LINGUIST List 12.2977

Wed Nov 28 2001

Sum: Slovene Borrowings from English

Editor for this issue: Marie Klopfenstein <>


  1. Greenberg, Marc L, Re: Neologisms, Slovene/"kavbojke"

Message 1: Re: Neologisms, Slovene/"kavbojke"

Date: Tue, 27 Nov 2001 09:54:17 -0600
From: Greenberg, Marc L <>
Subject: Re: Neologisms, Slovene/"kavbojke"

Thank you, those of you who responded to 12.2931, Qs: Neologisms,
Slovene/"kavbojke". Here is a summary of responses: 

IRENA KOLBAS (Ethnographic Museum, Croatia) writes that Croatian has a 
"term for blue jeans named _traperice_, which came from Amer. Engl._trapper_. 
So we both conect blue jeans with the Wild West. It interesting that the term
_kaubojke_ in Croatian stands for boots which are connected with blue jeans
and the dress of a cowboy or trapper." 

ASHILD NAESS (Uni Nijmegen), MICHAEL JOHNSTONE (Cambridge Uni), and S�REN 
HARDER (Uni S. Denmark) point out that the word _cowboybukser_ means 'jeans' 
in Danish. 

SVETLANA MARTINEK (National Uni, Ukraine) suggests "the Russian word 
_kovbojka_ might be interesting for you. In Russian it is not a pl. tant. 
It has both singular and plural forms and means 'checkered shirt for men' 
(Dictionary of Russian Language, Moscow: Russkij Jazyk, vol. 2, 1986, p. 65)." 

JOHN E. KOONTZ (Uni Colorado) also recalls Russ. _kovbojka_ and adds: "I also 
seem to recall that at least in my family in the 1950s we used the term
'cowboy shirt' to refer to a corduroy or other heavy fabric shirt with an 
applique design across the upper chest, an item of apparel that was more common 
then than now. I've never run into 'cowboy' or 'cowboy X' referring to jeans, which
are always just (blue) jeans or levis or sometimes denims. Something like
cowboy suit or cowboy clothes or cowboy outfit might be possible, though
not, I think, widely lexicalized." 

JOHN DAVIS, who also knows the Russian word _kovbojka_ gives us: "I grew up in 
Florence, Arizona, home of the oldest Junior Parada. In elementary and high school, 
all boys wore Levi's brand jeans, never Wranglers or any other off brand. It was a 
real shock to me when I joined the military and was told that we were not allowed 
to wear Levi's as civilian attire. Apparently any jeans were not accepted wear in
the eastern cities. If "cowboys" ever meant "denim jeans" anywhere, it was
not in Arizona. That is not to say that this use might not have been used
tongue in cheek by self-anointed individuals in Hollywood. My suspicion is
that if this use of the word showed up in a movie, it was an ad hoc usage,
possibly an in joke."

I have passed all of this information on to Dr. Snoj, who is most grateful
for everyone's contributions. It appears that the term _cowboy(s)_ meaning
'denim jeans' probably did not arise in English, though it is impossible to
prove a negative proposition. Nevertheless, the parallel developments in
other languages suggest that Slovene likely innovated on its own. Keep an
eye out for the 2nd edition of the Slovene Etymological Dictionary
(Slovenski etimoloski slovar), which should appear in Ljubljana by late


- ------------------------------------------------------
Marc L. Greenberg
Chair and Professor
Dept. of Slavic Languages and Literatures
University of Kansas - Wescoe Hall
1445 Jayhawk Blvd., Room 2134
Lawrence, KS 66045-7590, USA
Tel. and voice-mail: (785) 864-2349
Fax: (785) 864-4298; E-mail:
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