Turcizmi or not?

Usually when people talk about Turcizmi (Ottomanisms in BCS) they tend to bring up boring examples, like “ašikovati” or “hajde” or “sat”. Therefore, I wish to break up the usual monotony of this discussion with one word that is shockingly apparently NOT a turcizam and another which is a turcizam in use for an electronic device:


In Serbia, there is a beer known as “jelen”, which Serbs inform me means “deer”. In most Turkic varieties, a Mongolian loanword of similar phonemic structure is in use. But apparently all Slavic varieties refer to deer with the segment “len” preceded by a vowel (and often the glide /j/). The fact that Mongolian /d͡ʒ/ often corresponds to Turkic /j/ and the fact that the only Slavic variety whose word for “deer” I had encountered began with a /j/ semi-vowel led me to believe this was a loan from some Balkan Turkic variety. It was not so. But now it is easy for people who speak a Turkic or Slavic variety to learn this particular word should they decide to learn a variety of the other! How helpful!

The overwhelming majority of Turkic varieties use a word from the root tüg- for “button”, both the fastener for clothes and (more recently, by analogy) the electronic device. It’s not so surprising that this word was loaned from Ottoman Turkish (dügme/düğme) into BCS (dugme/дугме), due to the long period of Ottoman domination over the Balkans. What is surprising is that the word is still in use in Serbia today even for electronic buttons. The word is so embedded in the cultural consciousness (unlike “ašikovati”, which young people identify as a word used by their elders) that it is the word which is used (by analogy, again) for electronic buttons.

Younger Serbs I have spoken to are unaware of the origins of this word, which makes its use in the name of a popular Yugoslav rock band from Sarajevo slightly more amusing to me, for some reason.