Skip to content

Words new to me: склаваж

January 21, 2016

Pisemskii in 1858 is the most recent of 5 uses of склаваж in the National Corpus of Russian:

Для кареты на лежачих рессорах, для бархатной мантильи, обшитой лебяжьим пухом, для брильянтового склаважа готовы нынешние барышни на всевозможную супружескую муку. (Тысяча душ [One Thousand Souls], part 1, chapter 2)

A diamond what? Today’s young ladies may be enslaved by their love for diamonds, but склаваж turns out to be something concrete.

This French Wikipedia page explains that the collier d’esclavage ‘slave collar’ was “very much in fashion in the second half of the eighteenth century.” And according to the entry on склаваж in the Historical Dictionary of Russian Gallicisms, “in France in the 1760s, there arose a fashion for bagatelles, pieces of jewelry in the form of a modest-sized necklace that fit tightly around one’s neck and brought to mind a ‘slave collar,’ whence the name.”

That dictionary of Gallicisms has “bracelets adorned with diamonds and other precious stones connected by a thin gold chain” as another meaning of склаваж, which is how Ivy Litvinov takes it:

Our great Pushkin, destined, one would think, to be the favorite of women for all time, Pushkin, whose poetry the young ladies of my time knew almost by heart, for whom Tatyana was an ideal — why, the young ladies of today hardly know him, though they have devoured hundreds of volumes of Dumas and Paul Féval. And why is this, you ask? Simply because these authors describe the court, the magnificent drawing-rooms of the heroines, and their splendid equipages […] It may be confidently asserted that the young ladies of bygone days suffered when they loved, and that those of the present-day suffer when their papas have not sufficient means. Formerly a young girl was ready to flee with the poor but noble Waldemar; now there is no fleeing any more, but the author has seen, with an aching heart, scores of examples of seventeen-year-old girls employing all their coquetry to capture some wealthy oldster. Formerly the maiden’s dream was a demi-god, now he is a future general or the possessor of five hundred souls. There is not a trace left of the dreaminess, the sensibility which the kindly Karamzin once did so much to make popular. Vanity and again vanity, outward brilliancy and inward hollowness have eaten into youthful hearts. Modern young ladies are ready to undergo all sorts of connubial tortures for the sake of a carriage on horizontal springs, a velvet mantle trimmed with swan’s-down, diamond slave bracelets. (21-22)

Young people these days! In 1858 Pisemskii just has generation 1 (girls who liked romance, poetry, reading, and impractical love affairs) and generation 2 (girls who wanted money and luxury). In another authorial intrusion in 1863 he promises to describe a third formation of women. He also returned to how much women loved Pushkin.


3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 28, 2016 12:23 pm

    And have you ever heard of the word ‘нележанец’?

    • January 28, 2016 12:40 pm

      I hadn’t, but I just looked it up. Is this the one you mean? If so, I love the folk etymology!

      • January 28, 2016 1:20 pm

        yes, exactly this one. Even for a modern native Russian reader the literature of xix and early xx centuries brings new discoveries

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: