A Look at the Word of the Year
Published: December 18, 2013 (Issue # 1791)
¤ÓÔţ˝ŰÓÔÝˇ˛űÚ: pseudo-Orthodox fanatic
Make some popcorn, pull out aásix-pack, put onáyour team scarves andásettle ináfor theáexciting countdown toáthe competition. Thatĺs right, itĺs time foráthe annual ĐŰţÔţ ├ţńÓ 2013 (Word ofáthe Year, 2013) contest.
Well, Iĺm excited. Itĺs always aágood opportunity toálearn some new words andácheck out theáRussian linguistic zeitgeist.
While Russia is still voting foráits word ofáthe year, theáOxford dictionary has already announced its winner: Ĺselfie,ĺ aáphoto taken ofáoneself andáposted onáa social network. This was widely reported ináthe Russian media, where I learned that ináRussian, aáselfie is Űˇŕ. This was presumably fromáthe English word ôlookö andánot theánative Russian word foráan onion.
Russian also has theásub-category ofáŰŔ˘˛ţŰˇŕáŚ aáphoto ofáoneself taken ináan elevator, preferably with lots ofámirrors. One advocate ofáthe ŰŔ˘˛ţŰˇŕ explains helpfully: Îňý ň¨ň šÓÝŔýÓ˛Ř˝ Ô ŰŔ˘˛ň, ţ˝˛ÓÔ°Ŕ˝Ř ÝÓňńŔÝň ˝ ˝ţßţÚ? ╠ţŠÝţ, ŕţÝň¸Ýţ, ´ţ˝˛ţ ÝÓŕÓ˝Ŕ˛Ř Ńˇßű ŔŰŔ ˝ýţ˛ň˛Ř Ô ´ţ˛ţŰţŕ, ˝Űˇ°Ó ýˇšűŕˇ, Ýţ ŃţÓšńţ Šň Ôň˝ňŰňň ˝ńňŰÓ˛Ř ŰŔ˘˛ţŰˇŕ (What else are you going toádo ináan elevator byáyourself? Ofácourse, you could put onálipstick or look atáthe ceiling while you listen toámusic, but itĺs much more fun toátake aáselfie).
While I continue toáponder how much this woman can accomplish ináan elevator, Iĺve been following theávoting foráone websiteĺs Russian word ofáthe year. As usual, theácountryĺs political life is heavily represented ináthe nominated words. Foráexample, among theánominations is theáverb ÓšýÓÝńÓ˛Ŕ˛Ř, which means toástrip aádeputy ináthe State Duma ofáhis seatáŚ toáôun-deputizeö him, as it were. This verb even has anáadjectival form: đÓšýÓÝńÓ¸ňÝÝűÚ ńň´ˇ˛Ó˛ ├ˇńŕţÔ ýţŠň˛ ˝˛Ó˛Ř ´ţýţ¨ÝŔŕţý ╠ŔţÝţÔÓ (Gudkov, who was expelled fromáthe Duma, might become anáaide toáMironov).
Theálist ofánominated words also reflects theápolitical andásocial mudslinging iná2013 andáoffers new ways toáinsult your opponents. Theáright wing coined theáword ŕňÓŕŰ fromáthe first letters ofáthe phrase ŕňÓ˛ŔÔÝűÚ ŕŰÓ˝˝ (creative class), theáphrase most commonly used toádescribe theáwhite-collar, progressive middle class. But ŕňÓŕŰ is decidedly pejorative andábecame downright insulting after aáblogger described ŕňÓŕŰ ináthe style ofáthe Animal Kingdom: ╚š ŔÝ˛ňÝň˛Ó ŕňÓŕŰű Ôű´ţŰšÓ■˛ ňńŕţ (The Ĺkreaklĺ rarely crawls out ofáits Internet burrow).
Theácreative class retaliated, ináa way, with theáinsult ´ÓÔţ˝ŰÓÔÝˇ˛űÚ, aáterm that describes fanatical Orthodox Christians whose religious zeal far exceeds their actual knowledge ofáOrthodox dogma or history. Theásuffix ľˇ˛űÚ is associated with other words like ˛ţÝˇ˛űÚ (touched ináthe head) or ¸ţŕÝˇ˛űÚ (nutty). ╬ ň´ň˝˝Ŕ §, ŕţ˛ţűý Đ˛ÓŰŔÝ ´ţńÔňŃÓŰ Ôňˇ■¨Ŕ§, ´ÓÔţ˝ŰÓÔÝˇ˛űň ´ňń´ţ¸Ŕ˛Ó■˛ Ýň šÝÓ˛Ř (Pseudo-Orthodox fanatics prefer not toáknow about theáStalinist repression ofáchurchgoers).
Another adjective with theásame ending, ýÓÚńÓÝˇ˛űÚ, has made aároaring comeback fromáits initial appearance iná2004. Itĺs fromáýÓÚńÓÝ (square) andámeans democratic, pro-Western Ukrainian demonstrators who came out ofáthe square during theáOrange Revolution. As far as I can tell, connotation depends onáthe speaker.
My reaction toáall this is another nominated word ofáthe yearáŚ ´ň¸ÓŰŘŕÓ, which describes aáminor cause forádismay, often with humor. ▀ Ýň ˇ˝´ňŰÓ ´ţŃţŰţ˝ţÔÓ˛Ř šÓ ˝ŰţÔţ ŃţńÓ. ╩ÓŕÓ ´ň¸ÓŰŘŕÓ! (I didnĺt get aáchance toávote foráthe word ofáthe year. Bummer!)
Michele A. Berdy, aáMoscow-based translator andáinterpreter, is the author ofáĹThe Russian Wordĺs Worthĺ (Glas), aácollection ofáher columns.