Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Language/2012 November 22

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November 22[edit]

"Boffins" and The Register[edit]

Why does The Register persist in using the word "boffins" in a deliberate, gratuitous manner? Is this some kind of editorial OCD, where the word is automatically substituted for "researchers", "scientists" and similar terms? It's not an isolated incident, we are talking about the insertion of this word tens of thousands of times, which is unprecedented. Can anyone explain this extremely unusual repetitive behavior? Viriditas (talk) 06:28, 22 November 2012 (UTC)

I've always assumed it originated as a parody of the style of (British) tabloid newspapers, which tend to clump all scientists, engineers, etc under the umbrella term "boffin". AndrewWTaylor (talk) 11:51, 22 November 2012 (UTC)
Yes, that makes perfect sense, but it is lost on me as I'm American, so I'm trying to wrap my mind around it. Was it the BBC that used to do this? Viriditas (talk) 11:59, 22 November 2012 (UTC)
The EO explanation[1] doesn't seem like a negative. Or less so than "egghead",[2] which is only mildly sarcastic. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 11:59, 22 November 2012 (UTC)
"Boffin" is in fairly regular British use as a slang word for a scientist, engineer or technician. It doesn't have any negative connatations as far as I know - it saves having to worry about how to describe somebody's speciality, they're all boffins. It definitely conveys some sort of technical ability though; an art historian might be an egg-head, but isn't a boffin, whereas the clever people who restore old master paintings using scientific techiques certainly are boffins of the highest order. My instinct is that this is armed forces slang from World War II, but I'm open to correction. Alansplodge (talk) 17:35, 22 November 2012 (UTC)
There's a fairly detailed account of the genesis of "boffin" in R. V. Jones's The Wizard War, though it's contested. Interestingly, it seems to have been used to mean "old duffer" before leaping sideways to "(young) scientist".
I'm not sure I'd say it's in fairly regular use, though - while it is widely understood, it's a little arch, and as Andrew says it feels a little tabloidy. (A friend of mine at university was unreasonably delighted to get called a "boffin" by the Independent circa 1999...) Andrew Gray (talk) 20:02, 22 November 2012 (UTC)
Perhaps it's me who is a little archaic. Alansplodge (talk) 21:27, 22 November 2012 (UTC)
More on boffin, from Michael Quinion. Deor (talk) 20:17, 22 November 2012 (UTC)
For years the New York Post has used the word prexy (see EO) as an abbreviation for president. Quite silly when pres. or prez are available. It's like they have stock in it. μηδείς (talk) 21:05, 22 November 2012 (UTC)
Yes, one comes acrost weird spellings occasionally. -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 21:45, 22 November 2012 (UTC)
As I recall, the term "prexy" was in relatively common use as an abbreviation for "president"... decades ago. Apparently it's been around for nearly 2 centuries.[3] But I thought that had faded out. Not entirely, apparently. And why "prexy" instead of "prez" is unclear. I wonder if the word originally was pronounced with a soft "s" sound instead of a "z" sound? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 23:30, 22 November 2012 (UTC)
There's no precedent for that.  :) -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 00:41, 23 November 2012 (UTC)
I think you mean prexedent, Jack. I did provide the EO ref dating back to the early 1800's above. The weird thing with the NY Post is not only the strange phonetic mismatch, but that they would use it in oddly inconvenient places, even in headlines where prez would have fit better, taking less space. I haven't read the Post (That and the now on-line only NY Sun were the last papers I bought habitually) since they raised their price over 25c/issue, so I don't know if they are still fixed on the term. μηδείς (talk) 16:48, 23 November 2012 (UTC)
Actually, no, I meant "precedent". -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 19:43, 23 November 2012 (UTC)
Medeis has always gotten these jokes before. This is unpresidented. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 23:47, 23 November 2012 (UTC)
As well as unprexidented. μηδείς (talk) 02:38, 24 November 2012 (UTC)
I'm wondering whether "Prex" (the alternative form, see Bug's link to etymonline) is an abbreviation analogous to "Rx" for "recipe", "Pax" for "passenger" or "Dx" for "diagnosis, where the "x" stands for a bunch of letters to follow. Instead of using a full stop, perhaps. ---Sluzzelin talk 21:12, 23 November 2012 (UTC)
That's what I was hoping EO would indicate, but no. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 23:47, 23 November 2012 (UTC)
I am fairly certain I am me, so my links are mine, not Bugs's. And the word given atEO and used in the Post is prexy, not "prex". μηδείς (talk) 02:33, 24 November 2012 (UTC)
Well, you both linked to the same spot, sorry for not naming the first-linker. In any event, the link you (both) gave does write "Alternative form prex is attested from 1828", and you can find other sources online saying that "prexy" is derived from "prex", but I couldn't find anything on etymology, so my unreferenced speculation remains just that. ---Sluzzelin talk 06:19, 24 November 2012 (UTC)
My old Webster's is of little help either. It likewise indicates prex came first, and then prexy. It says it was originally used in reference to college presidnts. Somehow I've got a hunch that fact might be significant, but it would take more research than I've got time for just now. :) ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 07:06, 25 November 2012 (UTC)
Actually, EO says that "prex" originated about 1828, and "prexy" about 1871 (the latter is what my Webster's says also).[4]Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 07:09, 25 November 2012 (UTC)
Re the word referring to college presidents, yes, that's how the Post normally uses it--but I don't know if that's exclusively so. μηδείς (talk) 07:23, 25 November 2012 (UTC)
The Register considers itself a tabloid (as its editors remind commenters when it's criticised for acting like a tabloid). There are a number of editorial "running jokes": psychiatrists are referred to as "trick-cyclists", Yahoo! headlines have gratuitous apostrophes, and Facebook subheadlines end in "...bitches" as a reference to Mark Zuckerberg's business card. AlmostReadytoFly (talk) 14:56, 26 November 2012 (UTC)

Verb endings originally were pronouns?[edit]

It's always seemed likely to me that the so-called endings for verbs in inflected languages originated as pronouns bound to the verbal root. For example, in Latin amo amas amat = am-o am-as am-at (disregarding the conjugation-marker a) where the second-person s and the third-person t started life somewhow as a second-person and third-person pronominal ending respectively (I'll leave out the o, which seems anomalous). I've tried googling this topic without much luck. My query is: what are the correct search-terms to try to find out about this? Is there anything in Wikipedia about the origins of verb-endings? Is this a question that non-professional cranks have been asking for years, which someone has demolished convincingly? Djbcjk (talk) 08:50, 22 November 2012 (UTC)

Not sure if such a theory has ever been put forward but I doubt it has consensus, because the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European language is said to be inflective in roughly the same way as Latin. Have a read of Proto-Indo-European root and Proto-Indo-European verbs. - filelakeshoe 09:26, 22 November 2012 (UTC)
You might want to search for "grammaticalization" together with "agreement" or "concord". To my knowledge, a grammaticalization path from pronouns to agreement markers is indeed commonly assumed for Indo-European (although the stage where they were free pronouns may have been so far back in time that not all of it can be reconstructed). Try literature cited in the first overview chapters of Eric Fuß (2005), The rise of agreement, Amsterdam: Benjamins. He cites Szemerenyi (1989) as a modern standard grammar of Proto-IE providing such an account. Talmy Givón (1976), "Topic, pronoun and grammatical agreement." In Charles Lee (ed.), Subject and topic, New York: Academic Press, p. 149–189, would be an influential modern treatment of the supposed universal development path. Fut.Perf. 11:06, 22 November 2012 (UTC)
I'm involved in reviving Paakantyi, a western New South Wales Aboriginal language. For it, the present tense singular of pari- go, is pariaapa I go, parimpa you go, pariaathu he/she/it goes. This has been explained by the only linguist who has worked on the language as bound pronouns affixed to the verb root. And independent forms exist: ngapa I, ngimpa you. A dialect of the language, Kurnu, does not have bound pronouns, but uses simply pronoun and verb root, ngapa pari, ngimpa pari. To me these bound pronouns look suspiciously like the traditional verb-endings. Hence my interest in any work that had been done on the relationship between bound pronouns and verb-endings. But I'm not getting anywhere with these or similar search terms. Thanks for the help so far, FP. Djbcjk (talk) 11:29, 22 November 2012 (UTC)
Interesting. Those certainly look like a textbook case of agreement markers evolving out of pronouns. I wouldn't bother too much about the question whether they are more the one or the other – it's just a very common thing for these kinds of markers to be essentially both, or something in-between. For a fuller description of their status you'd probably want to answer questions such as: do they also occur affixed to non-verbal predicates, e.g. predicate adjectives or nouns? Can they be doubled by another free pronouns elsewhere in the clause? In any case, as regards your initial hypothesis that agreement markers evolve out of pronouns, you are on quite safe ground; the general connection between the two is basically common knowledge in linguistics. Another useful resource for you might be Greville G. Corbett (2006), Agreement, Cambridge UP (Cambridge Textbooks in Linguistics). Chapter 3.2.3 treats the category of "clitics" as an intermediate type of marker between full words (pronouns) and prototypical affixes (verb endings). Fut.Perf. 11:47, 22 November 2012 (UTC)
Thanks, FP. Almost time for bed in western NSW. To answer your questions: do they also occur affixed to non-verbal predicates? Yes: minha wang[a]impa? what's your meat (moiety) (wanga is a noun)? wilkawilkaapa I'm hungry (wilkawilka behaves like an adjective). Can they be doubled by another free pronouns elsewhere in the clause? No, except for emphasis. Moreover there doesn't seem to be agreement (a la Latin) between subject noun and verb, though I'm more sure of this in the past tense: eg ngiingkatyaapa I sat, Fred ngiingkatyi Fred sat: ngiingkatyi is described as a simple past (indeclinable). Thanks once again for teaching me the word grammaticalization: I've turned up lots of reading on the net: alas! I am 1000km from a good library! Djbcjk (talk) 12:28, 22 November 2012 (UTC)
Those are interesting observations. They all seem to support the idea that these thingies are really still very much pronoun-like and have not yet advanced far on their path towards becoming typical agreement affixes. – If you need some particular piece of offline literature, let me know; perhaps I might be able to help. Fut.Perf. 12:57, 22 November 2012 (UTC)
Primary Secondary
1st sing. –mi –m
2nd sing. –si –s
3rd sing. –ti –t
3rd sing.

(middle voice)

–toi –to
Djbcjk -- if you look at the quasi-original forms of athematic verb endings, there certainly seem to be quasi-agglutinative subsets, which may suggest an origin as cliticized reduced pronoun forms: -- AnonMoos (talk) 14:11, 22 November 2012 (UTC)
In Turkic the personal verb markers came from the personal pronouns (see)--Lüboslóv Yęzýkin (talk) 18:58, 22 November 2012 (UTC)
  • Given the parallels in verb endings which are obvious between PIE, Proto-Uralic and Proto-Altaic and other Eurasiatic languages, an analysis which looks only at PIE will be limited in value. In his book Pre-Indo-European, Indo-Europeanist Winfred P. Lehmann does connect the active -m/-s/-t endings to postposed pronominal elements. The question remains, however of the origin of quite different stative endings (The -hi comjugation in the Hittite language and the perfect endings in Greek) which Lehmann reconstructs as -x/-tx/-e.
The same sort of phenomenon occurs in the Eurasiatic Aleut language dialects, but in a more complex form. According to Knut Bergsland's Aleut Grammar, there the independent pronouns are formed from a deictic stem t(x)i- followed by a possessive ending, so that you get forms like ting (this-mine) "me", tximas (this-ours) "us", txin (this-thine) "thee" and txichix (this-yours) "you". These forms are objects or reflexives when they stand before the verb; can be used as possessive pronouns; and serve as subjects when they are suffixed in a reduced enclitic form at the end of verbs.
Lehman's analysis of Pre-Indo-European is based an internal reconstruction. A lot more will be learned from the comparative method if Indo-European can be compared with its closest relatives. See also Michael D. Fortescue's Linguistic Relations Across the Bering Strait. μηδείς (talk) 19:35, 22 November 2012 (UTC)
Trouble with that is, of course, that no known proposal for any supra-family linking IE with any other group has ever found acceptance in mainstream historical linguistics, so there isn't really anything safe to apply the comparative method to. Fut.Perf. 12:00, 23 November 2012 (UTC)
Yes, that's the party line. But anyone with even a smattering of PIE who reads Fortescue's reconstructed Uralo-Siberian roots will have no doubt of the relation. μηδείς (talk) 16:42, 23 November 2012 (UTC)
You want to take a look at The Unfolding of Language by Guy Deutscher. It's a very compelling book, and as far as I can tell, well-regarded. It's also quite fun to read and low-brow enough that I could follow it. Deutscher present the thesis that grammatical structures (often) grow by accumulating separate words into the stem, and then become ingrained by a kind of erosion that simplifies the word again until the next cycle starts. --Stephan Schulz (talk) 09:36, 23 November 2012 (UTC)
Yep, that's an in-a-nutshell summary of what the "grammaticalization" idea is about. Fut.Perf. 12:00, 23 November 2012 (UTC)
Yes, I recently read Deutscher's work on Schulz' earlier recommendation. It's worth getting on loan if you're an interested layman. μηδείς (talk) 16:50, 23 November 2012 (UTC)
I've ordered Deutscher's book, having deemed myself sufficiently lay to have a chance of understanding! Paakantyi seems to lie on the boundary between bound and free pronouns linguistically, though I don't know enough about Australian languages to say geographically as well, but I suspect it. The main dialect conserved (thanks to the NSW Government who built a large concentration camp called Menindee Mission in 1933) is Menindee talk, with bound pronouns, as in wilka-wilkaapa I'm hungry. In the northern dialect, Kurnu (around Bourke), this would be wilka-wilka ngaapa. Thus, the linguist Luise Hercus in her Bagandji Language (1980) says Kurnu has free pronouns, which are moreover inflected for tense. And (to correct my use of ngapa pari, ngimpa pari above). the free pronouns regularly follow the verb (pari ngaapa, 'pari ngimpa). My query is: in an oral language like Paakantyi how can you say pronouns are bound and free? pari ngaapa, I go, could just as easily be paringaapa, and the past tense pari waapa could be pariwaapa. Djbcjk (talk) 07:53, 24 November 2012 (UTC)
Those are tricky questions; it depends very much on the language, and the decision might not always be a clear-cut one. In many languages, there are phonological rules that usually apply to one word, e.g. rules about stress placement or word-internal intonation patterns. If these rules can be shown to apply across the whole group of the word and the grammatical marker, that would imply the marker is bound (i.e. at least a clitic, if not an affix). Or, if the marker shows certain reduction or assimilation effects (like apparently the reduction from "ngapa" to "-apa"), and it shows these only and predictably when it stands in this position, that would be an argument for bound status. Or if it takes different forms depending on the phonological shape of the preceding stem, as in vowel harmony. In the absence of such effects, and as long as the marker retains the same phonological shape that it also has in other positions, you'd probably prefer calling it free. Also, if there are situations where some other marker can still intervene between the root and the marker, that would point towards free status. Fut.Perf. 11:29, 24 November 2012 (UTC)
Djbcjk -- that's the problem of how to establish linguistically-meaningful "word" units, which can be contested even in the case of written languages (e.g. many linguists would doubt whether "me, te, se" in French would qualify as real words, and so on). Often-used criteria include the domains of stress-placement rules, bound and free forms, etc. AnonMoos (talk) 01:30, 25 November 2012 (UTC)
In Hebrew (and, I think, in Semitic languages in general) there is an obvious (but incomplete) parallel between perfect verb endings (for the first and second persons, singular and plural) and the corresponding personal pronouns (-ti, m. -ta/f. -t : an-i, m. a(n)-ta/f. a(n)-t)—though I've always wondered whether the verbal endings are derived from the pronouns, or whether in both cases they ca be analyzed as independent "personal" suffixes. הסרפד (Hasirpad) [formerly] 00:43, 27 November 2012 (UTC)
הסרפד -- this "suffix conjugation" (as it's sometimes neutrally referred to) is only really a perfect in central Semitic. To see something probably much closer to what the "suffix conjugation" was in proto-Semitic, go to Akkadian_language#Stative... AnonMoos (talk) 01:59, 27 November 2012 (UTC)
Very interesting, thank you. But in any case, it os definitley another concrete example of a personal pronoun becoming a verbal suffix. הסרפד (Hasirpad) [formerly] 05:31, 27 November 2012 (UTC)


What is the etymology of the Japanese word たんぽぽ (tampopo)? (talk) 09:44, 22 November 2012 (UTC)

Did you look at Tampopo? -- AnonMoos (talk) 13:56, 22 November 2012 (UTC)
I think OP is talking about dandelion (ja:タンポポ). I found these. [5], [6], and [7]. But it's difficult to translate and I do not have sufficient time to do so. Oda Mari (talk) 17:06, 22 November 2012 (UTC)
Kind of like Fermat? μηδείς (talk) 20:59, 22 November 2012 (UTC)
The relevant bit of Oda Mari's first link is "和名は、鼓の音から連想された小児の遊びから。" which Google translate renders as "Japanese name, from the play of children has been associated from the sound of drums." But I'm not sure whether the following lines are talking about deriving the Japanese from (the root of) the botanical name Taraxacum or are separate. --ColinFine (talk) 19:26, 22 November 2012 (UTC)

Question about translations of War and Peace[edit]

I have two questions; second of them, I am sure, is an oft-repeated one.

1. Heron Books published (I am not sure how long ago) a translation in three hard cover volumes, which also has illustrations by Christian Wilhelm von Faber de Faur. This set is discussed here and here. Funny thing is that this text nowhere mentions its translator. Nor could I find the translator anywhere after preliminary googling. So if anybody knows about him/her/them, please tell me.

2. I have three different translations available to me. One is mentioned above, second translated by Constance Garnett and third by Pevear and Volokhonsky team. Which one should I go with? If there is any other superior one in the market, I wouldn't hesitate to buy. Please give your suggestions. Thanks - DSachan (talk) 17:26, 22 November 2012 (UTC)

We could never answer the 2nd question in the way it's posed, as it calls for an opinion and a personal preference, and we can't tell you what to like. But if you wanted to know which of the various translations are generally well regarded, that's something we could probably give you a reference for. -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 19:04, 22 November 2012 (UTC)
Fair enough. I should probably go elsewhere for opinions. I originally wanted to ask only first question, but couldn't resist the temptation of asking the wikipedians in this specialized language desk for an opinion about an important text I am shortly going to read. - DSachan (talk) 19:58, 22 November 2012 (UTC)
I don't know the answer to the first one, but in general I would be wary of an edition without a credited translator. Constance Garnett was a prolific translator who is sometimes criticized for smoothing over the peculiarities of each author's style, but I read her War and Peace and enjoyed it. Pevear and Volokhonsky are very popular nowadays and I liked their Dostoevsky, but they are not without criticism either.[8][9] As for other ones, Tolstoy knew Louise and Aylmer Maude personally, which is a point in favor for their translation. In the end, though, I agree with Jack; it depends on your own philosophy about translation. Lesgles (talk) 19:18, 22 November 2012 (UTC)
A few years ago, I found three different translations available in my local library. I read the first few pages of each. One was far too flowery and archaic, the other too modern sounding, the third just right. I decided to read that version, then got distracted, and now can't remember which version I preferred. But you can do the same experiment at the bookstore or the library yourself. As long as your goal is enjoyment, and not research, finding the one whose style you personally like most will be the best course of action. μηδείς (talk) 19:48, 22 November 2012 (UTC)

"Do ritsi na bal!" translation?[edit]

Can anyone give both a literal and idiomatic English translation of the rather vulgar curse do ritsi na bal! my uncle's father was fond of using? Again I am not sure of the spelling. μηδείς (talk) 21:47, 22 November 2012 (UTC)

What language is it? Gabbe (talk) 21:52, 22 November 2012 (UTC)
It's a slavic dialect for which I have no dictionary or sources, just family knowledge. It was never explained to me in English, although I have a guess. My mother blushes when I say it, but she was wondering how I was even asking people on line what it meant, since she wouldn't know how to spell it. See the question I asked above about "Idu do kraju, de kurtsi sraju". μηδείς (talk) 22:01, 22 November 2012 (UTC)
  • "To the river to (where is) the ball (dancing)"? Though I cannot guess what it means. Maybe "(I am going) to nowhere"?--Lüboslóv Yęzýkin (talk) 23:06, 22 November 2012 (UTC)
  • Medeis, do you know about Magocsi's textbooks on Rusyn? (pdf1 pdf2)--Lüboslóv Yęzýkin (talk) 23:12, 22 November 2012 (UTC)
Yes, I own many of Magocsi's works. This saying is vulgar, and not in his works. Trying google and all my dictionaries provides no consistent translation. Slovak has the term rit' which I am used to hearing as ritsa. μηδείς (talk) 01:43, 23 November 2012 (UTC)
BTW, thanks for those PDF's Ljuboslov (if I may call you that). I own both works in print. μηδείς (talk) 02:13, 23 November 2012 (UTC)
I also heard that from my "Slovak" and "Ukrainian" neighbors when growing up. "Do ritsi" means "up (your) ass", Polish "Do rzyci". I remember the next word as being "bul", not "bal", and there was something further after it that included the word "hovno" (shit).
By the way, I'm from near Scranton, PA, where the terms "Slovak" and "Ukrainian" often refered to Ruthenians, like Andy Warhol, who was also from the area. I suspect the terms had some connection to religion, with "Slovaks" being Latin Rite, and "Ukrainians" being Orthodox or Byzantine Rite (aka Greek Catholic).
The ethnic identity of these people was quite complicated, both in the homeland and in the States, and some of them identified themselves as "Carpatho-Russians", actually believing that they were closely related to real Russians.
I remember being at an Orthodox funeral once when I was in college, and reading the material in the vestibule while waiting for the service to start. One thing I read was a Carpatho-Russian tract about the origin of the Carpatho-Russians. The main message was that they were not Polish, Slovak or Ukrainian (which is true). However, even then I could tell that it was full of pure pseudo-historical nonsense centered around them somehow being a "lost tribe" of the Russians.
Another caveat here is that a lot of these people started out as Byzantine Rite in the homeland, and became Orthodox in the US because of the way they were treated by the Irish Catholic heirarchy. These mass conversions were aided by Alexis Toth, who founded Saint Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary monastery and seminary. I used to go with my friends there for religious festivals and picnics. Another group of Byzantine Rite monks from the area also recently converted to Orthodoxy and started a monastery called New Skete in upstate New York, famous for it's German Shepherd dogs, and where I myself have been on retreat several times.
Also, I live in Poland now, in Wrocław. After WWII, the Ruthenians living in southeastern Poland were expelled to other parts of Poland for security reasons (they could not be relied upon to identify with the Polish side in any eventual Polish-Ukrainian confict). The wooden churches they left behind are on the UNESCO heritage site list (see: Wooden churches of Southern Lesser Poland. Just recently, they have been allowed to relocate to their original homeland and there is a small remnant community of them among which the ethnic identity is still alive and slowly reawakening. The largest groups are the Lemkos and the Boykos. Dominus Vobisdu (talk) 03:09, 23 November 2012 (UTC)
That's quite interesting. We have relatives all over, of course, and my mother sang in church choir in Scranton and Perth Amboy, New Jersey. I am not really interested in the religious question. There was some sort of schism around 1905, with members of my paternal grandfather's family siding with the Byzantine Catholic rite and building a new church, while their original church either stayed or became Orthodox. What I am really interested in is the meaning of the dirty phrase after the do ritsi part. I haven't been able to find this anywhere, even though I have available. I do suppose it could have been na bol or na byl, but na bul doesn't sound like what I remember. Of course I may be wrong. Hovno is simply hovno, lol. μηδείς (talk) 03:26, 23 November 2012 (UTC)
Found it on this šariština dictionary, do rici na bal, translated as "I'm not letting you go" or "you're not going anywhere!" I'm pretty sure "na bal" is something to do with jumping on a parachute. So if I'm right a literal translation would be "parachute into the anus". - filelakeshoe 08:14, 23 November 2012 (UTC)
Just thought, it could also be "to the ball" (as in a dancing event). - filelakeshoe 09:05, 23 November 2012 (UTC)
  • I have deciphered ritsi as Loc. sg. of rika "river", cf. PSl *rĕka, "k" is palatalised here. But it can be do rechi, cf. Pl do rzeczy.--Lüboslóv Yęzýkin (talk) 14:38, 23 November 2012 (UTC)
Great find, filelake, you seem to have it. Rica definitely means "behind" since the standard response to "where should I sit" was always do ritsu. "Parachute on the river" is certainly an interesting possible play on words, maybe like grass mud horse, but I had suspected for a while that bal meant "ball" and that the phrase meant something like "(I'll go) for a dance on your ass" somewhat in the way an American would say "I'll put a hurting on you." Some great references here! μηδείς (talk) 16:38, 23 November 2012 (UTC)
Ok, Medeis. A couple things clicked into place since I last wrote. Whenever we asked my mother where she was going, she would anwer in Polish "Do dupy spiewać", literally, "To go singing up an asshole". ("dupa" is another word for "Rzyć"). "Na bal" means "to a ball (dance) in Polish, Czech and Slovak, so "do rici na ball" most likely means "to go dancing up an asshole", pretty close to what my mother used to say. In either case, the point would be "It's none of your business where I'm going". Your "I'll go for a dance on your ass" is a little to stretched ("do" means "into" here, perhaps "to" generally, but definetely not "on" or "on top of"), and your intretation as "I'll put a hurting on you" even more so. There's no reason to treat it as any more than "None of your business". Dominus Vobisdu (talk) 17:49, 23 November 2012 (UTC)
Thanks, I'll gladly accept that, since I have no mastery of cases, and obviously the verb is implied. Funny we've got two expressions that essentially mean none of your business. (PS, I meant to say "for a dance in your ass, not on.) μηδείς (talk) 17:59, 23 November 2012 (UTC)
From a southern perspective, in Serbo-Croatian we also have an idiom "u dupe na vašar", also meaning "none of your business". It has the same connotation as Dominus explained, being regional and by now slightly archaic; something the next generation probably wouldn't use or even know. Only, we have "vašar" (village fair) rather than "bal". Its origin is equally opaque to me: since it exists both in Polish and Serbo-Croatian, maybe it's of German or Hungarian vintage? No such user (talk) 07:19, 28 November 2012 (UTC)