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What’s in a name

Say my last name out loud in its anglicized pronunciation. Now, transliterate it phonetically into Russian. What do you get? Right – Бёрлак – which is exactly how it appears on the visa issued to Natasha by the Russian embassy in London.

I suppose I can’t imagine a Russian embassy worker in charge of visas not being a Russian national (and, therefore, speaker of the language). And even though the name has Yiddish etymology, it also happens to be a perfectly recognizable word in the Russian language. How in the world can an educated Russian make such a mistake is beyond me!

Natasha’s maiden name has been butchered many times in the past at the hands of Americans; I guess the time of her married name has come as well, at the hands of Russians…

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For my non-Russian-speaking friends, the best way to explain the correct pronunciation of Burlak is to use the somewhat unfortunate association of “poor luck” (Is that why I am fond of saying “With my luck”, normally alluding to Murphy’s Law?) Substitute b for p and make r rolling, and you got my last name in Russian. As you may or may not expect, there are different letters in Russian alphabet to denote sounds made by ‘ur’ and ‘oo’…

Posted in Burlaki trivia

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