Reply To: Russian expression: 'American Decks'

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Frank, Dr Stephen Ellis, has asked me to pass on his thanks to you and all concerned for your help. His detailed response is:

“Those are quite reasonable propositions I think. I do agree that the “desk” option makes more sense – one really could not alter a ship’s deck in a re-fit so much that you would then describe it as “huge”. Moreover the rest of the passage relates to furnishings, so if “American desk” is an accepted furniture term then that would clinch it for me. There is no doubt about the word “huge”, which I think would be unusual to attribute to “decks” but reasonable to attribute to “desks”. The mistake in transcription from handwriting would be a reasonable thesis too – I have tried to find out where the manuscript might be in the archives of the Society of Imperial Russian Navy Officers in America – but they seem to have disappeared, possibly returned to Russia in the late 1990s and therefore problematic to access.

I have re-checked the Russian – there is no doubt that the printed word in this passage is “dek” but Tim. does not use that term elsewhere in the text to indicate a ship’s deck – he always uses “paluba”, as one would expect. A “desk” in Russian would be “pismenyi stol” so even in handwriting it could hardly be mistaken. The word “deka” actually means the sounding board of a musical instrument (such as a guitar). But if “American desk” is a furniture term then it would not be unusual to transliterate it into Russian phonetically – ie., ‘Amerikanskii desk”. He does this with the word for “meeting” – turning it into a verb to describe the penchant for the revolutionaries to call meetings frequently – “meetingovat” !”