A tale of creation and deadlines

This is one of the more interesting Macedonian folk tales collected by Marko Cepenkov. Like many such tales, it is (very loosely) based on Biblical stories, but has a unique twist -- and may be of as much interest to project managers as to theologians...

This story was recorded by Marko Cepenkov in Prilep from an informant named Ivan Motev, and published in Sofia in the SbNU, vol. XV, pp. 91-92, in 1898. The original publication is in what appears to be a version of the 19th century Bulgarian orthography adopted for the central Macedonian dialect; the story has been since reprinted in the modern Macedonian orthography (again, adopted for the particular dialect), e.g. in Predanija i Legendi, ed. Kiril Penuševski, Skopje, 1969.

When the Lord created people (Господ кога и создаваше луѓето)

When the Lord created heaven and earth, with everything that's on them and in them, everything that we can or cannot see, living and dead; and when the Lord -- praise be to Him! -- saw that everything that He had made was made well, He also decided to create people on this earth, so that they would live and glorify Him. When creating everything in the world, the Lord scheduled one day to work on something, another day to work on something else, the third day for the third thing, the fourth day... and so on. He had just one day scheduled for creating people. He got up early in the morning, rolled up His sleeves, took a mattock in His hands, dug up some soil, prepared clay, and started making people, like a potter who makes pots. First He'd make the legs, then the trunk, then the arms, then the head, hair, ears, eyes, nose, and all other organs all put together; like a clockmaker, which puts the cogwheels of a clock together with a great skill, in this way He, too -- praise be to Him! -- put together all organs of a man with great skill, so that no part would be put incorrectly, thus resulting in a poorly made man.

He had made so many people by lunchtime, got hungry -- praise be to God! -- and sat down to lunch; and after lunch He'd make more people, as many as he needed. The Lord lunched on a bagel and milk, looking at the people whom He had made and whom He had lined up in front of Him, like a battalion of soldiers. He looked at them and smiled to Himself, because it was a pleasure to look at them, so handsome and smart they had been made.

"Oh, how good they are, these people whom I have made!", He said to Himself, "These people, they really are in My image! I have made so many before lunch; but if I make as many before the end of the supper time, that will be no good: I sill need ten times as many people as I have made! So I need to make a mould, and to make them with the mould; this way I will be able to make as many people as I need by supper time".

He quickly finished His lunch, crossed himself, rose from His meal, washed His hands, and made a mould - great job! He prepared more clay, as much as He needed, and started making the rest of the people, as many as He needed. Put clay into the mould, press it in, and here's a man for you, just take him out of the mould! The Lord would turn a wheel and keep getting people out of the mould. And even if some came out with a lame leg, or with a crooked arm or neck, or blind, or bald, or with scabs on his skin; or if he were a bully, or a traitor, or a stubborn blockhead -- and even if the Lord saw him come out of the mould among other people -- He did not have time to correct the defect, because He was in a hurry to complete the planned number of people by supper time.

But you will say, why did not the Lord allocate two days and made all people like those good ones in the first batch, instead of setting up the wheels and moulds, from which would come out bad people, and not good ones, like those which the Lord had made by hand and which had come out good? As much as I can say about it, it is that it pleased Him to do it this way; because when a king gives his word, he does not go back on it; and the Lord is not to going to say that He'd make the people in one day, and then spend two days on it. That's one thing that will not happen: the Lord won't go back on His word!

And this is why there are good and bad people in the world, because the Lord made the good ones by hand, and the bad ones, with the wheel and the mould, like a potter who makes pots on a potting wheel.

P.S. An audio recording of this story, read by Boris Majstorov for Radio Skopje, is available on Youtube, as the second of the two stories in this clip (starting at around 11:00).


Macedonia to Dalmatia ride, mileage calculation

Here are the distance estimates for the July Macedonia, Montenegro, and Dalmatia trip, using Google Maps. Somewhat weird junction points have been chosen for use in this calculation, in order to get Google Maps to draw a route more or less similar to my real route.
  • Macedonian train from Skopje to Prilep
  • Section 1, Prilep - Krushevo - Strezhevo Reservoir - Prespa Lake - Galičica NP - Ohrid - Elbasan, 279 km as follows:
    Prilep to Krushevo 33 km
    Krushevo to Stenje 100 km
    In Galičica National Park, above Lake Prespa and the village of Stenje
    Stenje to Trpejca 33 km  (across Galičica National Park)
    Trpejca to Ohrid 21 km
    Ohrid to Elbasan 92 km
  • Albanian train from Elbasan to Shkoder
  • Section 2, Shkoder - mouth of the Bojana River - Old Bar - Šušanj, 102 km, as follows
    Shkoder to Bojana 55 km
    Bojana to Šušanj 47 km
  • Montenegrin train from Šušanj to Podgorica
  • Podgorica - Cetinje - Kotor - Risan - Herceg Novi - Dubrovnik - Split, 381 km as follows:
    Podgorica to Cetinje 37 km
    Cetinje to Kotor 45 km
    Kotor to Herceg Novi 43 km
    Herceg Novi to Dubrovnik 49 km
    Dubrovnik to Makarska 145 km
    Makarska to Split 62 km

This totals to the 762 km riding distance for the entire trip, which is a bit shorter than the last year's summer ride, Copenhagen to Amsterdam. But the elevation gain / loss were rather higher this time :-)

Actually, the first section was a bit shorter than the Google Maps would show, as I could not make it show the route along the Strezhevo Reservoir (there is no official mapped road there). But riding via Bitola, as Google Maps would of course suggest, would have been easier...

It took about 20 days from leaving Prilep to arriving to Split, including all stops.


Teaching an Ubuntu laptop to recognize the Ethernet connection

Good advice from Joseph VanPelt

wired device not managed

I had the same problem with a fresh install on my Asus Eee PC 1005HA. The live environment worked with no problems, but once installed I couldn't get the connection to respond or to not read "device not managed". When I changed the text in this configuration file and restarted Network Manager everything worked!

gksudo gedit /etc/NetworkManager/NetworkManager.conf
for lubuntu:
gksudo leafpad /etc/NetworkManager/NetworkManager.conf

Now the text editor will open. Find the line managed=false and replace false with true and save the file (ctrl+s) and close the file.

Restart your computer or the NetworkManager service (sudo service network-manager restart).

This worked for me with Ubuntu 12.04 on an Acer laptop as well.


Sandinistas and Sandanistas

Augusto César Sandino (1895–1934) Jane Ivanov Sandanski (1872–1915)

Reading the biography of a certain historical character (Hristo Zarezankov / Христо Зарезанков) at a Macedonian web site, I was a bit intrigued by his being introduced as a "Macedonian revolutionary, Sandinista, and anarcho-socialist" (македонски револуционер, сандинист и анархосоцијалист). Considering the character's years of life (1890–1938), political inclinations, and, overall, his quite eventful life, one could certainly imagine Mr. Zarezankov sailing to Central America and joining the fighters of Augusto César Sandino - or maybe trying to follow the General's anti-imperialist ideas in the Balkans.

It turns out, however, that, in Macedonian at least, сандинист (Sandinist[a]) is not an uncommon typo for санданист (Sandanist[a]). (In English, of course, people are prone to misspell the other way around).

Like the Sandinistas, the Sandanists, too, were named after an assassinated charismatic leader, Jane Sandanski, fighting against the oppression by a great power (in his case, the Ottomans). I won't try to summarize here the complexities and controversies of his politics, but the career of the Pirinskiot Tsar ("The Czar of the Pirin") is a good illustration of the concept of "Balkanization". After Macedonia was liberated from the Turks in 1912 and divided by the liberator countries (who had to go to war between each other to accomplish the said division) in 1913, Sandanski was assassinated -- supposedly, with a tacit (covert) approval of the Bulgarian Czar Ferdinand, who then sent a wreath to his funeral.


Hedgehog Eats Ploughwoman's Lunch

In an earlier post, we saw rather complicated relationships between hedgehogs and turtles (sometimes mediated by their crustacean mutual friends), as depicted in a few Bulgarian/Macedonian and Greek folk songs. The topic, however, is far from exhausted.

The following song, published in 1896 in Volume XIII, page 38, of the SbNU (the Folklore Collection), was collected in the Samokov area of western Bulgaria by D. Ikimov.

The subtitle “Хороводная” under the song's title means, basically, that you can dance to it.

Желва и ежъ Turtle and Hedgehog
Пошла желькьа на оранье, 
На оранье, на копанье;
Упрегнала два гушчера, 
Остен ѝ е льута змиiа.
Понела е башчи (?) ручoк: 
Пугачица и чорбица, 
Чурбицата од мушица.
На срешча ѝ ежо-кьежо,
Наежил се, накежил се,
Пресресна си суа желькьа,
Пригѫрна ia, цальива ia,
Цальива ia, уапа ia;
Изруча ѝ погачица,
Погачица и чорбица.
Разльути се суа желькьа,
Та си оiде на кадиа,
На кадиу говореше:
-- Е кадио, ефендио!
Iа сам дошла да се судим,
Да се судим с ежо-кьежо.
Iа си поiдох на оранье,
На оранье, на копанье,
Та понесох башчу (?) ручок:
Погачица и чорбица.
На срешча ми ежо-кьежо,
Наежил се, накьежил се,
Пригѫрна ме, цальива ме,
Цальива ме, уапа ме;
Изеде ми погачица,
Искуса ми чорбицата.
 А кадия говореше: 
-- Таком Бога, суа желько,
Ти си мома -- дома седи,
Оно -- момче, така чини.
 Разсѫрди се суа  желькьа,
На кадиу говореше:
-- Е кадио, ефендио!
Криво седи, право суди,
Iали стани, iа да судим.
A turtle went to do ploughing,
To do ploughing, to do digging;
She harnessed two lizards,
And used a venomous snake for a goad.
She's brought a lunch for her father (?):
Pita bread and a chorba stew,
A chorba stew made from flies.
She's run across a hedgehog,
He's bristled at her,
And blocked the prim (?) turtle's path.
He hugged her, kissed her,
Kissed her, bit her,
Ate her pita bread,
Her pita bread and chorba stew.
The prim turtle was angry,
She went to the qadi,
And said to the qadi:
-- "Oh Qadi Effendi!
I have come to sue,
To sue the hedgehog.
I went to do ploughing,
To do ploughing, to do digging,
I brought a lunch for my father (?):
Pita bread and chorba stew.
I met a hedgehog,
He bristled at me,
Hugged me, kissed me,
Kissed me, bit me;
He ate my pita bread,
And devoured my chorba stew".
And the qadi said:
"The Lord be with you, prim turtle!
You are a girl - stay home;
He's a boy, he'll be doing things like that."
The prim turtle was angry,
She said to the qadi:
"Oh Qadi Effendi!
If you aren't sitting straight, at least judge right,
Or get up, and I will judge!"

(In accordance with the usual convention of referring to material published in the SbNU, the location of this song is usually abbreviated to "СбНУ XIII, 38". It can also be found, with a somewhat modernized spelling, as Song No. 39 in the book "КНИГА НА НАРОДНАТА ЛИРИКА, От седенките и хората до семейните радости и неволи", eds. Божан Ангелов и Христо Вакарелски).


  • "суа" may be a dialectal variant of "суха" ("dry"), or at least some editions think so; for the lack of a better guess, I translate that as "prim".
  • A qadi was a judge in an Ottoman (Islamic) court, and Effendi (Sir) was a way to address learned officials like that. At the time the song was recorded, Bulgaria has been liberated from the Ottoman rule for less than 20 years (and Macedonia was still under the Ottomans), so no wonder the folk songs still had Ottoman era terms in them.
  • The Turtle in the song is pretty good at declining her nouns: "кадио, ефендио!" is the Vocative (which is still very much alive and well in Bulgarian and Macedonian), and "кадиу" has to be the Dative (which is on its way out).
  • "Криво седи, право суди" (literally, something like "sit not straight; judge right") is actually a Bulgarian (and Macedonian) proverb, which is still in active use (at least judging by the online media). It is listed in plenty of dictionaries as an examlpe, but none of them quite explains its meaning, which appears to be along the lines, "You ought to make a right judgment in a disinterested way, not affected by your personal position". I am sure at all that I am guessing its sense right (or the meaning of the Turtle's "extension" of it). The most usual Bulgarian form of this prover is "Криво да седим, право да съдим," but there are many variants.

A different version of this song is given in the book "ЦУТ ЦУТИЛА ЧЕРЕШВИЦА. МАКЕДОНСКИ НАРОДНИ ПЕСНИ ОД МАРИОВО" (Macedonian folk songs from Mariovo) by БОЖО СТЕФАНОВСКИ (Božo Stefanovski), published by Bigoss in Skopje, 1995.

Кинисала мома желка The Girl Turtle goes out
Кинисала мома желка
во сабота на работа,
при орачо, при копачо.
Ми кренала зелен зелник,
зелен зелник коприварник.
На пат срете лоша среќа,
лоша среќа момче еже,
што потскокна па ја бакна,
што подрипна и ја штипна.
Ми тргнала на судија,
на судија, при кадија:
-Слушај ваму ти судија,
ти судија, ти кадија,
криво седи, право суди,
си кинисав на работа,
на работа во сабота,
при орачо при копачо,
што ме срете момче еже,
што потскокна та ме бакна,
што подрипна та ме штипна!
-Ај од тука, мома желко,
така прават ергените!
A girl turtle
Went to work on Saturday,
To do ploughing and digging.
She brought a green pie,
A green nettle pie.
On her way, she had an unfortunate meeting:
She met a boy hedgehog,
Who jumped and kissed her,
Who lept and pinched her.
She went to a judge,
To a qadi judge:
"Listen, Your Honor,
You Qadi Judge!
You may not sit straight, but judge right!
I went to work,
Went to work on Saturday,
To do ploughing and digging,
Where I met a boy hedgehog,
Who jumped and kissed me,
Who lept and pinched me."
"Go away, girl turtle!
This is what boys do!"

A somewhat different (bowdlerized?) version of the same song recently appeared in a 5th grade Macedonian language textbook:

Кинисала мома желка The Girl Turtle goes out
Кинисала мома желка
да ми оди на орање
да ми оди на орање
да ми носи сладок ручек.
Ја пресретна еже момче
тој ја бутна, ја подбутна
и истури сладок ручек
сладок ручек топеница.
Се налути желка мома
ми отиде кај судија.
Ој судијо, ти кадија
криво седи, право суди.
Јас си одев на орање
и си носев сладок ручек,
ме пресретна еже момче
тој ме бутна, ме побутна,
ми истури сладок ручек
топеница, маштеница.
Што и вели судијата,
што и вели кадијата:
Тој е момче се задева,
ти си мома, седи дома.
A girl turtle went out,
To go to do ploughing,
To go to do ploughing,
Carrying a tasty lunch with her.
A boy hedgehog blocked her way,
Pushed her, 
And grabbed the tasty lunch,
Tasty lunch of Topenitsa.
The girl turtle was angry
And went to the judge.
"Oh  Qadi Judge,
Whether you are sitting straight or not, make a right judgment!
I was walking to do ploughing,
Carrying a tasty lunch with me;
A boy hedghog blocked my way,
He pushed me,
And took my tasty lunch,
Of Topenitsa and yogurt."
What did the judge tell her,
What did the qadi tell her?
"He's a boy, he'll tease people.
You're a girl, stay home."


  • The name topenitsa (топеница) appears to be applied to various dishes in different places. The Macedonian Wikipedia explains that it's a flour product, a bit like pita chips; but Bulgarian recipes for topenitsa describe some kind of a yogurt, cottage cheese and hot pepper spread.

As reported by a Macedonian blogger, this folk song recently appeared in a 5th grade Macedonian language textbook. Besides "philological" questions (about the meaning of certain rare words) students were asked whether they think the judge's decision was right, and how they would try the case. This all (together with some other texts in the same book) made the blogger suspicious of sexist ("misogynist") inclinations of the textbook authors. I guess the Samokov version of the song, which ends with the Turtle's retort to the Judge's "Boys will be boys" pronouncement would have been less objectionable to that modern readers' sensibilities.

P.S. Here's an audio recording of one version of this song performed by the duet of Jonče Hristovski and Trpe Čerepovski (Јонче Христовски, Трпе Череповски) on Youtube.


Tell the world about our swamp

Inspired by reading some folk poetry, I was doing a web search researching the distribution of two words for "turtle", želka (желка) and kostenurka (костенурка) in Macedonian and Bulgarian. (The former word is the old Common Slavic - related to Greek χελώνα, and English ''chelonian'' too - and is the standard Macedonian word, present also in Bulgarian dialects; the latter is the modern standard Bulgarian, and I was curious to find out if it ever appears in Macedonian too).

So Google search found this page for me, which was supposed to be the Macedonian version of a page about the Friends of the Western Swamp Tortoise, a conservation group in Perth, Western Australia. The fact of the existence of such a page was curious enough (there are some Macedonian speakers in Australia, and one could imagine one of them working on the Urban Bushland Council of Western Australia and wanting to translate a web page) - but looking at the actual text of the page made it clear no one actually speaking Macedonian would write something like that. The title, for example, was translated as "Пријатели на Западна мочуриштето Костенурка на", which just isn't a phrase with any sensible grammar in it; a normal was to translate the name of the group would, I assume, be something like "Пријатели на западна блатна желка". The rest of the page was not much better.

It did not take much time to realize that this was machine translation - and, incidentally, exactly the translation that Google Translate would provide for the English page in question. It turned out the Urban Bushland Council went very much full-bore with their translation enterprise: they translated their entire website into 50+ languages, from Afrikaans to Yiddish! The quality of the translation, needless to say, varied. While it's easy to make fun of the quality of the automatic translation (besides the grammar and syntax problems, and occasionally failures to translate some words at all, the translation engine obviously was not aware that "Swan" is a proper name (Swan River)), the fact is that most translated pages - at least into half a dozen major languages I've taken a look at - were more or less (say, 80%) comprehensible.

I am still curious about the motivation beyond the organization's decision to provide these "translations", as opposed to, say, simply putting a "translate" button to every page, which would take the user to some kind of Google Translate plug-in... I suppose they made it easier for people to find their site when searching the web in foreign languages, but to which extent would that even be a concern for an organization with a regional scope in a region that's 90%+ English-speaking?


Another "Lobsters' Wedding"

Today we continue with the Bulgarian Folk Songs (which, as we know, are mostly Macedonian, in today's terms). Song 27, "Lobsters' Wedding" (where, in fact, it is a pair of tortoises who are marrying), recorded by the Miladinov Brothers in the Struga area, is followed by song No. 28, labeled Ednakvo ("the same"). So presumably its title for No. 28 is also "Свадба от ракоите" ("Lobsters' Wedding"), and it is also from Struga. The events in it, however, are quite different:

Свадба отъ ракови-те Свадба от ракоите Lobsters' Wedding
Рако’и-те свадба чинѣтъ,
А желки-те панагюрвѣтъ,
Ежо’и-те сеиръ чинѣтъ.
Ми сѣ спущи едно еже,
Ми целива една желка.

Ѣ догледа желюрок-отъ,
Тà сѣ спущи по еже-то:
„море еже пущарѫце,
Чіа жена си целивалъ.”

Рак-отъ му сѣ отго’орвитъ:
„Море еже пущарѫце!
Міе на бракъ те канифме,
Да ми ядишъ, да ми піешъ,
Големъ аинкъ да ми чинишъ,
Не да бацишъ чужа жена!”

Кутро еже с’ отго’орвитъ:
„Море раче осмокраче,
Море дѫлгомустакинче,
Море люто кавгадживче,
Ко ке ядишъ, ко ке піешъ,
Лели ке сѣ опіанишъ,
Тà ’се ке си забора’ишъ
Коӗ ѥ свое, коӗ ѥ чужо.”
Ракоите свадба чинет,
А желките панаѓурвет,
Ежоите сеир чинет,
Ми се спушти едно еже,
Ми целива една желка.

Је дoгледа жељурокот,
Та се спушти по ежето
„Море еже пуштар’це,
Чиа жена си целивал.”

Ракот му се одгоо’рвит:
„Море еже пуштар’це!
Мие на брак те канифме,
Да ми јадиш, да ми пиеш,
Голем аинк да ми чиниш,
Не да бациш чужа жена!”

Кутро еже с’ отгоорвит:
„Море раче асмокраче,
Море д’гомустакинче,
Море љуто кавгаџивче,
Ко ке јадиш, ко ке пиеш,
Лели ке се опианиш,
Та се ке си забораиш
Кое је свое, кое је чужо.”
Lobsters are celebrating a wedding,
Tortoises are feasting,
And hedgehogs are partying.
Here one hedgehog
Comes and kisses a [she-]tortoise.

The He-Tortoises sees it 
And turns to the hedgehog:
"Mr. Hedgehog - Letting your hands wander?
Whose wife are you kissing!?"

And the Lobster tells him:
"Mr. Hedgehog - Letting your hands wander?
We've invited you to the wedding,
To eat and drink with us,
To have a party with us,
And not to kiss others' wives!"

The poor Hedgehog is responding:
"My dear old Eight-Legged Lobster,  
Dear my Lobster Long-Antenna'ed,
You are such a crabby fellow!
As one is feasting and drinking,
It is so easy to get drunk 
And to forget altogether
What is yours and what is not!"

The first column is from the 1861 edition, the second is from the 1864 Macedonian edition (with the spelling modeled on the modern Macedonian orthography, the third is my attempt at a translation).

Another version of the song is Song No. 1236 in Kuzman Shapkarev's 1891 collection, where it is listed among the "funny wedding songs" (смешни свадбени песни):

Here there are no lobsters at the wedding, just hedgehogs and turtles; and the confrontation between the He-Turtle and the Hedgehog takes a deadly turn:

Ежовите и жельките The hedgehogs and the turtles
Ежовите сватби чинат, тарнана!
А жельките панагюрват, ой бобо!
Еже жельче надмигвеше,
го до гледа желькарчето,
та ми ойде у кадия,
ми донесе два музура.
Се налюти еже, меже,
та извади два кубура,
ми отепа два музура.
The hedgehogs are celebrating a wedding - Tar-na-na!
And the turtles are partying, - Oy-bo-bo!
A hedgehog winked to a [she-]turtle;
The he-turtle noticed that,
And went to a qadi,
[And] fetched two bailiffs.
The hedgehog became angry,
Pulled out two holsters,
And killed the two bailiffs.


  • The exclamations Tar-na-na! and Oy-bo-bo! are to be repeated after each line.
  • A qadi is a judge in a Muslim (Shari'a) court, and a muzur музур (which I rendered as "bailiff") is, according to Guerov's dictionary, an officer of such a court.
  • A kubur, two of which the hedgehog uses, is said by Guerov to be a "holster" (same as in Russian) or "quiver" (which, thinking of it, is a more appropriate piece of equipment for a hedgehog). I am not sure why the hedgehog uses a holster (or a quiver) rather than a gun or his own needles as a deadly weapon, but so the song says, if I understand it correctly.

Interestingly, the notion of a (male) hedgehog becoming interested in a (female) tortoise was not unique to Macedonian folk poetry. It also appears in a Greek folk song recorded by Panayiotis Aravantinos at around the same time in the Ioannina area, in Epirus, some 100 miles to the south of Struga. In Lucy Garnett's English translation it is rendered as follows:

And a giant of a hedgehog
At a tortoise eyes was making.
And the tortoise was quite shamefaced,
And within her hole she hid her.

(Quoted from: "Nursery Rhyme No. VI", based on Aravandinos' song No. 195, in Greek folk-songs from the Turkish provinces of Greece, 'Η δουλη 'Ελλασ: Albania, Thessaly (not yet wholly free), and Macedonia: literal and metrical translations by Lucy M. J. Garnett, classified, revised, and edited with an historical introduction on the survival of Paganism, by John S. Stuart Glennie, 1885, p. 173)

I know no Greek, but the original text of these four lines apparently runs as follows (I may have screwed up with the Greek diacritics):

κι' ὁ σκαντσόχοιροσ ὁ γίγασ
κάνει μάτι τῆς χελώνας,
κ' ἡ χελώνα καμαρόνει
καὶ 'ς τὴν τρύπα της τρυπόνει.
on page 137 of Aravantinos' book. As far as I can guess by looking at the Greek text, its meter appears to be the same as that of Lucy Garrett's English translation (as promised by the title of the latter), which seems to be the same of the Macedonian song from Struga recorded by the Miladinovs. I wonder if the Greeks in Epirus and Macedonia and the (Slavic) Macedonians in the same regions were actually singing their songs on the same tune! I wish I could attempt a metric translation like Garrett's...

(Incidentally, the Macedonian word for turtle, желка, which is based on the Common Slavic form, is apparently related to Greek χελώνα; at least Vasmer thinks so. It apparently is not shared (in that meaning) with other branches of the Indo-European family)


Lobsters' Wedding

The Bulgarian Folk Songs is a volume of folk songs (mostly Macedonian, in today's terms) collected by the Miladinov brothers and published in Zagreb in 1861. (Facsimile) There are several hundreds of songs and tales in that volume, and some of them look a bit like something from Edward Lear - or at least you imagine that Edward Lear could have drawn lovely illustrations for them. (Incidentally, Edward Lear did travel across Macedonia in 1848, just a few years before Miladinovs' work there!)

Here's song No. 27, recorded in the Struga area. Included are the original 1861 spelling, the modern Macedonian spelling from a 1964 edition, and my poor attempt at a translation.

Macedonian turtles / Македонски желки

Свадба отъ ракови-те Свадба от ракоите Wedding at the Lobsters
Рако’и-те свадба чинѣтъ,
А жельки-те панагюрвѣтъ.
Сѣ посвѫрши желюрок-отъ,
Си посвѫрши кутра желька,
Кутра желька за невеста.
И си стана желюрок-отъ,
Дойде ко’а, дойде време,
Да сѣ берѣтъ ’си свато’и.
Си пособра куси врапси,
Куси врапси за свато’и;
Си пособра уташина,
Уташина кумашина;
И си зеде за старосватъ
За старосватъ сколовранецъ,
Побратими бильбильчина,
Киниса’е по невеста,
Отидо’а во дворо’и.
Ми играетъ, ми скокаетъ,
Ми ядеетъ, ми піѥтъ.
И подстана желюрок-отъ,
Сѣ подскачи на скала-та,
И ѣ̀  виде кутрà желькà
Промената, наружена,
Ѣ целива бѣло гѫрло.
Сѣ зедо’а, отидо’а,
Со желка-та с’ кердоса’е.
Ракоите свадба чинет,
А жељките панаѓурвет.
Се посврши жељурокот,
Си посврши кутра жељка,
Кутра жељка за невеста.
И си стана жељурокот,
Дојде коа, дојде време,
Да се берет си сватои.
Си пособра куси врапси,
Куси врапси за сватои;
Си пособра уташина,
Уташина кумашина;
И си зеде за старосват
За старосват сколовранец,
Побратими биљбиљчина,
Кинисае по невеста,
Отидоа во дворои.
Ми играет, ми скокает,
Ми јадеет, ми пијеет.
И подстана жељурокот,
Се подскачи на скалата,
И је виде кутра жељка
Променета, наружена,
Је целива бело грло.
Се зедоа, отидоа,
Со жељката с' кердосае.
The Lobsters are in charge of a wedding,
While Tortoises are celebrating.
The He-Tortoise is marrying,
He is taking a poor She-Tortoise 
As his bride.
For the He-Tortoise
The time has come
To invite wedding guests
To invite small sparrows
To be his wedding guests.
An owl is invited
To be a witness;
And a starling is invited,
As the second witness;
Nightingales are his best men.
He goes to the bride's,
And enters her courtyard.
He is dancing, he is leaping,
He is eating, he is drinking.
Now the He-Tortoise rises,
And runs up the stairs,
And he sees the poor She-Tortoise,
Who's all dressed up,
And he kisses her white neck.
He takes her with him,
And they go to be married.


  • The title, Svadba ot rako[v]ite can be literally translated as the "Lobsters' Wedding". (Actually, rak refers to a great variety of crustaceans, and in Struga has to mean some kind of freshwater crayfish; in Yoto Yotov's French translation, the creatures are "crabs"). However, in this version, the crustaceans don't appear anywhere beyond line 1, and it is turtles who are marrying... so maybe lobsters are just officiating at the wedding, and "Wedding at the Lobsters'" may be a better title? (The same volume has another song with the same title, No. 28; the text, beyond the first two lines, is almost entirely different, and in that song it is not quite clear whether it is the crustaceans or the chelonians who are marrying)
  • The Macedonian word for "turtle", zhelka (желка, or in the song's dialect, zheljka жељка) is apparently the preserved old common Slavic word with this meaning; in Russian, Bulgarian, and Serbian it has been replaced with different words, cherepaha (черепаха), kostenurka (костенурка) and kornjača корњача, respectively, which apparently refer to the creatures appearance (they are derived from the words for "skull" and "bones").
  • Nouns in Slavic languages have grammatical gender, and zhelka ("turtle") is grammatically feminine (as are the words for "turtle" in other Slavic languages). Remarkably, Macedonian also has a word to specifically refer to a male turtle, should the speaker feel the need to: zhel(j)urok (желурок / жељурок)! This of course is somewhat unusual, since for most species for which distinct words for the male and female individuals exist, the "unmarked" (generic) noun is used for the male (e.g. lav лав "lion", volk волк "wolf"), and the special marked form exists for the female of the species (e.g. lavica лавица "lioness", volčica волчица "she-wolf"); for those species where the generic noun is grammatically feminine (e.g. ververica верверица, "squirrel"), no derived masculine form usually exists. So the turtles, in Macedonian, are fairly exceptional in this respect.
  • The song has a great variety of terms to refer to various participants of the wedding ceremony (сват, кумашина, старосват, побратим), and my attempt to render them into English is rather arbitrary.

Next: Another Lobsters' Wedding, where events are becoming more dramatic.



I encountered an interesting word in Krste Misirkov's famous little book, "Za Makedonskite Rabotite" (1903). One of Misirkov's main ideas at the time was that Macedonians would be better off as loyal subjects of His Imperial Majesty the [Ottoman] Sultan than in a united Macedonia (made into an autonomous province of the Ottoman Empire) than as citizens of several Christian countries that would divide Macedonia in case of a victorious anti-Turkish rebellion or war (which, of course, happened in 1912-13). Among the good things which, in his view, Turks could do to become better masters of their Macedonian subjects would be "entering the name 'Macedonian' into the nofuzes and other official documents of people of Slavic origin from Macedonia" (внесуаiн'е во нофузите и друзите официiални документи на лица от словенцки произлез од Македониiа името „македонец"). So apparently nofuz (нофуз) was some kind of identity document that Ottoman subjects had to use; but what exactly was it, and what's the origin of the word?

A Google Books search shows a few other uses of the term in the Bulgarian/Macedonian literature of the period describing the Ottoman Macedonia of the day. Vasil Kunchov explains (Macedonia, 1900, page 135):

At the birth of every child, a certificate called "nofuz" is issued by the government, via the ecclesiastiscal authorities. In it, the child's sex, name, birth date, birth place, and the names of the parents are recorded. The nofuz certificate is needed by every Turkish subject, because without it one cannot travel within the country or receive a passport to travel outside of it; without it, ecclesiastical authorities must not issue a marriage license. This being the case, everywhere in Turkey there are plenty of men and women without nofuz certificates.
... Нофузното свидетелство е нужно на всеки турски подданикъ, ...

And here's a good article in English on those IDs: Ottoman Identity Card, by Chris Gratien, with a few photographs of what those documents looked like. It turns out that in Turkish they were called nüfus tezkeresi, where nüfus by itself means, apparently, "population". It seems that in the Slavic language of the day the colloquial name for the document became shortened simply to nofuz.


Legislation related to cucumbers

Commission Regulation (EEC) No 1677/88 of 15 June 1988 laying down quality standards for cucumbers. To the readers of this blog it may be interesting, I suppose, primarily from the philological point of view. As fits a EU document, over the 26 years since the quality standards for cucumbers have been laid down, they have been translated into 20-plus national languages of the European Union, all the translations being available at the URL above. (The Irish Gaelic and Croatian are disappointing omissions; I suppose Croatian readers will have to make do with the Slovenian, Slovak, and Bulgarian translations).

By comparing the translations, one can note to see the "Great Cucumber Divide", a line running from the North Sea to the Adriatic and dividing the continent in half. Almost everywhere in the Eastern, Northern, and Central Europe, the word for "cucumber" is a derivative of the Greek αγγούρια ("unripe"; all examples here and below are in plural, and in an oblique case); cf. German Gurken, Swedish gurka (similarly in other Germanic languages, except for English), Czech okurky, Slovak uhorky (similarly elsewhere in West and East Slavic), Latvian gurķiem, Finnish kurkkujen, etc.

Admittedly there is a strange non-αγγούρια island in the Balkans, with the Bulgarian краставици and obviously related Romanian castraveți. (Outside of the EU directive, we also find the same word in Albanian (kastravecë), Maceodnian, and Serbian/Croatian). So in this case the Balkan Sprachbund has a common word, but it is not the same Greek word that's common throughout half the Europe!

The south-western half of Europe is much less homogeneous. Spanish and Portuguese have pepinos, which comes, ultimately, from the Greek πέπων "melon" (as does the English pumpkin).

The English cucumber, via the French concombre is said to be derived from the Latin cucumis. In Italian, this word survived too, as cocomero, but there it is more likely to mean "watermelon" than "cucumber"; the apparently more standard Italisn word for "cucumber" preferred by the EU bureaucrats id cetriolo, which also happens to be a Greek loanword - with the original Greek meaning "citron"!

The Salahor has arrived

A classic of the Macedonian and Bulgarian poetry, Grigor Prlichev's In the Year 1762 (В 1762-ро лето) tells the (fictionalized) story of the abolition of the Archbishopric of Ohrid (which, according to most sources, actually, happened in 1767). Written in 1872, the poen has practically become a folk song in Macedonia, at least judging by the number and variety of its renditions available on Youtube.

The language of the poem, although obviously archaized for the effect, is, generally, quite easy to understand based on the modern Macedonian plus some knowledge of Church Slavonic. There is, however, one unusual word in it. In the first sentence of the poem, "a salaor arrived to Ohrid from Constantinople" (В Охрида од Цариграда дошел Салаор). The salaor then stood in front of the Patrik of Orhid (literally, "Patriarch", but in the Macedonian context, the Archbishop of Orhid - the spiritual leader of the Balkan Slavs), and delivered to him the Sultan's order, dismissing the Patrik and abolishing his office.

Now, who is a salaor? The word salaor (салаор) does not look like a typical Slavic word, so, considering the context, it can be a Turkish loanword. However, it does not appear in standard Bulgarian or Macedonian dictionaries or texts (other than Prlichev's poem). Now, one of characteristic features of Macedonian (in fact, one of its main differences from standard Bulgarian) is that Macedonian often drops the consonant h or, in intervocalic position, v, where it appears in Bulgarian. So one also needs to check salahor (салахор) and salavor (салавор) - which, however, don't appear in Bulgarian or Macedonian (or even Turkish) dictionaries or texts either. It does appear as a surname, however - Salahor in Canada and the US, Salavor in Ukraine... and Salahor is apparently attested as a Romanian word. But what does (did) it mean in Bulgarian?

The Bulgarian etymological dictionary to the rescue! (Macedonian, from the Bulgarian scholar's point of view - rarely shared by anyone outside of Bulgaria - is merely a dialect of Bulgarian, so any Bulgarian dictionary striving to comprehensively cover dialect words should include most of Macedonian words as well). The BER volumes have been appearing at the average rate of two per decade since 1971; presently, its authors have reached letter T (volume 7, 2010). And yes, volume 6 (published 2002) has a detailed article (page 443) on salahor (салахор), with spelling varieties salaor and salavor. This, indeed, is an obsolete word; its main meaning being given as "people driven ''en masse'' to do unpaid labor" (хора, карани вкупом на безплатна работа), i.e. corvée workers. Additional meanings attested in certain dialect are "laborers" (трудоваци) and "a wanderer" (скитник). The indicated etymology, however, indicates a rather different original meaning: Turkish salahor, from Turkish Turkish silâhşor, "an armed fighter; a musketeer", which itself is a loanword from Persian (selāḥšūr, which in its turn is constructed from Arabic roots.

According to the same dictionary, the same Turkish word, besides Bulgarian, entered other Balkan languages as well. Indeed, a Romanian dictionary explains salahór as an "unskilled day laborer, esp. on road or building construction projects", or (historically) "a peasant who, instead of paying taxes, would have to work on fortress repair, road maintenance and other heavy work". In Serbo-Croatian, where the word could be variously spelled as salahor, sarahor, saraor, seraor, the purported meaning would be that of a soldier whose duties involve guarding a fortress (rather than, say, going on field campaigns); it also exists there as more authentically Turkish silahšor, and refers to a member of the palace guard of the Ottoman Sultan.

A slight variation on the duties of a Salahor at the Sultan's court appears in a 19th century source, Travels in Albania and Other Provinces of Turkey in 1809 & 1810 by Rt. Hon. Lord Broughton (page 239), where "Squires of the Stable" (Salahor) are listed among the officials handling Sultan's horses.

To conclude, after reading all these definitions, we still don't know whom exactly Prlichev had in mind when he was writing about a salaor. Simply a "traveler" (скитник) would not make to much sense to refer to a person who has brought the official Sultan's order, and presumably was a person in a position of some responsibility. But a "day laborer" would make even less sense. A fortress guard, or even a "squire of the stable", is not the same as an imperial courier either; perhaps there was another shift in meaning somewhere... We do, however, now have a better idea of where and how the surname Salahor (or Salavor / Salaor) originated.


After a few really warm days...

* First bamboo shoots seen today. The old bamboo canes are apparently all dead after the last super-cold winter, but we'll have new ones...
* Volunteer tomato seedling sprout in the beds where tomatoes were grown last year. (We treat them as useless, since we'll have much bigger tomato seedlings grown indoor. In Indiana, you can let volunteer tomato seedling grow into a real plant, and it usually will bring fruit, but it will do so a month or two later than transplanted seedlings)
* New mint stems and leaves appeared above the ground. I was wondering if mint had been fully killed by the cold winter, but no, it has not.


If you read Russian, you'll read Macedonian in no time!

(This is my review of the Makedonsko russkij slovar by R.P. Usikova, Z.K. Shanova, M.A. Povarnitsina, E.V.Verizhnikova [Moscow, 2003] on amazon.com)

Modern Macedonian is a curious little language: it is a literary standard created in the 20th century for a group of South Slavic dialects spoken by people whom Bulgarian officials call "Macedonian Bulgarians", and Serb politician used to call "Southern Serbs". The actual language is a lot like Bulgarian, but there are a lot of differences in spelling between the standard written forms of the two languages (e.g., Macedonian often has a v or an f, or nothing at all where Bulgarian has an h), as well as some specifically Macedonian words, so that trying to look up Macedonian words in a Bulgarian dictionary would not be practical for most people. It is also nice to have a concise "cheat sheet" for Macedonian grammar, explaining the conjugation of verbs, the forms of pronouns (which, too, are often different from Bulgarian), etc.

There are good Macedonian dictionaries on the market, such as the weighty English-Macedonian, Macedonian-English Standard Dictionary (ISBN 9989809356), which is more complete than Usikova's volume, but also is a lot heavier; there is also a very good online dictionary. There are textbooks and grammars targeted to the English-speaking readers as well, such as a good academic grammar by Olga Mišeska Tomić (ISBN 089357385X). The fact is though, if you already grasp Russian grammar and have a good Russian vocabulary, you don't need to read the 500 pages of Tomić (or a similarly sized book on Macedonian grammar, in Russian, authored by Usikova herself). The 40-page grammar reference in the back of Usikova's dictionary, with handy conjugation tables etc, together with the dictionary itself, would let you read pretty much anything published in the Republic of Macedonia fairly easily. In my experience using this dictionary with a couple of Macedonian books or articles, I'd run into a stumbling block maybe once in 5-10 pages, and then a reference to a bigger (online) dictionary (if I can't guess the meaning of a word) or to Tomić book (if the grammar is particularly tricky) would often be helpful. And a major advantage of Usikova's book is that, while certainly not pocket-sized, it is still small enough to be fairly convenient for travel use.

Obviously, the book is written primarily for native Russian speakers, but anyone who's achieved a decent reading proficiency in Russian and now wants to "diversify" to another Slavic language can make a good use of it as well.

From a user's point of view, one certainly can slightly expand the vocabulary contained in this dictionary. Among possible candidates for additions I can list, for example, some words frequently used by Krste Misirkov in his famous "Za Makedonskite Raboti" (pretty much the first book ever written in modern Macedonian), such as arno ('good'), as well as some recent Serbian loanwords (?), such as točak (originally 'wheel', but seems to usually mean 'bicycle' in Macedonian). But, overall, the dictionary is quite adequate.



When reading (or trying to read) a Macedonian book, I encountered a cool looking word, игроорец (igroorets; in the New Yorker's orthography, that could be transcribed igroörets). Looking it up in the dictionary, I saw that its meaning was just what I'd expected from the context, "Тој што добро игра во оро", i.e. "one who is good at dancing horo [a Balkan folk dance]". The word also exists in the Bulgarian spelling, игрохорец. (Macedonian frequently drops the h found at the beginning of Bulgarian words and word roots).
A web search confirmed that it's a real word, in fairly active use. Among the top search results was a 2008 article from the (now defunct) Macedonian Service of the BBC, Најстариот игроорец во Македонија (The oldest horo dancer in Macedonia), about one Dimitar Stanoevski (Димитар Станоевски) from the village called Dramche Delchevo (Драмче Делчево). At the time of writing, Dedo Dimitriya (Granddad Dimitar) said that he was 94 by his own account, even if other people said he was only 92. He had first organized a horo troupe in 1951, performing at numerous festivals in Yugoslavia and abroad, and taught many horo dancers over his career; at the time of the publication, his troupe only included 6 people.
In 1984, he had one of his kidneys transplanted to his daughter. He attributes his longevity to the clean air and milk of his village.
The article also taught me another cool word, ороводец (orovodets), "one who leads the horo", which can also be used figuratively.


More on Mears

I mentioned Lt. Arthur Mears, of Britain's Indian Army, who in 1898 published a small English-Russian / Russian-English military dictionary. For the curious, here is his biography, in The Cyclopedia of India (1908). By that time he was already a major - and he certainly had had an interesting service record! (Born in Madras, trained at Sandhurst, sent to study Russian in Russia, doing survey work in Burma...).

A genealogy site mentions that apparently the same Arthur Mears died in 1941 in England. So he well may have served in WWI in his late 40s, and lived into the early years of WWII.


Ahead of its day

From the OUP blog, thanks to Language Hat:
One of these [dictionary proposals] ... was decidedly for a niche market. “A Russian-English and English-Russian Military Vocabulary” was proposed in 1896 by a Lieutenant A. Mears. .. [A]ccording to the files the proposal was declined “in the absence of any intimation that such a work would receive the patronage of the War Office”.

One can't help thinking that the War Office was rather myopic nixing Lt. Mears' proposal - just 8 years before the Russian-Japanese War (of considerable interest to British and American observers) and 18 years before the outbreak of WWI (which was to be followed, of course, by the British and US involvement in the Russian Civil War...). Frederick Gustavus Burnaby (1842-1885) (of the Ride to Khiva fame), had he been alive, probably would not have appreciated that!

UPDATE: Actually, it appears that Arthur Mears was successful with publishing his dictionary, after all! At least Google Books is aware of it: Arthur MEARS, English and Russian Military Vocabulary, London, 1898. 127 pages The text of the dictionary is not available for viewing on Google Books, but here's a contemporary one-page review by Arthur A. Sykes.

It is mentioned elsewhere that the cloth-bound volume, published by David Nutt, could be purchased for 5 shilling.


"Geographie De L'Espagne Morisque" by Henri Lapeyre (1959)

(This is a book review posted to amazon.com)

Most people probably are familiar with a sad episode of Spanish history: the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492. Fewer people are aware that another large group of people were expelled from Spain a century later. They were the nominally Christian descendants of the Spanish Muslims, known as the Moriscos, as well as any not-yet-converted Muslims (the Mudéjares).

Unlike the expulsion of the Jews, the expulsion of the Moriscos was carried out in many stages. Typically, when the Spanish took over a Muslim city during the Reconquista, they allowed the local Muslims to stay; but a few years later *something* would happen, and the tMuslims of that particular region would be told to convert to Christianity or to leave the country. A few decades later, something else would come along, and those "New Christians" of Muslim origin - a.k.a. the Moriscos - were thought to be dangerous for the state, and were to be relocated to another part of Spain, or to be expelled from the country altogether. And so it went through the 16th century, until the total expulsion of 1609-1614.

In his books - probably, one of the first "fully modern" books on the topic - Henri Lapeyre covers most of this sad history. His focus, however, is on the historical and geographical detail: he studies all census records, inquisition reports, ship manifests etc to figure how many people were actually expelled from each town or county and when; from which port (or Pyrenean pass) they departed, and where they went. The amount of statistics is somewhat excruciating for most non-specialist readers; however, if you have an interest in the history of some particular locality, here you can find all the relevant Morisco facts (or numbers) for it.

If Lapeyre were to write this book 50 years later, it probably would not be a paper book at all; these days, something like this could have been more easily published as an Excel file. (Incidentally, most of the pages in the copy of his book that I saw had not even been cut in 54 years since it had been printed). The books has plenty of fairly detailed maps, too - these days, that probably could have been done with a Google Maps layer.

Anyway, besides the dry statistics (totaling up to about 300,000 Moriscos and Mudéjares in Spain on the eve of the expulsion, and about 275,000 expelled), the book does have a lot of interesting detail. For example, the official motivation for the expulsion of the Moriscos was of the national security kind ("What if there is a war with Turkey?") and religious kind ("crypto-Muslims" - and their children don't join the clergy or monasteries, so their population grows way too fast!). But the more real, popular, motivation, was apparently different: it is said that in the popular view, at least, the Moriscos were working a bit too hard, and, even worse, spending much less money than their "Old Christian" neighbors. (Half as much, as per some ecclesiastics' reports). Thus they kept growing rich, despite often holding non-prestigious jobs in Spain's cities. So it seems to me that in the century after the expulsion of the Jews, the Moriscos took the same role in Spanish society - or at least in the popular mind - that Jews did elsewhere in Europe.

Of course, it's not like everyone wanted the Moriscos to go. For example, in Granada, the city government petitioned the Royal authorities to let some Moriscos stay: at least a dozen of plumbers (because nobody else knew how to maintain the 's plumbing in the Alhambra and elsewhere in the city), at least a dozen of silk dyers (so that they could teach some Christians how to produce the right colors), and, surprisingly, a dozen of real estate experts. In Valencia's countryside, too, 6% of all rural Moriscos were allowed to stay behind for some time in order to transfer the irrigation systems in good order to the new Christian settlers.

The children also became a thorny issue: in some areas (Valencia), children under 4 years old were allowed to stay behind, with parents consent, presumably to be adopted by good Christians. In Castile and Andalusia, Morisco children under 6 years old *had* to be taken from their parents stay behind if their parents were leaving for Muslim countries, but could be taken along by the parents if they were leaving for Christian countries. This rule, apparently, resulted in some rather strange itineraries.

I wish this book had a better coverage of what happened to the Moriscos once they landed in Africa - after all, some of them weren't even speaking Arabic anymore, 3-4 generation after the end of the Reconquista! This is obviously outside of the scope of the Lapeyre's book, and he only discusses the post-expulsion very briefly in the "Conclusion" of his book


¡Buscamos Nueva York!

The Internet Archive has published an interesting map geocoding the locations of the place names mentioned in US television news (actually, San Francisco and Washington, DC television news) over several years.

Parsing the data to extract place names, and then geocoding them, must have been quite an effort. However, as the authors themselves have noted, there is plenty of space for improvement.

It seems that once you go outside of the US borders, it's not "a lot of errors" (as mentioned in the original post); rather, almost everywhere, the noise greatly outweighs the signal! This is not entirely surprising, of course: San Francisco or Washington, DC, television programming does not have a lot of reasons to mention small towns in China or El Salvador, so pretty much every time a map has a small dot in one of those countries, it is the result of misattribution.

The gazetteer for El Salvador, for example, must have included lots of towns (and villages) whose names are common Spanish nouns ("La Nueva", "La Union", "Los Campos", "Libertad", "La Puerta", "La Reina", "Los Canales", "Los Blancos") ... as well as a town named "Nueva York" (guess what place that word usually refers in Spanis!) and another one called "Chiapas", which must have absorbed some hits meant for a state in Mexico. The same situation prevails in the neighboring Guatemala and Honduras. In Spain references to "Madrid" are (hopefully) genuine, but almost everything else - "Los Alamos", "La Copa", "El Canal", "Las Cuevas" - you must have guessed their source. Even the Albanian capital Tirana reveals itself, most of the time, as a typo for "Tehran"!

In China, it seems, the gazetteer includes lots of small places which are homonymous with personal names occurring in the news reports, and that's how they got mapped.

In Russia, it's a rather interesting mixed bags of misattributions. The comparatively large dot on Nizhny Novgorod looks so reasonable, until you click on it and see that most occurrences came from phrases such as "Gorky Park".

In a lot of cases, it seems, the system makes wrong dismbiguation choices, assigning a hit for X to location X1, even when there is a much better known place X2 with the same name. For example, Italy gets hits for "Monte Carlo"; Russia, for "Balkan", "Bogot" (Bogotá?), as well as for "Yalta" and "Rovno", and for "Strasb[o]urg" too!

Trying to improve the name identification quality in a real-life system like this could be an interesting topic for a computer science student's term paper (and maybe even for a master's thesis). Some Bayesian statistcs could be helpful. For example, for words like "la nueva", "el canal" or "la unin", one can estimate the prior probability of them occurring in a text as a place name vs. a common noun or adjective. (As a rough idea of the likelyhood of the former, one can look at the size of the Wikipedia article for a place with a given name; if there is no article for a given place name, then, most likely, it is not going to appear in TV news. )