Baba What-ga?

So, I was watching “Lost Girl” last night–it’s the story of Canadians who, apparently, are shirtless a lot more than you think would be practical in a country so far north. Seriously, every other scene, someone is whipping off his or her shirt. No wonder they had to sell it to SciFi. There’s twenty-three days in Canada when it’s suitable to be half-naked. Otherwise, the production costs for heating the set must just be staggering. I mean, sure, they’re making up for some of it with the lesser costuming costs, but I still worry about the producers of “Lost Girl” who must make Canada warm enough for the massive amounts of random undressing that go on on that show.

I’m sorry. I’m now completely distracted. Oh, right, so anyway, I’m watching the episode where they encounter Baba Yaga. And they keep saying her name “Baba Yeeh-gah,” with the most emphasis put on the “gah.” Now, I do feel slightly cheated that we didn’t do much folklore in my Russian classes, so I haven’t ever heard the name pronounced by a native Russian speaker AND the tiny girl on the show, Ksenia Solo, is, according to Wikipedia, a Latvian-born Russian. But I swear, it never occurred to me that this is how you would say it. I have always been saying it to myself “Baba Yaga” like “Lady Gaga.” And I went back and looked at in in Russian–Баба Яга–and I still would pronounce that “Baba Yaga.”

On the other hand, I was regularly told I spoke Russian like a peasant. On the third hand, come on! Clearly the peasants would have the best Baba Yaga stories, so who the fuck doesn’t want to speak in a way they would understand? So, I kind of wonder if I’ve just been fucking this up all these years or if it’s a difference in accents. After all, someone who learned English from a Californian is going to be confused when she hears a word she’s only ever read in English pronounced by a Scottish dude, if it doesn’t sound like it did in her head. And it doesn’t mean either pronunciation is wrong.

But anyway, that got me poking around and, apparently, there’s some wondering if Baba Yaga isn’t the same or similar to Perchta who might be the same or similar to Holda. And I would like to read about that. So, holler if you know of any good resources.


3 thoughts on “Baba What-ga?

  1. Sorry, I have no resources for Perchta or Holda, but I can tell you that Баба Яга is pronounced “BAH-ba ya-GAH.”

  2. I concur with NM, having heard some stories from a woman born in Russia. Until I heard her tell them I always thought, like you, that it was “BAH-ba YAH-ga”.

  3. B, it’s not a question of accents. (Well, if the actor is saying “Yee-GAH” instead of “Ya-GAH/Yə-GAH”, that’s a question of accents, but the stress does not change.) That’s just the way the name is pronounced. If you need to convince yourself some more, go read the prologue to Руслан и Людмила or something and see if it will scan any other way. You’ve made the same sort of mistake that someone who didn’t know English well might make with “Cinderella” — thinking that since in English the second syllable is usually accented, it must be pronounced “Sin-DER-el-la”.

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