This week's photo matches the mood around here perfectly - we're all down with the flu, the weather's cold and rainy, and spring seems like something that only happens to other people.
What you're looking at is площадь Калинина (Kalinin Square) in Korolev. Several years ago on a snowy New Year's day I watched my son and nephew ride stocky little ponies around this square. There was at least a foot of new snow on the ground and the city was absolutely silent after the big holiday night. The boys both held tight to the ponies' manes and looked down to keep the soft snowflakes out of their eyes. It was a memorable end to a memorable holiday,
There's a wall you hit sometimes in online research. Most of the
translation research I do on the internet is pretty straightforward - checking
proper names, verifying financial terms, looking up patents to harvest industry
vocabulary. But if the information you need doesn't have a commercial angle or
an enthusiastic fan base, soon you come to the place where the sidewalk ends.
I've had a little internet research project cooking on the back burner for a couple of years now.
I want to know where the Russian word гуталин (goo-ta-LEEN, an
old-fashioned word for shoe polish) comes from. Tracking down the
etymologies of words borrowed into Russian in earlier generations is not the
kind of hobby that will get me invited to lunch at the White House, but it
satisfies a curiosity that I’m sure other translators understand.
So… I poked around in all sorts of places and found out that a
material called guttaline was patented in the 1890s. The journal I found it in
described it as a synthetic substitute for rubber (check it out, the recipe's a doozy). But there the trail ended, as if the inventors patented it and then forgot about it. My husband, who is both an engineer and a sympathetic listener, heard me out recently and said, "There's nothing on it because it was a dud." Why so? "Because there weren't any successful synthetic rubbers until after WWI." I looked it up. He's right. But here's an idea: if guttaline was a flop as a synthetic rubber, could it have proven to be a fair shoe polish? Accidental inventions happen all the time.
Sources on the Russian internet lean toward a German etymology because the first two syllables sound like gute, or good, in German. This feels like a false friend to me, but I can't put my finger on why. When you find yourself going in circles and not finding anything new in an internet search, here's a tip: try an image search. I did a search for гуталин in Yandex images and came up with a bunch of funny photos of little kids with shoe polish all over them. And then there was this:
This gives me a brand name - Альберта Закса - and some other information to check. Better yet, when you open an image in Yandex it gives you links to all the places where you can find the image online. I can't wait to find out where this new information will lead!
Russian street cats have wonderful body language. These two are doing something more confident than a slink and less aggressive than a prowl. My own cat - a proud stray from Korolev - walks like this when he follows me to the park. Our neighbors here in the U.S. laugh when they see us go by, me out in front and the cat stalking along behind me from parked car to trash can to mail box. I'm not sure whether he follows me because he wants to go to the park or because he likes to know what I'm doing. Either way, he gets noticed a little more than he probably wants.
I thought it would be fun to start a tradition of sharing photos of Russia every week. On Wednesdays I'll put up something I enjoy looking at on the off chance that you'll enjoy it too.
This building is the Narzan Baths in Kislovodsk, a resort town in southern Russia. Kislovodsk also happens to be the place my husband and I spent our honeymoon back in the day! Good memories. We were there in early September and the local market was amazing every morning - amber honeycomb, thick sour cream, sweet figs, spicy ajika. We ate a lot of sandwiches that were random combinations of things we found at the market.