24 July 2018

Just met a girl named.....

With the emergence of Maria Butina as the newest of the already-vast throng of characters involved in the Russian buy-out of the Republican party, a controversy has erupted -- how should her first name be spelled?  Both "Maria" and "Mariia" have been appearing on the net, and both have their partisans.

What people forget is that this is the name of a Russian person, and Russian is written in the Cyrillic alphabet, not the Roman alphabet we use -- any attempt to write a Russian word in the Roman alphabet is a transcription or transliteration.  (Writing such a word in the Roman alphabet is called "transcription"  when it's done based on the word's pronunciation in the original language, but "transliteration" when it's done based on the letters or other symbols of the original language's writing system -- its "spelling".)  The only "correct spelling" of the name is its spelling in the Cyrillic alphabet: Мария.  The last letter я is pronounced "ya", so if you write it out letter-by-letter in Roman, you get M-a-r-i-ya.  The letter я is sometimes transliterated "ia", which probably accounts for the spelling "Mariia" cropping up here and there.  I use "Maria" because that's the English form of what's basically the same name, but the only spelling that can be described as "correct", or really as a "spelling" at all, is the original Мария.

This kind of issue crops up with some frequency these days.  The name of al-Qâ'idah (the terrorist organization) is written in various different ways in the Roman alphabet.  In the Arabic alphabet, there is only one spelling, which looks like this:

There's a standardized Roman transliteration system for Arabic which is used in academia; I use it for most Arabic words on this blog, even though not all the symbols used in the system (dots under letters to indicate velarized consonants, for example) can be easily produced while typing in Blogger.  The wide range of Roman-alphabet "spellings" of al-Qâ'idah in the US reflects the difficulty of pronunciation -- the q and the apostrophe in the transliteration represent Arabic consonants that don't exist in any European language.

A few words from non-Roman-alphabet languages are common enough in English that they've acquired standard spellings, such as the Koran, the Islamic holy book (the Arabic name in transliteration is al-Qur'ân), or proper names like Moscow, whose actual Russian pronunciation (mask-VA) would not be recognizable to most Americans.  Even this can create confusion when standards change.  Many Americans think the capital of China "changed its name" from Peking to Beijing at some point, when what actually happened was that the English-speaking world adopted the Pinyin transliteration system (invented in China), which does a far better job of representing the sounds of Mandarin Chinese than the hodgepodge of old ways of writing Chinese words in the Roman alphabet which had existed up to then.  The city has always been called Beijing in Mandarin, and I doubt that many people who live there know or care how Americans write it.

So there's no need to make an issue of "Maria" vs. "Mariia".  They're both makeshifts, adaptations to an alphabet differing from the original one.  We have more important things to worry about.

7 Comments:

Blogger Debra She Who Seeks said...

Interesting info about Peking/Beijing!

24 July, 2018 05:32  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

I had to read this twice as far as wording and pronunciation and so forth to understand any of it, it's BEYOND me, but appreciate the educational value I got from it (one of my weak points is language, writing). My nephew Abel got to spend a couple years in Beijing, some of the vidz and photos he showed me were really cool. The popular clubs in that town issue "member cards" for entry, he frequented the clubs at night, he was dating a girl there from Germany, so I dont know how his German is, but he does speak that Mandarin, Spanish and English. He told me the many younger Chinese women were liberated and stand strong types (some wild stories too {:-), which I wasnt aware of. He is an instructor in martial arts, and also gives guitar classes, he played death metal music here in Texas, but is well rounded in latin music as well, like flamenco.

But, I didnt know who Maria Butina was ... so I read her wikipedia real quick to get briefed. Quite a young lady too! as far as background. I miss out on much news, and am selective in what I focus on, I guess. But I missed out on alot of this Russian involvement in our elections, which is becoming evident with all the investigative findings that been coming out, just some deep shit. ... Later guy ....

24 July, 2018 08:25  
Blogger Mary Kirkland said...

I hadn't even heard of her before now.

24 July, 2018 09:13  
Blogger Thomas Ten Bears said...

Doesn't anyone ever read (write) spy novels anymore. How can any of this be a surprise?

The names don't mean anything. She was setting herself up as mistress, or even wife, and asset handler of a rich American fatcat twice her age. Not like it hasn't been done before.

24 July, 2018 14:47  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Debra: Always amazes me how people misunderstand that. Do they think the Chinese write names in Roman script and those Chinese characters are just for decoration or something?

Ranch: Many Chinese women certainly don't fit the stereotypes! As for Ms. Butina, her mission has apparently included shagging fat Republicans twice her age to promote her country's interests -- either she's a real super-patriot, or Putin better be paying her plenty.

Mary: I guess with that apartment building you live in, you don't need any more drama from the news.

Thomas: Spy novels may have anticipated characters like Butina, but I doubt they anticipated Trump.

24 July, 2018 15:49  
Blogger Adam said...

Why are all the cute ones crazy and secret agents?

25 July, 2018 14:18  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Being cute is an asset in that kind of work.....:-)

25 July, 2018 15:42  

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