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Words new to me: куделька

March 10, 2020

Dictionaries say куделька can mean кудряшка, a curl of someone’s hair, or it can be a diminutive of кудель or куделя, either meaning “sliver” with a long “i,” or it can be used in the regional idiom дать кудельку or дать куделю, meaning to pull someone by the hair or severely punish them. But I came across a different meaning in what’s reported to be a nineteenth-century context. According to Erast Kuznetsov, soldiers in the time of Nicholas I would use куделька to refer to the “ceremonial march past the emperor” that came at the end of an elaborate military parade. He explains why right away, so I didn’t get the pleasure of struggling with this one the way I did with шаккендс: “this march was called a coup d’œil for some reason, and the soldiers, following Russians’ age-old tradition of adapting everything to their own way of doing things, called it a kudel’ka” (51).

Kuznetsov also mentions “Бом двысь!”: sentry jargon for an order to raise the gate once someone’s papers have been checked, short for шлагбаум подвысь (49).

See E. Kuznetsov, Pavel Fedotov (Leningrad: Iskusstvo, 1990). For a biography of an artist, this book spends a lot of time on details of day-to-day life at military schools and in military units—not stories of Fedotov’s particular army career, necessarily, but what it must have been like for a person like him.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. languagehat permalink
    March 11, 2020 8:19 am

    “sliver” with a long “i”

    New to me! (I always thought of кудель as ‘tow,’ though all such words are purely theoretical to me.)

    • March 11, 2020 8:44 am

      New to me too! I know more than I would otherwise about words like tow and sliver and worsted because I’ve been stumped by the Russian equivalents, but it’s still hardly anything.

  2. March 30, 2020 8:59 pm

    New to me, too! I was a Russian major, half a century ago, and have just discovered this site. I lived in the XIX-oм векe in my head for four wonderful years, then real life intruded. Now, locked down at home, seeking to brush up. Куделька! Sliver with a long I! Удивительно!

    • March 30, 2020 9:17 pm

      Welcome! I’m afraid the site isn’t as active now as it was a few years ago, but I hope you enjoy it, and I’m glad you have a chance to spend some time with Russian literature, even though it’s for such an unfortunate reason.

      • March 31, 2020 7:24 pm

        “When life gives you lemons….” Surely there’s an equivalent пословица.

      • April 5, 2020 9:12 pm

        Maybe “нет худа без добра”?

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