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What's Misha the bear's last name?
January 28, 2013 4:09 PM   Subscribe

In Russian fairy tales, bears are named Misha. Or so my girlfriend, a student of Russian, says; so does Wikipedia and this New York Times blog which quotes something saying "all Russian bears are named Misha". But does this Russian bear have a last name?

She swears that the Russian fairy-tale bear has a canonical last name but she can't remember what it is! Any ideas? Or any sources that might be useful? (I don't read Russian. She does.)
posted by madcaptenor to Writing & Language (10 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's something like "misha kosolapiy" - which means 'clumsy bear.'
posted by kickingtheground at 4:30 PM on January 28, 2013


If I remember my childhood stories correctly the most common bear name is Mikhail Ivanovich. Misha is the dimunitive of Mikhail, and Ivanovich isn't a last name but a patronymic. There are a few other alternative patronymics, but that one is the most common. As kickingtheground mentioned sometimes adjectives are used instead of the patronymics, usually when less respect is accorded :)
posted by anateus at 5:07 PM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


My Russian friend says

косолапый. "kosolapiy" - clubfooted

and this is the most I've emailed him in the past few months. thanks for getting me in touch again!
posted by bilabial at 5:09 PM on January 28, 2013


I've heard "mishka kosolapiy" before, mostly because of the candy of the same name. мишка косолапый is the Russian. Searching "mishka kosolapiy" seems to get links to several sites with a nursery rhyme and the candy site says that the candies were often named after fairy tale characters.

on preview: косолапый literally means clubfooted, but in context (and colloquially, judging by my parents' usage) I think it's closer to clumsy.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 5:15 PM on January 28, 2013


To expand further, I found a page that lists the ones I also remember amidst a general discussion of the bear in Russiasn folklore. The Google Translate version of that page is fairly comprehensible.

The ones I recognize are:

Михаил Потапыч - Mikhail Popatych
Михаил Иваныч - Mikhail Ivanovich
posted by anateus at 5:24 PM on January 28, 2013


I have a friend whose husband is a native Russian speaker and he says:

Misha Kosolapiy is more of an informal silly bear character, it means "cross-footed." Mikhail Ivanovich is a formal bear name, usually he is the wise old bear who is asked advice, etc.
posted by bilabial at 6:28 PM on January 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


I also remember Mikhail Potapych, when I was a kid I thought it was from the verb topat' (stomp). Don't remember Ivanych being used though.
posted by Shusha at 6:37 PM on January 28, 2013


I would guess she thinks of Топтыгин/Toptygin, which is a proper russian last name, and comes from the verb топать/topat', meaning "to stomp".
posted by ringu0 at 7:45 PM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


My Russian bf came up with Toptygin too.
posted by peacheater at 8:43 PM on January 28, 2013


on preview: косолапый literally means clubfooted, but in context (and colloquially, judging by my parents' usage) I think it's closer to clumsy.

In English it's "pigeon-toed," i.e., with toes pointed together as you walk. Bears are relatively clumsy walkers.

Besides Топтыгин/Toptygin, my Bolshy Russky Dictionary (Большой словарь русских прозвищ) gives the similar-looking топтыга/toptyga, noting that all these are euphemistic words for "bear."
posted by Nomyte at 8:59 PM on January 28, 2013


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