writ, most especially because they have obviously not done Paul the
courtesy of reading his preface materials, which include statements like

"I therefore want to stress that this work is not flawless and should
not be taken as the cardinal truth." 


"I also am not of the school to say that all Biblical names were used in
period. Therefore, I would recommend caution in suggesting that the
Russianized spelling of an Old Testament prophet, for example, is a
period name (although I have included them here)."

(I bring that second one up every time someone submits Larisa but it has
yet to stop the registration.)

Paul's main goal was INCLUSION where a name element could be plausibly
supported as in or near period, regardless of even his own reservations.
This caused him to include normalized and Latinized forms (and other
foreign scribally-influenced orthography) side-by-side with Russian
(without appropriate notation), to include obvious foreigners, and to
include information from sources about which Paul himself says, "This
book is plagued with errors" (Moroshkin).  For our purposes, it would
have been much more useful to do separate articles for each source, so
that weaknesses and conventions could be enumerated across the board.
Happily, he indicates the source, but fess up-- when was the last time
you actually went to the source caution section before just writing down
the citation as supported?

The very breadth of the work is one of its problems, much of which comes
from the source material.  The Soviets were very proud of the vastness
of their empire, so a Soviet-era source is going to happily include
names from linguistic stocks (including Greek, Turkish, Arabic, Norse,
etc.) that would have had little contact in our period and for darned
sure wouldn't be combined in one name.  They also pretended happily that
Ukraine, Belarus, and other member states of the Union were de facto
Russian, without respect to regional differences in such basic elements
as how to build a patronymic. (That's one reason Unbegaun, out-of-period
as he usually is, still has useful information to impart.  I also still
have Tumanova, with the original title page which says, "Now you, too,
may be called Ratmir.")

There are other systemic problems (for our purposes), like the fact that
Paul notes only the earliest instance of a single given name form and
does not indicate any other dates that we might use to establish
continuous usage (or lack thereof); accordingly, we frequently have to
turn a blind eye to combinations that would otherwise be bounced for
temporal inconsistency.  I would also dearly love a little statistical
data; except for the rare names marked as common, there is no way to
tell which names were popular (and when and why).  The number of variant
forms isn't always a good indication (as many of them come from
Moroshkin and are clearly foreign).

Compare for sheer onomastic diligence the Dictionary versus Predslava's
Birch Bark article.  The latter is onomastically superior in just about
every respect; it also has only a few dozen names, while Paul has
15,000.  Paul himself says of the Dictionary:

"It is not limited to Russian names, but includes names used in medieval
Russia originating from Ancient Greek, Latin, Ukrainian, Bulgarian,
Serbian, Czech, Slovak, Hungarian, German, Turkish, and several other
languages. Many of the spelling and transliteration variations found in
the dictionary are not Russian at all."

This makes it very hazardous for someone unfamiliar with Russian
language and naming practices, yet it is often taken as adequate support
for a name with little or no discussion.  Is it a fabulous resource?
Yes.  Would I have done it?  Not if you paid me.  But the fact that I
respect the amount of work involved and that I am grateful for it as a
resource does not mean that I will not subject it to the same scrutiny
with which I examine any source that I know to contain suspect data,
especially by the author's own admission.  I do not believe that showing
respect requires me to check my academic standards at the door.


@Gunnora, I'll see your triple-dog-dare and raise you a pinky swear!

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