3 "h"s in "Khrushchev"

Wilson Gray wilson.gray at RCN.COM
Fri Apr 22 05:25:20 UTC 2005

On Apr 21, 2005, at 11:03 PM, Mark A. Mandel wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Mark A. Mandel" <mamandel at LDC.UPENN.EDU>
> Subject:      3 "h"s in "Khrushchev"
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------
> --------
> Dear Mr. Safire:
> This isn't your error, but it's on the Times Op-Ed page (Saturday,
> April
> 16):
>         Happy Birthday, Nikita Khruschev!
> By Nina L. Khrushcheva
> The name is spelled correctly, with "shch", in the biographical note
> on the
> author and throughout the text, except in the third paragraph where
> it's
> broken across a line as
>                 Khrus-
>         chev
> Nina, Nikita's great-granddaughter, knows how to spell the name as
> well as
> anyone and better than most. (The final "a" simply marks the feminine
> form
> and is obligatory in Russian.) The "sch" reflects most Americans'
> pronunciation, some editor's ignorance, and some proofreader's
> carelessness.
> -- Mark A. Mandel, Research Administrator
>     Information Extraction from the Biomedical Literature
>     University of Pennsylvania

The presence of the final -a that marks the feminine form is not always
obligatory. Under certain conditions, the opposite is true: the
*absence* of the -a is obligatory, just in case that the surname is a
foreign name that has not been Russianized. As one of my prepodovoteli,
gospozha Punkt, used to say, when we would tease her by addressing her
as "g-zha Punkta," "Gospoda, you do not decline [in the grammatical
sense] me!" Had her surname been Russianized as "Punktov," then she
would have been "g-zha Punktova." On the other hand, had she been male,
the name "Punkt,"  without the need of any modification, would have
been declined and otherwise treated as any other Russian surname.

-Wilson Gray

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