послушай, Зин

The first time I read the word зин I almost fell off the chair. (I was sitting on the sofa though.) Of course, зин is nothing but a Russian spelling of zine, itself a short of fanzine (фэнзин), which is a blend of fan and magazine. However, the meaning of the Russian word магазин (shop, store) is very different from that of magazine. My first association of зин was with the name Зин as in Vysotsky’s song:

“Ну, и меня, конечно, Зин,
Всё время тянет в магазин,
А там — друзья… Ведь я же, Зин,
Не пью один!”

Владимир Высоцкий
«Диалог у телевизора»

“And, of course, Zin,
I always long for the <liquor> store,
There are my friends, because, Zin,
I never drink alone!”

Vladimir Vysotsky
Dialogue by the TV set

By the way, I already mentioned this song when discussing Russian terms for in-laws. But why Зин instead of Зина?

You might remember that Russian has six cases. Or at least this is what we were taught in school. Well, that is not exactly true. There are remnants of up to ten additional cases! One of them is vocative. According to Russian Wikipedia, the historic Slavic vocative started to die out (by getting mixed with nominative) as early as XI century. By XIV—XV its use was restricted to addressing the higher social ranks and by mid-XVI century it disappeared from vernacular altogether, the only remaining forms being those to address the clergy. Nevertheless, until 1918, the vocative case was formally listed as the seventh case of the Russian language.

Nominative Vocative Meaning
Бог Боже God (in monotheistic religions)
Господь Господи Lord
Иисус Иисусе Jesus
Христос Христе Christ
владыка владыко lord; bishop
отец отче father
старец старче (literary) old man; elder
царь царю tsar, king
князь княже prince
человек человече human being, person

The handful of surviving vocative forms are still very common in both literary and spoken Russian.

Врачу, исцелися сам!

Physician, heal thyself

Отче наш, иже еси на небесе́х!
Да святится имя Твое…

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.

Не лепо ли ны бяшет, братие, начяти старыми словесы трудных повестий о полку Игореве, Игоря Святославлича?

Might it not become us, brothers, to begin in the diction of yore the stern tale of the campaign of Igor, Igor son of Svyatoslav?

«Чего тебе надобно, старче

“What do you need, old man?”

Ой, как худо жить Марусе
В городе Тарусе!
Петухи одни да гуси.
Господи Исусе!

Oh what trial is Tarusa
For the girl Marusya —
Nothing but the hens and geese,
What a living, Holy Geez!

Он говорит в ответ:
— Мёртвый или живой,
Pазницы, жено, нет.
Сын или Бог, я твой.

He, in turn, explained:
— Dead or alive, this time,
Woman, it’s all the same.
Son or God, I’m thine.

In Ukrainian, vocative (кличний відмінок) is alive and kicking. In Russian literature, it is widely used to give a Ukrainian feel to dialogue (while leaving the rest 100% Russian):

— Не смейся, не смейся, батьку!

— Не слушай, сынку, матери: она баба, она ничего не знает.

Н. В. Гоголь
«Тарас Бульба»

“Don’t laugh, don’t laugh, father!”

“Don’t listen to your mother, my son; she’s a woman, she doesn’t know anything.”

Nikolai Gogol
Taras Bulba

— Вы не медик, панычу? Медики, те привыкают сразу.

М. А. Булгаков
«Белая гвардия»

“Not a medical man, are you, sir? Medical gentlemen soon get used to it.”

Mikhail Bulgakov
The White Guard

In modern Russian, a number of nouns of the first declension and some (typically, diminutive forms of) given names which end with or could drop the ending to form a “neo-vocative” («современный звательный» or even «новозвательный падеж»). For instance, (nominative) Зинаида → (diminutive nominative) Зина → (diminutive neo-vocative) Зин.

Full Nominative Diminutive Nominative Diminutive Neo-vocative
Александр (m), Александра (f) Саня Сань
Саша Саш
Шура Шур
Анна (f) Аня Ань
Ася Ась
Нюра Нюр
Алла (f) Алка Алк
Андрей (m) Андрюша Андрюш
Владимир (m) Вова Вов
Вовка Вовк
Володя Володь
Елена (f) Лена Лен
Зинаида (f) Зина Зин
Иван (m) Ваня Вань
Мария (f) Маня Мань
Маша Маш
Михаил (m) Миша Миш
Надежда (f) Надя Надь
Николай (m) Коля Коль
Ольга (f) Оля Оль
Тамара (f) Тома Том
Томка Томк
Татьяна (f) Таня Тань
Танюша Танюш

These short forms can make for almost untranslatable wordplay:

Как-то раз в коридорах Центрального телевидения встретились диктор ЦТ Ангелина Вовк и канцлер ФРГ Хельмут Коль. Произошёл любопытный разговор:
— Как дела, Вовк?
— Да ничего, Коль!

Андрей Кнышев, «Тоже книга»

Normally full Russian names do not form neo-vocative, so we don’t say “Алл”, “Анн”, “Елен”, “Надежд”, “Ольг” etc. Of course, there are exceptions, for example Вера → Вер, Зоя → Зой and Тамара → Тамар. A small number of “family” nouns, viz. мама (mum), папа (dad), тётя (auntie), дядя (uncle), баба (granny), wonderfully combine with proper names to form binary constructions which take neo-vocative as in “дядя Ваня” → “дядь Вань” or “баба Шура” → “баб Шур”.

One Response to послушай, Зин

  1. Pingback: давайте познакомимся | sólo algunas palabras

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