Language and War

“Паляниця” is a Ukrainian word that means a loaf of bread. It’s being used in the war to identify Russian spies, marauders, provocateurs, etc. Russians notoriously can’t pronounce it. There are hilarious videos of Russian soldiers practicing the word and failing to say it correctly. The articulation apparatus forms in early childhood. After that, the accent remains no matter what you do.

14 thoughts on “Language and War

  1. Lol, that must be like the word “chrzan” which is the Polish word for ‘horseradish’. It was super entertaining watching my Ukrainian friend trying to pronounce it.

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    1. Or like the word “focus” which I’ll never manage to say as anything other than “fuck us.” Always makes people at conferences wake up and pay attention.

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      1. Even English-speakers can be entertaining trying to pronounce perfectly ordinary English words like Squirrel, girl, oil, rural… non-native-English speakers trying to do it are hilarious.

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          1. Arg. I tried it, and you can say short without moving your lips. A pox on me for bad explanations. The main difference is that I drop the middle of my tongue down to say “short” but for “shirt” I just pull my tongue back slightly in my mouth. If that makes sense.

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      2. Oh wow, now that’s funny! 😀 I have always found it amazing to hear people of other languages say words that seem absolutely tongue-twisting to me as a native English speaker, like, “How the heck do they pronounce those words!?” but then they at the same time struggle mightily it seems to pronounce some of the most basic of English words.

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    2. “chrzan”

      But that’s so easy! (as is ‘chrząszcz brzmi w trczcine’ (adding ‘w Szczebrzeszynie’ makes it a tiny bit harder) [a bettle buzzes in the reeds)

      The expression that kills me is “Stół z powyłamywanymi nogami” [a table with broken legs]

      Also hearing the difference between ‘wieś’ and ‘wiesz’ [village, you know] is a lost cause and I gave up long ago. I can usually produce the difference (until I get tired) but can’t hear it.

      Also pronouncing l in words like angielski is beyond me and it sounds like ‘angiełski’ (kresy pronunciation)….

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  2. I have read of one Russian woman who came to America and was working with Ph.D students in a lab. Well she needed to leave a note to the lab assistant, so she abbreviated it,and wrote, “Dear Lab Ass,” because she didn’t know that to abbreviate “assistant” you write “ass.” with a period. So the lab assistant then was quite upset and called her up wondering what they had done wrong.

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  3. Since we’re sharing mispronunciation stories, here’s my favorite. Years ago when I was a church music director, we had a supply priest one Sunday who was Pakistani. His English was pretty good, but he had trouble pronouncing some words. One Sunday he was in the midst of a very long sermon, and I had sort of zoned out, until I heard Father talking about Jesus and the Sudookies. It took me a moment to realize he meant Sadducees. I have never been able to look at a Sudoku since then without thinking about Jesus and the Sudookies.

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  4. This is the perfect modern day example of the story in Judges 12.
    Judges 12:5-6 – “Jephthah captured the shallow crossings of the Jordan River, and whenever a fugitive from Ephraim tried to go back across, the men of Gilead would challenge him. “Are you a member of the tribe of Ephraim?” they would ask. If the man said, “No, I’m not,” they would tell him to say “Shibboleth.” If he was from Ephraim, he would say “Sibboleth,” because people from Ephraim cannot pronounce the word correctly.”

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