Saturday, December 1, 2012

MWW 39: Өртөө


1. station
2. the Mongolian Pony Express
In Genghis Khan’s time it was örtege.

One of Chinggis Khaan's major innovations was the creation of a messenger system spanning almost the entire Asian continent, which has been called a Mongolian Pony Express. The system was punctuated by a series of relay stations where messengers changed horses. Messengers sometimes covered 300km each day to pass information on to moving armies. Өртөө originally meant a station or post, but it came to be used for the entire system that they formed together. After the Mongol empire collapsed, the Mongolian Pony Express shriveled up and died, but the word өртөө lived on. Today the Mongolian Official Post Service is known as the өртөө улаа. (Given how inconvenient mail is here sometimes, I can’t help but feel like the өртөө may have been better run 800 years ago than now.) Өртөө is also used for "station," but in this sense it competes with буудал (formed from the verb буух "to get down, get off") and вокзал (a Russian loanword).

A Mongolian-Russian-English sign posted on the restroom in a Mongolian train car. Look for the word өртөө, which is used here as the equivalent of English "station."

1 comment:

  1. We have been trying to call you since Friday evening U.S. time. Also tried to call Saturday and Sunday but got only a recorded message that "the number you are trying to reach is not available, try again later" We only wanted to hear your voice and wish you a Happy 27th Birthday
    Love you