This was sent with the title, "Politika rides again"

Awww. A story of linguistic chauvinism to melt anyone’s heart. The brilliant DP sends along an article from Tuesday’s Politika featuring a young girl from Nikšić who sets off for a visit to unknown Johannesburg with a copy of Politika in her hand, certain that ”they will recognize me by Politika, because that is where I learned to care for the beauty and feel the spirit of the Serbian language.”

What brought the poor lass to the point of maintaining an inefficient long-distance paper route was the “elimination of the Serbian language” in her school (the school authorities decided to offer instruction in Montenegrin, which everybody knows is completely incomprehensible to the Serbian speakers of Nikšić). So she told her mother, "Mama, I want to go to Trebinje. There they study Serbian and speak Serbian.” She was inspired to celebrate the great educational tidings in poesy, which I permit myself the modest liberty of translating here:

I only write with Serbian letters
that Vuk gave to us all
I only inhale with a Serbian soul
It will be so as long as I am around…

(It's a bad translation, so let me give the original: „Само српска слова пишем/што Вук нам је дао свима/само српским духом дишем/биће тако док ме има...”)

Who would not be inspired? A rich guy from Johannesburg was inspired to invite the girl over to observe as the words of her verse were engraved on the wall of the Serbian school there.

To steal another paper’s promotional slogan, to može samo Politika. But do you also get the impression that there are a lot of rich guys with too much time on their hands?


Anonymous said...

That's amazing. Has Politika been taking stupid pills, though? It was trending towards kinda-sorta respectability when I moved away from Belgrade (mid 2003).

The language thing is a bit trickier than it looks here, because the linguistic fault line runs right through the middle of Montenegro. In the interior they speak Serbian, albeit with that slurred South Serbian accent (a Serb-American friend once described it as sounding "Ebonic"). Along the coast, though, the Montenegrins speak Dalmatian. That's not the official name, but that's what it is. Not the extinct Romance language, but the dialect that's spoken along the Dalmatian coast, from above Split all the way down to the few surviving Serbs in northern Albania.

These dialects show minor differences in vocabulary, spelling and grammar, but they're as close as AmEng and BritEng. Mutually perfectly comprehensible, of course.

This linguistic division is pretty much irrelevant to Montenegrin nationalism. But it gets /Serb/ nationalists very worked up, because South Serb/North Montenegrins sound ur-Serbian (not the pure speech of Vuk, no, but salt of the earth, *real*) while South Montenegrins sound -- damn it -- Croatian.

Doug M.

Eric Gordy said...

"Ebonic" is one I had never heard!!!!!
But yes, I was also surprised, this looks like it comes from a different era of Politika. And it never seemed to me like the language business was perceived by anyone as being important enough to generate this kind of heavily laden publicity. The issue of the established church is more important, because there are assets at stake.
I'm guessing that there are some journalists hired during the 90s who are hanging on, rather than that the paper is turning back to its least celebrated period.

Anonymous said...

Ebonic, yes. It gets worse if you're talking about Macedonian or Bulgarian.

See, the grammar gets (relatively) simpler as you move further south and east: cases are dropped, endings are simplified or elided, pronouns are folded together, etc. This process starts somewhere north of Nis and is well in train by the time you reach upper Montenegro or Kosovo.

So, by the time you get to Sofia, Bulgarian is noticeably easier for the foreigner to learn, at a deep level, than Serbian. But -- to a Serbian ear, South Serbian and Macedonian sound, well, stupid. Tarzan; Tonto. Me like go drink big much, boss. (Going the other way, Bulgarians and Macedonians think that Serbs sound absurdly over-precise and affected, in a Lord Haw-Haw sort of way.)

Note that this story conflates two ideas that do get conflated a lot in Serbia: 1) South Serbia (especially Kosovo, of course) is the true heart of Serbness, where the authentic soul and voice of the Serbian people can be found. 2) Vuk and "pure Serbian" as the true and proper language of the Serbs. The two should logically have little to do with each other -- it's Belgraders and Vojvodinans, not South Serbs, who are speaking the closest to Vuk's language -- but there it is.

Then there's the whole business with diasporids being even bigger nationalistic-chauvinistic idiots than the folks back home. But that's a whole 'nother story.

Doug M.