[Ads-l] Request help with Russian passage in ABC book by Leo Tolstoy

Cohen, Gerald Leonard gcohen at MST.EDU
Mon Jul 23 00:41:05 UTC 2018


The Russian story says:

Two persons on the street  found together a book and

began to quarrel about it.  A third one asked:

"Who of you is literate?"

They said: "Neither" {literally: No one].

[Then in italics]: Two bald men are fighting for a comb.

Gerald Cohen

From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on behalf of ADSGarson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM>
Sent: Sunday, July 22, 2018 6:44 PM
Subject: Request help with Russian passage in ABC book by Leo Tolstoy

Perhaps a list member can provide a translation for a short passage
that appears in a Russian school book titled Azbuka. I'd also like to
obtain an accurate version of the Cyrillic text (the OCR text is poor
quality). The passage mentions bald men fighting over a comb. It
occurs on page 48 of an ABC book created by Leo Tolstoy and published
in 1874. Here is a link:


Here is some background: I've been asked to trace the figurative
language employed by Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges. Here is a
citation for his remark:

[ref] 1983 February 9, The Miami News, Quote unquote (filler item),
Quote Page 1, Column 1, Miami, Florida. (Newspapers_com)[/ref]

[Begin excerpt]
Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges, 83, on the Falklands War: "The
Falklands thing was a fight between two bald men over a comb."
[End excerpt]

The ABC book was revised and republished as Novaya Azbuka. Here is a
citation and excerpt for an English rendition of the pertinent story
published in 1899:

[ref] 1899 Copyright, The Complete Works of Lyof N. Tolstoi: The Long
Exile, Master and Man, The Kreutzer Sonata, Dramas, Section: From The
New Speller (Novaya Azbuka), Story 12: The Book, Start Page 159, Quote
Page 159 and 160, The Kelmscott Society Publishers, New York. (Google
Books Full View) link [/ref]


[Begin excerpt]

Two men together found a book in the street, and began to dispute as
to the ownership of it.
A third happened along and asked:--
"Which of you can read?"
"Neither of us."
"Then why do you want the book? Your quarrel reminds me of two bald
men who fought for possession of a comb, when neither had any hair on
his head."
[End excerpt]

H. L Mencken referred to the tale in his massive 1942 compendium:

[ref] 1942, A New Dictionary of Quotations on Historical Principles
from Ancient and Modern Sources, Selected and Edited by H. L. Mencken
(Henry Louis Mencken), Topic: Futility, Quote Page 441, Alfred A.
Knopf. New York. (Verified on with hardcopy)[/ref]

[Begin excerpt]
Two baldhead men are fighting over a comb.
[End excerpt]

Garson O'Toole

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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