Petike's thread of historical curiosities that seem like alternate history


The older building of the city library in the Belarussian city of Babruysk. Early 20th century, a sort of tsarist era Art Nouveau, it seems.

I find this sort of style rather rare and visually striking. It reminds me of a cheerful and colourful version of some of the dieselpunk-ish architecture seen in Pathologic, the Russian survival horror game. Unusual roof shapes, lots of ironwork lattices and features and balconies, etc. I'm also reminded of the similarly fanciful but less gloomy architecture of the fancier buildings in the Dishonored games. (I started hearing this in my mind when looking at this photo.)

Looks like the weird swords from Dishonored have some historical precedent, guys ! :eek:


Granted, more of a knife than a sword, but it looks like the sort of thing you'd associate with a "mobsters from a steampunk city" premise. ;)

Hark, what is this mischief ? A Playmobil set from a Lutheran-themed version of Puritan World, where a single-church theocratic superpower dominates geopolitics and culture ?

Nah, it's just a commemorative Playmobil minifigure, manufactured and sold for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. I know Danish cousin LEGO's done some unusual themes, but I love how Playmobil's "creator provincialism" also influences some of its thematic choices.
The official term for tank (armoured vehicle) in Diné bizaad (the Navajo language) is the truly amazing:

Chidí naa'na'í beeʼeldǫǫhtsoh bikáá' dah naaznilígíí

Translates loosely to "crawling motorcar with big cannon in which soldiers sit". Lovely. :D My only major beef with it, outside of the fact that it's a bit long, is the fact that it reads a bit like a term made by a worldbuilder in some language that isn't good at contracting words, so just stacks them in order into a multiple-words term. I don't know enough about Navajo grammar to comment further. From what I do know, conventional adjectives, as we understand them (in European languages, etc.) are absent, but they do have various equivalents in the grammar. Hence why many terms might seem more descriptive. It's a nice-sounding language, though. :cool:

Fun fact, the term chidí, for "motorcar" was invented in the early 20th century, inspired by the sound made by the engine of a Ford Model T.

No, really:
Chidí - Compound of chid, imitative of the sound of a Ford Model T engine, and the nominalizing suffix , meaning roughly "chugger".

So, in Navajo, motorcars are "chuggers", which I find really cute. :) :cool: The term for car battery, in turn, loosely translates to "car lungs".


Not that long ago, I brought up the topic of dubbing films and TV series into the Welsh language...

Star Wars in Diné bizaad (Navajo), with English subtitles. ;) I'd love to see more feature films dubbed into Native American languages, and other vulnerable languages. Hey, if the Navajo in particular served with distinction during WWII, they more than deserve to have a vibrant translator culture in arts and media, films included. I come from a small country and both of my mother tongues have only a few million speakers globally. That still outnumbers the Navajo speaker numbers greatly, so I am all the more in favour of supporting these smaller languages having enough presence in the modern world.

Interview with dubbing team and cast no. 1, interview no. 2, premiere of the dubbed version (a packed theatre !), news report on the dub.

Some nice articles on the subject of Navajo dubbing:
- Translated into Navajo, Star Wars will be (
- The five coolest things about the Navajo translation of Star Wars (Topless
- How do you say Star Wars in Navajo ? (Smithsonian Mag)
- Navajo Star Wars available on DVD (Navajo Times)
- How Star Wars 'made it possible to open a world speaking Navajo' (

Hey, is it any weirder than dubbing Star Wars into my native Slovak ? Or the parody dub based on bootleg subtitles ? I don't think so. ;)

Keep improving your dubbing tradition, dear Diné citizens. :) Anything you do to keep the language an everyday language is welcome.
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There's a village in modern day eastern Ukraine called New York. (Ironically, Brighton Beach in New York City is nicknamed "Little Odessa".)

The village of New York was already called that back in the 19th century. A recent name change in 2021 restored this traditional name.

Also, around the same time in the mid-19th century, the Welsh enterpreneur John Hughes was a major investor into local mining and industries in what is nowadays the city of Donetsk. Since the development of the city owed much to his influence, they originally called it Yuzivka, Yuzovka, or Yuzovo, a name derived from a somewhat mangled phonetic rendering of his surname, Hughes. By the standards of other Ukrainian 19th century cities, Yuzovka/Donetsk had public architecture highly influenced by then-popular British styles.
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History is a treasure trove of curiosities, it really is (Only today I learned that there's a town called Texas in Queensland, Australia).
You might have heard the valid complaint that we don't hear that much about the Jewish cowboys that existed historically. Fair enough, but...

...have you ever heard of the Jewish gauchos of the Argentinian pampas ? :)

A fascinating history, much like that of the Welsh, Croat and Slovak settlers in Patagonia.

I recall reading about this steampunk-looking monstrosity in a children's book about aviation years ago-- this "biplan mixte", as I understood, was a subpar early plane design that the creator stuck a balloon onto to see if it would fly better.
It's something of a recurring phenomennon that certain TV series find great popularity in unexpected countries and places, even when they are best remembered as cult classics in their countries of origin and primary target markets.

I can attest to late 1980s and early 1990s Czechoslovakia having a thing for 1980s British crime series Dempsey and Makepeace (mainly thanks to the great-for-its-time Slovak dub), or India preferring the otherwise forgotten Street Hawk to the much more famous Knight Rider and Airwolf, or the Czech Republic having a surprising cult following of the British comedy series Red Dwarf. The British gag dubs of the French animated seires The Magic Roundabout and the Japanese fantasy adventure series Journey to the West / Monkey also met with an unexpected cult following.

The early 1990s Canadian detective series Tropical Heat, created by Sam Egan and starring Rob Stewart as Nick Slaughter and Carolyn Dunn as Sylvie Girard, was apparently hugely popular in 1990s Serbia. Main character Nick Slaughter's easy-going attitude even became something of a tongue-in-cheek mascot for the student protest movement there during 1996-1997, and gradually even the mascot of the civic and political opposition. There were even fan-made indie comics starring the two main characters, satirising the whole sorry situation in 1990s Serbia.

The Tropical Heat series also holds the dubious distinction of each of its three seasons being filmed in a completely different country. The first was filmed in Mexico, the second in Israel and the third season filmed in Pretoria, South Africa, and occassionally even in Mauritius, of all places !
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