The Archaic Language of the Ukrainian Diaspora

Please go to my new website Forgotten Galicia to read this post (an updated version). Click here.

Over the last several years my interest in languages and dialects has grown. I have become very fascinated by the way the Ukrainian language has developed in the diaspora vs. Ukraine. The Ukrainian language spoken in the diaspora is the language that was spoken in western Ukraine before WWII. The majority of Ukrainian immigrants who went to the West during and right after WWII were from Galicia and Western Ukraine. Galicia had had a long history of Polish rule and influence, thus the language spoken there had a lot of Polonisms. This language didn’t evolve much in the diaspora, so Ukrainians still speak this language. (Though there has been some English influence on the language.) Furthermore, it retained several archaic words relating to technology (for example, in the diaspora we still usually say загасити світло (extinguish the light), which harks back to a time when fire was used for lighting, or sometimes the word перо which implies a quill pen).

On the other hand in Ukraine, the Ukrainian language was Russified and continued to evolve over time.  Thus come 1991, the Ukrainian language spoken in Ukraine, including western Ukraine, was quite different from the one spoken in diaspora, in particular in vocabulary.

Because of this I have had to learn a whole new vocabulary. Over two years ago I started making a list of the differences, because I think in time the language in the diaspora will also start to change and die out as the generation that came from Ukraine diminishes, and due to the influence of the modern Ukrainian language (from new immigrants, and from media and internet, etc.)

Even now every once in a while I realize another word I use is outdated. And I love having family or friends visit from the States because now I have an understanding of what words are spoken in Ukraine and can hear from them old words that I have forgotten or never knew.

Most of the differences have to do with archaic words, Polonisms, stresses, soft vs. hard vowels, other differences in letter usage (in particular relating to the letters ф an ґ), more feminine words.

A couple of months ago a Lviv alphabet was published in Lviv. It’s a book with old words spoken in Lviv/Galicia with their modern-day equivalents. It’s similar to what I have been compiling and many words overlap.

Here is a link to the book: http://issuu.com/grycja/docs/gvara

When I was a child this alphabet hung in my room. It was made in the 1980s by some local Ukrainian moms. Over winter break my mom asked me whether I still wanted it and I saw it for the first time in many, many years. I loved seeing how “diaspora” it was. For example it includes the letter ґ and several of the images of the letters represent words no longer used in Ukraine (ґудзик, цитрниа, шатро, etc.).



And finally, here is the list I have compiled over the last few years.
EDIT: Please note, there are mistakes in this list. Click HERE for the last blog post with full list.


P.S.
I have a second post on the vocabulary of the Ukrainian diaspora, found here.
I also wrote about the diasporan accent here.
And my third, latest post can be found here.

Comments

  1. That is quite the list, I didn't quite realize you had collected that many different words. I shouldn't be reading this though, just in case I end up remembering the diaspora word instead of the more recent ones! :)

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  2. Wow. What a fantastic, comprehensive list.

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  3. Що до фраз, "шафа грає"="Все в пор'ядку"; львівське
    Хай шляк (≠ шляф) би ті трафив=May you be struck dead with a stroke

    Серйозна праця; ґратулююю!
    --Роман Король із Монтреалю в Канаді

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    1. I thought шляк was reference to the Polish shlyakta...

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    2. Hi, I was hoping to get a little more information about this curious curse that Roman mentioned. My mother and uncle seem to have pretty vivid memories of my great-grandmother using this phrase when she got upset, but the way they imitate her saying it, it sounds a little more like шляк тебе трафить! (Bear in mind I am not fluent in verb conjugations.) The "Alternative Ukrainian Dictionary" page has something similar, "shliakh trafyt'" (http://www.datapacrat.com/True/LANG/REAL/dictiona/UKRAINIA.HTM).

      I guess my question would be: is this phrase still used in modern Ukraine? And what do the individual words mean? I am inclined to conclude that the first word derives from the German word "Schlag"=stroke. However, is this a physical stroke, perhaps from a proverbial "hand of God," or a medical stroke? трафити, as far as I can tell from the Internet, seems to include the meaning "to hit" among its definitions (found on http://staroukr.academic.ru).

      Interestingly, and in something of a contradiction to the foregoing, my mother told me that the phrase meant "The Devil take you!"

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    3. I would call this an expletive rather than a curse. The user can take it to mean whatever he/she wants it to mean. I have family in Western and Eastern Ukraine who are very familiar with it. In a literal sense it means "may a stroke befall you" or words to that effect, but so what? When someone swears "f**k you", that is hardly ever meant as wishing literally that the object of the expletive be violated sexually. Same applies to "шляк би ті трафив". My father would have used the latter if, for instance, he'd hit his thumb, rather than a nail, with a badly-aimed hammer.

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    4. So it needn't be addressed to another person directly--that's very helpful for understanding its usage! I still suspect there's a borrowing from German in there...
      I notice from the list above that Ukrainian has apparently lost some German loanwords but gained others.

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    5. yes, the expletive needn't be addressed at anything or anyone -- although it often is. The noun "шляк" would seem to be from the German/Austrian "schlag" - a stroke (of apoplexy, or sudden heart attack). I'm no philologist but the word "камінь" (fireplace) would also seem to be from the German: "Kamin" - fireplace or chimney.
      Also we shouldn't forget that these language borrowings are a two-way street: there are probably Ukrainian words in German, too; but right now I can't think of any examples.

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    6. Please excuse my ignorance of written Ukrainian and diaspora but my father's dear friend "Herk" used to utter this curse like when missing a golf putt. We always understood it as something like: "(Hand of) God strike me dead". It was a major curse and my father would sometimes tell "Herk" to hush.

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  4. More:
    фризієр=Barber. Probably Austrian, Frizier, from Austro-Hungarian times.
    фраєр=derogatory term, meaning nerd, twit (or equal). Also from Austrian
    сервус=добрий день, hello, from Austrian
    These were expressions that were current Ukrainian usage when I was in Plast in Montreal. Even nowadays, sometimes, one still hears a "servus" among old friends. Even if it's archaic it's still used. I still go to the фризієр when I go to the barber's. And for women: a hair-do is a фризура.

    --Роман

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    1. Servus is from Latin. It means I am at your service. It was the 'cool' way that University students would greet each other for generations. Eventually it remained as a greeting among intellectuals, artists, poets, writers. Sometimes someone would say that to try and impress people that they had achieved a higher level of education.

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  5. Just obtained the Issuu app and logged onto the Lviv alphabet via the link you provide
    http://issuu.com/grycja/docs/gvara
    Йой, but that's my language!!
    I see that Gvara gives фризієр but does not mention фраєр. Beautiful book, though, reflecting that unmistakeable Львівський humor. Thank you so much for making it accessible!

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    1. Nice, thanks for the new ones! I've actually collected quite a few more since I posted this post, so soon I will be posting a part two :) Interesting about "servus" - I hadn't heard that one before - but funny, because the same day I saw your comment I saw on Facebook a picture of Lviv witih the caption "сервус" :)

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    2. Servus is from Latin. It was a very common greeting among University students or even 'Gymnasium' students in Ukraine at least before WW2, maybe even longer. It ended up being passed from generation to generation as a more 'upper class' or intellectual greeting among friends and colleagues. see this for more information https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Servus

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  6. And speaking of a forgotten world, I've posted on my own website the scan of a book of souvenirs of Berezhany, written in beautiful Ukrainian by numerous (now deceased) contributors who had been local residents and fled westwards from the bolsheviks at the end of WW2. Mostly they ended up in NYC area. The souvenirs date from 1914 onwards. Its title is Бережанська Земля. The Land of Berezhany. It's in searchable pdf format, 900 pages. Might be of interest to you or visitors to your blog http://www.halychyna.ca/BZTOC/BZTOC1.htm
    Someday I'll translate it into English but it's a daunting project.

    Zbig's family must have had roots out there. Berezhany in Polish is "Brzezany" of course, and he's a Brzezinski, i.e., "from Berezhany". The book includes fabulous info about the nearby village of Рай (Paradise!) and its founding family, the Potockis, one of whose relatives was instrumental in founding the beautiful Ukrainian village of Sofiyivka upon which Рай was probably later modelled. But this last info I discovered elsewhere.

    --Roman

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    1. Heh, here's the story of the village of Рай, told in Berezhanska Zemlia, in Ukrainian.
      http://halychyna.ca/BZTOC/OCR027.pdf#page=12
      Bygone days, indeed.

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    2. Thank you for sharing your website, very interesting indeed!

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  7. There were actually lots of immigrants from Eastern Ukraine, too, after WWII, but they were orthodox and had a separate community. I grew up in that, and while a few of your words look familiar, many more don't.

    What's interesting is that while I hear a lot about Russification, many of the words people complain about, if you check the etymology, are actually old Ukrainian words, which come to us via Slavonic. Many of the words they are replacing in the west (of Ukraine) were actually borrowings form Polish.

    What evidence I do see of Russification is some hardening of the language, where я was replaced by а--кляси, доляри, and some change in accented syllables (having to do with plurals mostly).

    And the Ґ was added back to the alphabet by an independent Ukraine, although it isn't as used as it should be, and leads to a lot of weird transliteration, as many people still use Soviet era transliteration systems, where G --> Г. It is all well and good in other Slavic languages, where the Г is actually pronounced like a G, but not in Ukrainian, where it is not. The Ukrainian government introduced a new transliteration system after independence, which it tweaked in 2010, but many people still ignore it, including those in the west who insist on using Kiev.

    Oddly enough, my mother was from Volyn--western Ukraine, but orthodox--so I grew up with dual terminology. Still, only a small portion of the words above are familiar to me, so I suspect a more Halychan origin than simply western.

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    1. Luba, thanks for your perceptive comments. In addition to the Г and Ґ conflict (forced upon us by the москалі) that you mention, there is also the transliterative annoyance that we often see in the use of the Latin letter "H" to replace the Ukrainian letter "X" (ха) for some queer reason, thus giving us illiterate abortions such as "hata" for "хата" (there is actually a Facebook page named "Hatky Ruslany"); and "huylo" for "хуйло". How to cripple the Ukrainian language! Other annoyance: the москалі in the 1930s forced the extinction of the apostrophe in the Ukrainian alphabet because московська мова doesn't have any, their keyboard doesn't have an apostrophe, so modern written Ukrainian is often bastardized: "мякий" instead of "м'який", "піря" instead of "пір'я", девятсот" insteаd of "дев'ятсот". Or, the insistent Ukrainian might use a quotation mark in place of an apostrophe: "ім"я". Ukrainians in the 1930s would get shot for refusing to use these changes.

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  8. Thank you for the article…. " мандрувати - подорожувати, мандри - подорожi....it is also - "фрезура".... hair salon --- "перукарня" from the work "перука" - wig
    The influence of Polish language is sooooo heavy in the Galitsian Ukrainian language in Canada that I was quite often surprised to hear some word...... I have never heard them before at home in Lviv... ..... "зеро" - means "0"??? suppose to be "нуль".. "копитко" - a combination of "cup" and "горнятко" "в магу" - "from the mug"  .... but that is anglicizing of Ukrainian words...  " мандрувати - подорожувати, мандри - подорожi....it is also - "фрезура".... hair salon --- "перукарня" from the work "перука" - wig

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  9. I grew up in the diaspora, but my mother was from eastern Ukraine, so almost without exception the words we used at home were from your non-old-halychanskyj columns ("lymon", "hirchitsja" etc etc). That said, at uke school and Plast we were exposed to all those archaic Galician words as well.

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    1. An interesing point - even if someone's parents/grandparents came from a region that was not Galicia, it seems they would have been exposed to the Galician language via the community/diasporan organizations (Ridna Shkola, Plast, etc.) which used the Galician language (though of course it also probably depended on the city/region in North American and what organizations were present there).

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  10. Let's not be too hasty with дев'ятдесят > дев'яносто. If you look in Borys Hrinchenko's celebrated "Slovar" you will find the latter form only as the Russian translation (девяносто) of the former Ukrainian (дев'ятдесят). Say what you will, but one cannot accuse Hrinchenko of having harboured pro-Western Ukrainian linguistic sympathies. BTW, in the so-called Kharkiv "Pravopys" (1929), both forms are cited as being acceptable Ukrainian, and beginning with the 1930s the form parallel with Russian was mandated. Draw your own conclusions.

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  11. Very good work. Re: "servus": this is of course Latin, an old expression (possibly medieval) meaning "[I am your] servant." It was commonly used by European students.
    Some Old Galician words strike modern Ukrainians as russified, such as "vozdukh" for "air"; these, however, are Old Church Slavonicisms, disseminated by the Greek-Catholic clergy in the 19th century.

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  12. You will find ґудзик in: Академія наук України / Інститут мовознавства ім О.О.Потебні / Інститут української мови / Український мовно-інформаційний фонд "Орфографічний словник української мови" / близько 120 000 слів / Київ: Видавництво "Довіра", 1994

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  13. Kudos to your great work. I agree with Luba, my parents also came from the "other" side of Ukraine. After being married to a "Halychanka" for 28 years we still go at it sometimes as to what's Ukrainian, Polish or Russian. If you have the opportunity sit down with a pilgrim and listen to their Ukrainian. A learning experience.

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  14. My understanding regarding the term ,,сервус" was this:
    В першій половині ХХ століття слово ,,сервус" популярно вживалося в Східній Европі, як вітання й буквально мало б означати ,,привіт" або ,,вітаю".

    Це вітання було особливо поширене в середовищі українських студентів та педагогів (поколінних). Середовище яке відрізнялося освітою, світоглядом, чином й особливою постановою. За Висловом одним словом, дозволялося ,,міряти сили не реальним, а Велико бажаним!"
    (sorry for not writing it in English, but it looses and changes meaning)

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  15. Modern Ukrainian (even during old slavonic era language) has always been linguistically closer to the Polish language rather than Russian.

    Maybe someone else has actually researched this, but supposedly the Russian language actually has more or stronger roots with its Nordic ancestors. (But then that topic takes you into genetics...)
    But overall, historically, Ukrainian has always been known as a soft / melodic language that is pleasant to one's audio senses. Just as the genetic nature of Ukrainians has always been seen as gentle and peaceful (that is...unless their freedom is threatened ;-)

    On the other hand, Russian is a more aggressive sounding language and besides Nordic roots, is more Germanic in sound and other aspects...and without unintentionally offending anyone, I will leave that connection there 😉

    One thing Ukrainians tend to forget is that just as Americans have different accents or dialects due to the vast cultural and geographical size... Ukraine has its own array of dialects and influences due to borders it shares. But when Ukrainians get together, its the commonalities that unites us and its our differences that we should embrace and respect. Because in the end, just as generations before us have done...we're all just trying to preserve our own perspective of what Ukrainian is to our families.

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  16. Further to LTPZ post, on the distinction between languages, Ukrainian vs Russian, this insight is by author Myroslaw Petriw http://yaroslawsrevenge.authorsxpress.com

    Prior to the invasion by the Horde (a multi-ethnic force under Mongol leadership at that time) the populace in the area of Suzdal (later known as Muscovy) spoke Finnish, while that in the area of Kyiv (ie Rus’ proper) spoke Rus’ian (Rusyn or Ruthenian) a Slavic language which today is known as Ukrainian. This did not change after the Mongol invasion.
    The Muscovite language developed later on the basis of “Church Slavonic” (Old Bulgarian), a southern Slavic language!, which was the language of church and letters, the local Finnish vernacular, and Tatar and Mongol. In fact today “Rossian” is closer to Bulgarian than any other Slavic language.
    Muscovite being a patois containing a mixture of Finnish, Turkic (Tatar) and Mongol words could not be understood by a Rus’ speaker without translation in the 17th century. The renaming of Muscovy as the Rossiyan Empire in 1721 caused much terminological confusion, and was a change resisted by diplomats and cartographers alike. (Benjamin Disraeli continued to refer, correctly, to “Muscovites” over a century later.). It was under Peter the First that this patois was formally slavicised, and the native Finnish vernacular suppressed.
    The term Ukraina or Vkraina, meaning “country” gained popularity in the 17th century as an alternative to Rus’, but the term Ukrainets (Ukrainian) as an actual ethnonym was introduced only very recently (late 19th early 20th century) in order to avoid confusion between Rusyn and Rossiyan. The need for this name change was not as pressing in western Ukraine, and was not completed there until WW1 and even later in the 1930s in Transcarpathia. Early western Ukrainian immigrants to Canada in the 1890’s were often registered as Ruthenian.
    A rose by any other name would smell as sweet….

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    1. Check out also the historical timeline here: http://www.brama.com/ukraine/history/century13.html
      In 1240 AD, the massive Mongol-Tatar invasion (the Golden Horde) devastated Kyiv and settled in the lower Volga valley. These are the precursors of today's so-called "Russians". They have no connection, whether linguistically or culturally, with the Slavs of Kyivan Rus' and even less with the Slavs of Halychyna-Volhyn.

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  17. This is great! I've often told people I speak a language that hasn't evolved because it stopped upon immigration when I learned it in America (although it did evolve in new directions of course). When I moved to Ireland, where there is a large Polish population, I found that I could easily make myself understood in the "Polski Sklep" and figure out all the products as long as I verbalized the names (not in Cyrillic). Yet I cannot understand Russian on the news. I cannot tell you how difficult it has been explaining to people that Ukrainian is closer to Polish than Russian. They say, "but it's the same language" and I have to explain that it's a similar alphabet but different roots of language. Not until I tell them that they must understand Italian because Italian and English use the same alphabet do they sort of get it. But even then they just don't believe me. It's really interesting. And frustrating.

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    1. I started a blog on what it means to be Ukrainian in the diaspora but I have not kept it up of late. Thanks for this post.
      http://beingukrainian.blogspot.ie/2014/03/being-ukrainian-in-diaspora.html

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    3. I'm taking a correspondence course in Polish for Ukrainian-speakers given by a Polish journalist living in Kyiv (Jakub Loginov). The instruction is in Ukrainian, so it's a double whammy for me, living in Canada: learning Polish plus modern Ukrainian. Jakub writes that 60% of the vocabulary (Polish-Ukrainian) is similar: he learned Ukrainian in 6 months. He reckons a Ukrainian should be able to do the same thing in the inverse sense just as easily. The same cannot be said for Ukrainian-Russian; the latter is a foreign tongue relative to Ukrainian, a patois containing only a smattering of Slavic, as Mirko Petriw (cited above) writes.

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    4. Everytime I tell someone in Ukraine that I don't understand Russian they give me such a confused look - they have never met anyone who knows Ukrainian but not Russian. So I go on to explain that Ukainians in Ukraine were exposed to so much Russian from a young age that even if they didn't learn it or speak it at home, they can nevertheless speak and understand it. But that's not the case for Ukrainians who grew up outside of Ukraine. As for me, I also have an easier time with Polish than Russian, and could be partly because of the Galician vocabulary that I'm familiar with. But also it's true that that Polish is closer to Ukrainian than Russian.

      Interesting blog! The diasporan topic is so fascinating!

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  18. @Daria, re incomplete blog, join the club. I set up a website for my kids and grandchildren to use as a reference, but paused when I reached Mazepa and haven't picked up the thread yet to continue. It's still in draft form: http://halychyna.ca/Misc/Rus-Ukraine-Retrospective.html. I do like your blog.

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  19. Here is a table of camparison between Russian and other Slavic languages (Russian is in the leftmost column). Russia is the odd man out. http://romaninukraine.com/comparison-of-slavic-languages/

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  20. Frozen language is a common phenomenon among groups that have migrated from their original homeland. Anthropologists use language as a means of tracking population migration just because of this interesting retention of aspects of ones linguistic roots and the changes that affect it with each succeeding migration. I am definitely a diaspora speaker, having been in the West since I was 6 months old, so I can relate well to many of the entries on this list. However, I have also grown up with many of those words that are identified as 'modern' Ukrainian on this list. I must definitely agree with one of the previous posters that quite a few of the 'modern' words are not so much modern as more literary Ukrainian than many of the dialect specific words that we use in the diaspora. I too have an interesting time speaking to new Ukrainian immigrants or those living in Ukraine today because there are many noticeable differences, particularly with technical terminology that did not exist when my parents first emigrated. I find I have less problems when communicating with people from those regions where my own family came from simply because clan or region specific dialects seem to have remained fairly consistent across the generations. However, I also have another 'diaspora' peculiarity to deal with that I cannot 'unlearn'. My 'Ukey' teacher emigrated shortly after WW1 and I learned to write 'ya' they way she wrote a 'ya'. Anyone looking at something that I write in Ukrainian thinks I was born during the time of Franz Josef, because the modern 'ya', came into common usage almost a century ago. Even written Ukrainian has gone through changes, individualization and also the undoing of changes over time. Much that can be called modern is not always as modern as we think and it is best to keep in mind that the term 'modern' is relative.

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  21. Being such a large country, it would be strange if there were only one dialect or hovir in all of Ukraine. The many synonyms, the variety make the language so rich, and show its history. Of course, language changes over time. I could accept normal change, but for a language that wasn't permitted to exist and was not to exist, these were not normal progressive changes. What bugs me is the russification and its acceptance now "as part of history." Yeah, sure. It is a сюрприз to me. On top of the Russian words and phrases там було десять чоловік.... діти на уроках [urok, vrochyty - give the evil eye], etc., etc., then there are the weird anglicized words, with the Russian transliteration used for Ukr. pronunciation. And Ukrainian is probably the only language in the world that has гітара and танго. And we're the ones who don't know Ukrainian?!

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    1. why is it only Ukrainian language has "гiтара" and "танго" ?

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    2. Maybe, because all other languages have "ґітара" and "танґо"?

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    3. Orysia Tracz, I'm with you there on your perceptive comments, 100%.

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  22. As to "servus": I spent a couple of weeks in Bavaria in summer 2015 and found this term is still in use as a greeting and not only by students. Ditto in Austria.

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  23. As to archaic language usage: I stayed 10 days in Vinnitsia, Ivano-Frankivsk oblast, the village of my childhood, population 4,000, in summer 2015. The only acceptable greeting you will hear there is "Слава Ісусу Хрeсту" and the proper reply is "Слава на віки" and you say that to _everyone_ whose path you cross bar none. Sort of corresponds to the "Grüß Gott" so common in Bavaria. I tried saying "добрий день" at the start which earned for me the sobriquet of "той американець".

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  24. Oops, sorry. It was not Vinnitsia: it was Novytsia. Vinnitsia is elsewhere. I always get the two crossed up :-)

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