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Words new to me: мальпост

April 8, 2014

In part 5, chapter 19 of Leskov’s Cathedral Folk (Соборяне, 1867-72) the deacon Akhilla mentions a dog of his being run over by the wheel of a мальпост (stem-stressed), so it was clear from context that the word meant some kind of wheeled vehicle. The etymology makes it even clearer: it’s a borrowing of the French malle-poste ‘mail coach,’ a carriage that transported both passengers and mail. It seems like a good excuse to post some carriage illustrations (for a third one on old Russian carriages, click here, or click on the images below to see them in a larger size).


Old French carriages in a prerevolutionary Russian encyclopedia (Brokgauz and Efron). The center-right picture is labeled "a mail coach from the time of the Restoration."

Old French carriages in a prerevolutionary Russian encyclopedia (Brokgauz and Efron). The center-right picture is labeled “a mail coach from the time of the Restoration.”

Sovremennye ekipazhi

Modern Carriages (from Viennese Drawings): 1. Phaeton (Victoria) 2. Small phaeton (without a coachman) 3. Cabriolet 4. Charabanc 5. Tilbury 6. Dog-cart 7. Vis-à-vis à la Daumont 8. Landau 9 . Two-seater carriage 10. Four-seater carriage 11. Hotel omnibus 12. Sleigh

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 9, 2014 8:57 am

    I first ran across this word in an extremely idiosyncratic use by Nabokov to describe a baby carriage in Другие берега:

    Еще позже я катал его в особом стульчике на двух колесах (мальпостике): с первоначально упругих и верных высот ребенок спустился совсем низко и теперь, в полтора года, мог коснуться земли, съезжая с сиденья мальпостика и стуча по панели каблучками в предвкушении отпуска на свободу в городском саду.

  2. April 9, 2014 9:21 am

    Thanks for this passage – I saw that dictionaries listed the ‘baby carriage’ sense, but I didn’t get as far as finding an example. The Google Ngram suggests that the word was as popular in the mid-20th century as in the mid-19th, and I wonder if that was mostly for baby carriages or larger vehicles.

    There do seem to be mid-20th century uses of мальпост in the horse-drawn carriage sense, talking about the past, or using its shape for comparison to something else, e.g. this from Sergei Sergeev-Tsenskii’s Устный счет via (1931, apparently about the early 20th c.):

    Истинно, я сюда в Крым в повара тогда приехал… (Гаврила даже подумал немного, точно ему самому было странно, почему он теперь не повар.) Тогда еще здесь по саше машин никаких не ездило, а только мальпосты называемые ходили – экипажи такие, для всех желающих… И везде по саше станции, а на каждой станции буфет…

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