Posted in Names

A primer on Estonian names

I’ve already done posts on Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Polish, and Hungarian names, so it’s about time for the next installment of my intermittent “A primer on ______________ names” series. These posts are mostly for people researching in search engines, since they don’t typically get all that many hits from my regular readers.

Estonian is one of a handful of non-Indo–European languages natively spoken in Europe. Together with Hungarian and Finnish, it’s one of the three major Finno–Ugric languages, on the Finno and not Ugric side. Estonian and Finnish are very similar languages, while Hungarian is quite a bit distant linguistically. However, while Finnish has a fair bit of Swedish cognates, Estonian has more German and Russian cognates.

One thing which is immediately obvious about Estonian names is that vowels are often doubled-up; e.g., Oliivia, Joosep, Regiina, Toomas. Due to the overwhelming influence of the Russian occupiers, a number of Estonians adopted Russianized surnames. However, native Estonian surnames look nothing like native Russian surnames. Examples of Estonian surnames include Alver, Kass, Kalda, Eskola, Jänes (“hare”), Orav (“squirrel”), Kukk (“rooster”), Kirsipuu (“cherry tree”), Masing, Tarvas, Sisask, Raud (“iron”), Pärn (“linden”), and Välbe.

Unlike the East Slavic languages, Estonian doesn’t have the custom of using patronymics, so people just have regular middle names.

A sampling of Estonian names and their nickname forms, where known:

Aarne, Arne, Arno (Arnold)
Aleksander (Sandro, Sandros, Sanno, Sander, Sass)
Alvar, Alver (Alvo)
Andres, Andrus (Andu, Anti, Andro, Ando, Andi)
Anton, Tõnis
Ardo, Arto, Artur (Arti, Arto)
Arvid, Arved (Arvi)
Edgar (Edi)
Eduard (Edi)
Eerik (Eeri, Eero, Ergi, Ergo)
Helmar, Helmer (Helmo, Helmu)
Iivo, Ivalo, Ivar (Ivari, Ivo)
Jaagup, Jaakob, Jakob (Jaak, Jass, Jako)
Jaan, Juhan (Juho, Jukk, Juss, Janno, Jan)
Joosep (Joosu)
Kaarel, Kaarli, Kaaro, Karel (Charles)
Kalju (“rock”)
Kalmer, Kalmo
Kleement (Leemet, Leemo)
Koit (“dawn,” and the title of a famous symphony by Heino Eller, one of Estonia’s greatest composers)
Kristjan, Krister (Kristo, Risto)
Kuulo, Kulmo, Kulno, Kurmo
Mihkel, Miikael (Mikk, Miko, Miku)
Nigul (Niilas, Niilo) (Nicholas)
Olev (Olaf)
Paavo, Paavel (Paul)
Peeter (Peet)
Priidu, Priide, Priido (Priidika, Priidla, Preedik, Priidik, Priit, Reedik)
Saamuel (Saamu, Saamo)
Siimon, Simun (Siim, Siimo, Siimu, Simmo, Simmu)
Taaniel, Daaniel (Taano, Tanel, Tani, Tanno)
Taavet (Taave, Taavi, Taavo, Tavo) (David)
Teodor, Tuudor
Tiitus (Tiido, Tiidrik, Tiidu)
Tõivo (“hope”)
Toomas (Toom, Tommi)
Ülar, Üllar, Ülev, Üllas (Ülari, Üllo, Ülo)
Urmas, Urmet (Urmo)
Villem (William)

Aliise (Aila, Aile, Aili)
Anna (Anu)
Aurelia (Reeli, Reelika, Reili, Auri, Auli)
Doora, Dorotea (Tea)
Eerika, Erika
Eeva (Eevi, Eveli, Evi, Iivi, Ivi, Ivika)
Eha (Ehala) (“dusk”)
Eleonoora, Ellinor, Leonoora (Noora, Loore, Loora, Nora)
Eliisabet (Liisa, Liisu, Liis, Liisi, Eliise)
Esta, Ester
Gertrud (Truude, Truuta)
Helena, Helina, Heleene (Leena, Hela, Heli, Helli, Häli)
Helga (Helgi, Helja, Helje, Heljo, Helju)
Helma, Hilma (Helmi)
Hilda (Hille, Hilli, Ille, Illi)
Ilme, Ilma, Ilmi (“air”)
Ireene (Reena, Reene, Rena)
Jaana (Jaanika, Janne, Jana)
Julia (Juuli, Juulika, Lia)
Juudit (Juta)
Kaja (“echo”)
Karlotte, Karola (Kaari)
Katariina (Katrin, Kati, Kadri, Kaisa, Riina, Triinu, Karin, Triin, Triina, Kadi, Kaarin)
Klaara (Klaarika)
Kristiina (Tiina)
Lagle (“goose”)
Laine (“wave”)
Leelo (“folk song”)
Leina, Leine, Leini
Liidia (Liidi)
Liilia (Liili, Lilja)
Liivia (Liivika)
Loviise (Viise) (Louisa)
Luule (“poetry”)
Maaja, Maia (not to be confused with the word maja, which means “house”)
Maaria, Maarja, Mari, Maari (Maarika, Marika)
Magdaleena (Magda)
Maimu (“little”)
Malviine (Malvi, Malve) (Malvina)
Maret, Margareeta (Marge, Margit, Marit, Marita, Meeta, Reeda, Reet, Mareta)
Mariina (Riina, Riine, Riin)
Meeli (Meelike, Mella, Melli) (Melanie)
Mirjam (Mirja, Mirje)
Moonika (Mooni)
Oliivia (Liivi)
Pauliine (Liina, Liina)
Rahel (Rachel)
Ruta, Rutt, Ruuta (Ruth)
Saara (Saare, Saari, Salli)
Tähte, Tähti (“star”)
Taimi (“young sapling”)
Tamaara (Maara, Maare)
Terje (“mist”)
Tuule (“wind”)
Ülla, Ülle, Ulla, Ulrika (Ülli, Ülve, Ülvi)
Veroonika (Veera)
Viiva, Viivela, Viive, Viivi, Viivika

Posted in Languages, Third Russian novel, Writing

What’s Up Wednesday

Ready Set Write

As part of their What’s Up Wednesday feature, Elodie NowodazkijAlison MillerKaty UppermanErin Funk, and Jaime Morrow will be hosting a summer-long initiative called Ready. Set. Write! Participants will share weekly, monthly, or overall goals in the “What I’m Writing” section of the weekly posts.

What I’m Writing

Once again, due to camp and other factors, I wasn’t as productive with writing this week as in the past. I’m up to about 445,600 words in my current WIP, Journey Through a Dark Forest. In spots, I’m really feeling that this is a rough draft and will need some more polishing or fleshing-out, alternately. The most important thing is just to get the meat and outline of the story down on paper.

I’m starting Chapter 55, “Damir’s Best Interests,” in late June 1940. Inna Zhirinovskaya is about to have her first child, by her deposed prince husband Arkadiy (Arkasha) Orlov. Since they’ve made their home in Persia (officially renamed Iran by this point), they’re going to give him a Persian name, Omid, which means “hope.” Shortly after the birth, Inna’s brother Vitya will finally head off for America with his daughter Velira. They’re going to fly in a real aeroplane, to avoid the slowness and uncertainty of taking a boat in wartime.

I’m really looking forward to writing the second-chance love story of Inessa and Vitya. Inessa has been wetnursing and raising Vitya’s son Damir since he was four months old, and Damir has no memories of his birth mother. Her three children by her murdered husband Roman deserve a father, Vitya’s cute, sweet little daughter Velira deserves a mother, and Damir shouldn’t have to lose the only mother he can remember. It’s the most natural thing in the world for them to create a new family when they think they’re only transitioning Damir away from his foster family and to his birth father.

And to think, my outline for this book in 2001 had poor Vitya getting shot in the 1937 purges! I’m so glad I let the story and characters go where they naturally developed, instead of feeling bound to what I’d envisioned at 21.

What I’m Reading

Three Daves, by Nicki Elson. It’s a fun, cute contemporary historical set in the 1980s, in the New Adult and romance categories. I originally got it for my Kindle for a group project on NA in my YA Lit class, but I didn’t have enough time to read the whole thing. Now I’m reading it while my campers are taking their afternoon nap. A Kindle is so much more convenient to read from than lugging around a real book.

What Inspires Me/What Else I’ve Been Up To

Still no stove or sink to work with. This is freaking ridiculous. It should never take nearly this long to kosher a kitchen and get everything in order. This type of thing should always be organized in advance, not only looked into after you’ve moved in.

I’m also finally resuming my Estonian study. The power of the human brain and the processes of language acquisition, retention, and retrieval are very powerful, inspiring things. Since I didn’t practice in awhile, I initially had forgotten some words and phrases I’d known cold not so long ago. But as I kept reviewing the material, the memory connections were reforged. Other words and phrases I had never forgotten, even some rather random words.

You can never really forget a language, even if you become very rusty and don’t use a language in years, even your own native language. Sure you might need some time to review and become fluent or conversational again, but the memories are still there. For example, I studied Spanish for 7 years and haven’t actively used it for some time. But when I read something in Spanish, or review vocabulary and grammar, something clicks and a lot more words come flooding back. It’s not like you go back to learning from scratch. The same goes for reactivating my Russian, German, Italian, or French, or relearning the Armenian alphabet for the 4th or 5th time. You knew it once, and it’s stayed in the recesses of your memory in spite of not constantly using the information.

My roommate overheard me and thought I were practicing Klingon. She’d honestly never heard of Estonia or Estonian. The two sound absolutely nothing alike. Estonian has a soft, musical, poetic lilt with a twinge of sadness, while Klingon is said to have been based on the sounds of Turkish and Mongolian, to give it that harsh, threatening feel.

Posted in Judaism, Religion, Third Russian novel, Word Count, Writing

ROW80 Final Update

My Horny Hump Day post is here.


Round 1 of A Round of Words in 80 Days ends on 28 March, and I’m up to a bit over 257,000 words on my WIP. Though I’ve had to rather scale back my writing time to focus on school, I did pass the halfway mark in my guesstimated final length. I’m still projecting around 450,000 words for the finished first draft, maybe up to 500,000.

I’m kind of glad I’ve only had a general, basic outline and notes to work with for crafting the book so far, along with everything I’d had stored in my head since 2001, when I began pulling together plans for this third volume. So many storylines, characters, and angles have organically, spontaneously come together and appeared.

It’s not about memorization, but about internalizing information so you just know all the characters and storylines naturally. It probably helps a lot that I’ve studied about 15 languages so far, including 5 alphabets besides my native Roman alphabet. I’m used to taking in and remembering huge chunks of information.

I’m continuing to do very well with my Estonian study. While I’m picking up on some aspects of grammar, like the most common noun cases, plurals, certain letters changing with declension or pluralization (like K to G, T to D, and P to B), and basic verb conjugation, I’m still focusing on absorbing vocabulary. I’ve learnt things like adjectives, colors, parts of the body, food, tableware, occupations, and lots of other stuff in many other areas. Gradually, it’s all coming together so I can read and form simple phrases and sentences.

One of my favorite mitzvot, commandments, is the counting of the Omer, which began the night of the second Seder. For 7 weeks leading up to Shavuot, you say a b’racha, blessing, each night, and then count the Omer, formerly a measure of barley. You’re not supposed to announce the day before you count it, so you have to tell someone, say, “Last night was the fifth night.”

It’s special to me because I gave up in depression and apathy partway through in 2005. I’d loved counting the Omer since I’d first done it in 2002, but I was so frustrated and depressed at feeling in a community of one. What was I doing all this for if I didn’t have my own religious community or own family? I felt like Dante, waking up in the Wood of Error, no idea how he got there or how he lost the way so badly. Eventually I came back to it, and it’s been extra-special to me ever since, never to be abandoned again.

My now-primary shul, the university student center, has a tradition of going around the room and counting in different languages. Last year I did it in German, and over the years, we’ve also had people doing it in Spanish, French, Chinese, Armenian, Japanese, Portuguese, Farsi (Persian), Italian, Yiddish, Russian, and some other languages. This year I’m going to offer to do it in both German and Estonian.

Say, for example, it’s the 20th day. I’d say:

Täna on kakskümmend päevad. See on kaks nädalad ja kuus päevad Omeris. (Today is twenty days. That is two weeks and six days of the Omer.)

I don’t know why, but counting in Estonian has come as easily as counting in German. Usually I’ve had a much trickier time with learning the numbers in other languages.

Posted in Third Russian novel, Word Count, Writing

Lucky Charms and Quick ROW80 Update

My Horny Hump Day post is here.

Express Yourself

This week’s subject for the Express Yourself meme is lucky charms. My primary lucky charm is a green scarab I got from a week-long Ancient Egypt camp at one of the Pittsburgh museums as a preteen (probably the Carnegie Museum of Science). I used to tell people it came out of a mummy’s tomb, though it’s probably a lot younger than that! I used to always have it in my pocket for luck with tests, esp. finals. I don’t remember if I had it with me when I was run over by a car in August 2003, though it wasn’t my time to go yet, lucky charm or not.

I can’t write without a good soundtrack, which is also a lucky charm of sorts. My primary soundtrack for Little Ragdoll consisted of The Hollies and The Four Seasons, which helped to put me in a Sixties and early Seventies mood. For whatever reason, while writing my Russian novel sequel, I ended up mostly listening to the band so nice they named themselves twice, and it just stuck. I’ve got the same soundtrack for my third Russian novel in progress. Once you find the winning formula that motivates you to write, you don’t want to jinx it!


The current ROW80 ends very soon, and I’m up to Chapter 32 and around 246,400 words in my WIP. This is the university’s break week, so I’m hoping to get caught back up with writing. As I was writing Chapter 31, “Boris’s Dream Comes True,” I hit upon the great idea to develop an immediate conflict between Boris and Nikolay, now Tatyana’s boyfriend and unofficial fiancé.

Boris and Nikolay make no bones about not liking one another, and Boris quickly regrets inviting Nikolay to live in the third bedroom of his new Harlem brownstone. However, Nikolay is under orders from Lyuba, his godmother, to stay there to keep an eye on Boris and protect Tatyana if Boris ever steps out of line or does anything that would put her in danger. Now there’s some more meat to this particular storyline, beyond Tatyana merrily living with her blood father till she discovers the truth about his past in the spring of ’39.

I’m still doing well and keeping up with my three classes, and also doing wonderfully in my German and Estonian lessons. I love absorbing all these new Estonian words and naturally figuring out what case endings mean, how to form plurals, and how verbs are conjugated. It’s the big difference between studying and learning a language. It’s certainly challenging, as a non-Indo-European language, but once you figure out the basics and vocab sticks, it becomes very logical.

Effective language learning isn’t about rote memorization or learning everything cold the first go-round. It’s about internalization, to the point where you don’t have to translate in your head. And as I’ve said, it really helps if you have a base in Russian and German. Many cognates. And if I ever study Finnish, I’ll have a huge leg up!

Posted in Third Russian novel, Word Count, Writing

Favorite colors, ROW80 update, and IWSG

My Horny Hump Day post is here.

Express Yourself

This week’s theme for the Express Yourself meme is favorite colors. Anyone who knows me well knows that my favoritest color is purple.  I have so many things in purple—clothes, notebooks, purses, accessories, yoga mat and its carrying case, yoga brick, pens, shawls, water bottle, future hair-coverings if I ever marry, even the glasses I normally only wear at home and sometimes out in public.

I also love dark blue, green, orange, and red. Vibrant, dark, bright colors. And of course, I love the color black and have tons of black clothes. Some of my favorite wedding dresses from local designer Katrina Marie are in black. No one would ever forget a bride who wears black! (I was that unusual, against the grain girl who never wanted to wear white on the grounds that it’s unoriginal.)


As of now, I’m up to about the 230,000-word mark in my WIP, which means I’m roughly half-done. I’d like to stick to my ingoing guesstimate of 450,000 words, but it’s entirely possible I could go up to around 500,000. After all, I did initially think my second Russian novel would only be 300,000, and the rough draft ended up 406,000. It just naturally unfolded at that length.

I’m now on Chapter 30, finally back to the characters in America and the storyline of Tatyana rejecting Ivan, the man who’s raised her since birth, for her blood father Boris. As awful as Boris is, I just love writing him. He always gets what’s coming to him. Of course, I couldn’t do it without my wonderful soundtrack. When I’m finished, I’m going to take another victory picture like I took after finishing the sequel, only posing with different records this time.

I got a 95 on my second paper in my Information Science 601 class, and am doing very well with my Estonian lessons. Learning any new language is hard work. Contrary to what a certain infamous language/travel blogger asserts, you CANNOT become fluent in only three months or redefine fluency as basic conversational skills. But I’m doing pretty well with acquiring new vocabulary and some basic grammar. It’s so true that each new language you study makes it easier to learn succeeding languages. Having a base in German and Russian helps with this language, since there are so many cognates due to the cultures’ intrusion into Estonia.


The first Wednesday of every month, the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, hosted by Ninja Captain Alex, meets. The over 300 participants commiserate about various writerly insecurities they’ve been having.

Sometimes I feel a bit insecure because I’ve been writing exclusively third-person omniscient for about 20 years now, and there’s a definite first-person trend right now. There have been so many books I’ve read, or tried to read, in recent memory, which I felt would’ve worked so much better in third-person. I’ve definitely read many books that were awesome in first-person. Mark Twain, Hermann Hesse, and Chaim Potok wrote some wonderful first-person novels I couldn’t imagine in third-person. But when suddenly every other book is first-person, it loses the impact it used to have.

Part of me wonders if I haven’t done well in certain contests or with querying because I write third-person, and that naturally stands out when at least 90% of the other entries are first-person. I’ve even seen some people writing about how they think third-person, esp. omniscient, is too old-fashioned, impersonal, stodgy, and should even be banned. I feel the exact opposite, that third-person omniscient lets me paint on a much larger canvas and get to know all my characters well. Being in the head of just one person for an entire story would be too confining for the types of stories I like to tell.

Maybe it’s just that it’s been so long since sagas were in vogue that many people genuinely don’t understand how to read a story with an ensemble cast and a slower-developing plot trajectory composed of numerous interlinked storylines that all ultimately come together. As a reader, I prefer to be directly told things through narrative instead of trying to infer everything through “showing.” That’s just the style I’m used to, and it’s influenced my own writing.

At least I’ve realized that my books with younger characters probably aren’t really YA by the modern classifications. I heard too many times that my writing style, narrative voice, themes, and length were better-suited to adult historicals that just happen to have younger characters. Twenty-plus years ago they might’ve been considered YA, and probably still would be today in a place like England, Germany, or Australia, but not in the United States.