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  • Sorry if I sounded testy. Seeing badly (i.e. inconsistently) transliterated Russian is, for me, about the same as seeing spellings like "lite", "e-z", and "kwik" in English. Of course, I am not saying that there is only one way to transliterate Russian properly. There are many, many ways. Which gives me an idea for a new list!

    December 16, 2007

  • Rolig's dead right, I just wasn't on the ball and I'm a believer in consistent rather than convenient transliteration. I've never seen Boris written as Baris yet heard it that way dozens of times.

    December 16, 2007

  • Transliteration does not necessarily reflect pronunciation. The standard *pronunciation* of почему would be, in fact, puh-chee-MOO (to use English spelling). Here, the "o" is pronounced as a schwa (unless you're from St. Petersburg, then it's more likely to be a fairly broad ah). The Cyrillic letter that looks like a y derives, like the English y, from the Greek upsilon majuscule (Υ) but in fact is always pronounced "oo" as in "boot" (more or less) and is, in English transliteration, rendered as "u". Hence, Пушкин = Pushkin. The a and o problem is different. The Russian Cyrillic letter "o" is always transliterated "o", though how it is pronounced depends on whether or not it is stressed, where it falls in relation to the stressed syllable, whether it comes in initial position, and whether the speaker is from Moscow or St. Petersburg (Petersburgians tend to pronounce the unstressed o as a broader a than Muscovites). But the o in почему should definitely be transliterated as "o"; the word derives from the phrase по чему, which means, literally "according to what" (the word "po" means "according to"). This phenomenon of the unstressed o being pronounced as a, which is standard for Russian, is called аканье (akanye); in northern dialects, and as you get closer to Ukraine, one finds оканье (okanye), where unstressed o is pronounced o.

    Now, aren't you glad you asked?

    December 16, 2007

  • Rolig, isn't почему pronounced closer to pachemu than pochemu? Since the 'y' is changed to reflect its pronunciation as a 'u', wouldn't the same logic apply to the 'o'?

    December 16, 2007

  • A small correction: the Russian word for "why" is почему, which would normally be transliterated pochemu, hence the word for the inquisitive child is почемушка or pochemushka.

    December 16, 2007

  • I don't think I ever went through this stage, or at least I don't remember. I do remember being accosted by little Darren Xxxxxxx from next door when I was taking out my bike one day. I was about 10.

    Darren: What are you doing?

    Me: Riding my bike.

    Darren: Why?

    Me: Ummm ...

    December 16, 2007

  • I had a summer intern from the Soviet Union once who had never left this stage. Enormously intelligent, but a complete pain in the ass, expecting detailed explanation and justification of all the trivial minutiae of the job. It was a long and exhausting summer for all concerned.

    December 16, 2007

  • Russian - a child who is at the age when they continually ask 'why'. Derived from pachemu, why.

    December 16, 2007