Reply To: Russian expression: 'American Decks'

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Frank Scott

    I posted your query on the MarHst forum & received some interesting feedback:
    A. From Dr Paul Adamthwaite:
    There are some intriguing aspects – did Timiryov (note my slightly different transliteration of his name Тимирёв with umlaut) write his memoirs during his later life in China? The reason that I ask is that his vocabulary might not be quite as would be expected. The Russian word дек (literally a transcription of ‘deck’) certainly exists, but is I believe rare except in Crimean and Bulgarian regions (and the admiral was from St Petersburg.) The ‘normal’ vocabulary in the maritime world has two words for deck: колода (koloda) which often implies wood, and a more generic палуба (paluba).
    Also in more traditional Russian, удобный (udobniy) would be used for ‘comfortable’, and I had always thought that комфортабельный was more of a Europeanized neologism.
    B: There was considerable discussion about the possibility of typos, and confusion between ‘deck’ and ‘desk’. The consensus was that there is no possibility of confusion in Russian. However, if we assume that the Admiral wrote his memoirs in longhand, it is possible that he used the term ‘American Desks’ (which is a recognised type of furniture), but that this was subsequently misread as ‘decks by the editor, and translated that way into Russian, so that was what appeared in print. It is also (just) possible that the Russian seafarers referred to desks with a large writing area as ‘American Decks’. However, rather clutching at straws there!