Horsethieves (was Matrushka; Hryvna: more)

James A. Landau JJJRLandau at AOL.COM
Fri Jul 19 14:32:45 UTC 2002

In a message dated 7/18/02 11:10:42 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
einstein at FROGNET.NET (pseudonym for Jim MacKillop) writes:

>  >  It appears that that people we call
>  > "Celts" most often referred to themsleves with words
>  > containing the phoneme gal-, thus the Latin Gallia.
>  > People calling themselves gal- survived in many parts
>  > of Europe, thus Portugal, as well as the two Galicias.
>  > I am not sure what the Polish and Spanish examples
>  > have identical spellings in English, but it's mostly
>  > likely the influence of medieval Latin.  In Poland,
>  > which I have twice visited recently, Galicia is
>  > pronounced ("gal-ITS-ya"), a Latin borrowing.

/gal 'its ya/ for the Galicia in/around Poland is correct.  I have most often
/gal 'it see ya/ but that's a slight mangling by anglophones.  People from
the region are in my experience called /gal 'it see yah n'rs/, again probably
a slight anglicization.

/its/ is "a Latin borrowing"?  I understand that the Polish name "Kac" is
pronounced /kahtz/ (and means "Cohen"), from which I deduce that in Polish
the letter "c" is pronounced /ts/.

Thank you for the information about the derivation of "Portugal" as
"something of the Gauls".  I must now add Portugal to my list of European
nations whose names are in languages not currently spoken in those countries,
e.g. "Spain" is from the Celtic word "span" meaning "palm [of one's hand]",
referring to the flat country of Spain's central plateau.

Litvaks (as used here, the term means Jews of Lithuanian ancestry, such as my
wife) sneered at Galicianers (again the reference is to Jews from the Galicia
in Austria-Hungary such as myself) as country bumpkins.  The term I have most
often heard is "horsethief", which in this context means not "a man who
steals horses" but rather "a man who eats with his fingers".  For example,
the then fiance of my wife's youngest sister said, while looking at me with a
perfectly straight face, "but I was told there weren't any horsethieves in
the family."  Or the man who was given the sixth Torah honor at a synagogue
he was visiting.  He thought he deserved better than the sixth honor, so he
said to the president of the synagogue, "Where I come from, we give the sixth
honor to horsethieves."  The president replied, "Here, too."

So now we know Barry Popik's little secret.  The City With Two Names Twice
appoints horsethieves as parking ticket judges.

     - James A. Landau

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