The Universe of Discourse


Wed, 22 Apr 2020

Mystery spam language

This morning I got spam with this subject:

Subject: yaxşı xəbər

Now what language is that? The ‘şı’ looks Turkish, but I don't think Turkish has a letter ‘ə’. It took me a little while to find out the answer.

It's Azerbaijani. Azerbaijani has an Arabic script and a Latin script; this is the Latin script. Azerbaijani is very similar to Turkish and I suppose they use the ‘ş’ and ‘ı’ for the same things. I speculated that the ‘x’ was analogous to Turkish ‘ğ’, but it appears not; Azerbaijani also has ‘ğ’ and in former times they used ‘ƣ’ for this.

Bonus trivia: The official Unicode name of ‘ƣ’ is LATIN SMALL LETTER OI. Unicode Technical Note #27 says:

These should have been called letter GHA. They are neither pronounced 'oi' nor based on the letters 'o' and 'i'.


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Hidden emeralds

Dave Turner pointed me to the 1939 Russian-language retelling of The Wizard of Oz, titled The Wizard of the Emerald City. In Russian the original title was Волшебник Изумрудного Города. It's fun to try to figure these things out. Often Russian words are borrowed from English or are at least related to things I know but this one was tricky. I didn't recognize any of the words. But from the word order I'd expect that Волшебник was the wizard. -ого is a possessive ending so maybe Изумрудного is “of emeralds”? But Изумрудного didn't look anything like emeralds… until it did.

Изумрудного is pronounced (approximately) “izumrudnogo”. But “emerald” used to have an ‘s’ in it, “esmerald”. (That's where we get the name “Esmeralda”.) So the “izumrud” is not that far off from “esmerad” and there they are!


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