I am slightly confused by this sentence:

Она много читала, не писала в письмах ъ, называла мужа не Дмитрием, а Димитрием, а он втайне считал ее недалекой, узкой, неизящной, боялся ее и не любил бывать дома.

(if you are interested it is from the well known short story "A lady with a lapdog" / "Дама с собачкой" by Chekhov)

It is easy to translate the sentence literally to English but hard for me to find the true meaning.

  • She writes without ъ - I guess this means she wrote with a kind of reformed orthography?
  • She called him Dimitry instead of Dmitry

The book was published in 1899 but the reform of 1917 got rid of the ъ at the end of words. So this means that she (the protagonist's wife in the story) wrote without ъ before it was officially abolished.

What would that mean about a person if they omitted it? Is the subtext that she is uneducated? Or going over the top to be modern? Or trying to be different? Or just implying that she has some irritating habits? Or is she showing off her level of education?

Regarding calling him Dimitry, is this a way of "foreignising" someone's name, as if I was to over-pronounce "croissant" in English with an exaggerated French accent? Is Димитрий an upper, or lower class variant of Дмитрий?

(I have edited my question to try to make it clear that I am talking about language after the feedback in the comments. Imagine that you wanted to translate the book into English for someone with no knowledge of 1900s Russian culture - the English translation I have says that she "used phonetic spelling" which in my opinion does not convey the true meaning, so I am asking really what the connotations of this description are for a native Russian speaker.)

  • Димитрий is a more refined form of the name... considering the contrast of how she's described by the author on the one hand and perceived by her husband on the other it seems that the 1st option doesn't fit Commented Sep 25, 2018 at 10:47
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    this is not a stack for interpreting book plots and this has no direct relation to learning Russian.
    – shabunc
    Commented Sep 25, 2018 at 12:08
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    I asked the question because of language problems, not to analyse the book plot. Therefore I think this is the right forum. A dictionary tells me that Димитрий and Дмитрий are variants of the same name but there must be a difference in register that I am missing, such as Баян has pointed out. Likewise in 1899 was writing without ъ a form of refined spelling, or an error?
    – Tom
    Commented Sep 25, 2018 at 14:09
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    maybe it makes sense to reformulate the post by limiting the scope of problems to philological points only without referring specifically to the сharacters or only for the sake of example, and completely leaving out the possible conclusions the resolution of these problems may lead to with respect to the plot, the last 3 conjectures framed as questions i think are unnecessary Commented Sep 25, 2018 at 17:21
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    Hi and welcome to Russian.SE! Your post does mention several issues pertinent to Russian language and orthography, and your questions are quite interesting in and of themselves. However, the way your post is put at the moment, you're essentially asking "why does Dmitry find his wife irritating", which, as was pointed by the others, is not a question fit for this site. Would you mind reformulating your questions so that they are relevant to Russian language and not the plot of a work of fiction? Thanks!
    – Quassnoi
    Commented Sep 26, 2018 at 10:30

1 Answer 1


Дмитрий and Димитрий are variants of the same name of the greek origin. The form Димитрий is still used by the church and is considered to be more ancient than the simplified derivative Дмитрий. So Димитрий is higher in register than Дмитрий and sounds more noble. An uneducated person wouldn't use it.

As for the reform in the writing and changes connected with it, they say that these revolutionary ideas about the extreme difficulty of writing originally occurred in some scholars' works as far as the 18th century. The first attempt was to exclude the letter «ижица» from the alphabet by the Academy of Sciences in 1735, in 1787 one part of «Academic News» was published without Ъ at the end of words. It was done on the initiative of the head of the Academy of Sciences Сергей Герасимович Домашнев. So the ideas were popular a century before the reform. Who could support such ideas? Only educated people. I won't go farther into literature questions.

  • 1
    Thank you. So Dimitry is higher register ("posher") and omitting Ъ, although non-standard, appears also to have been the mark of an educated person? It is much clearer now.
    – Tom
    Commented Oct 8, 2018 at 14:51
  • Yeah, his wife was a feminist.
    – V.V.
    Commented Oct 11, 2018 at 10:03

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