понедельник, 9 октября 2017 г.

25 Russian Words For 25 Years



You’ll have to forgive us for being a nostalgic mood these days. The Moscow Times is celebrating its 25th anniversary, and we’ve been walking down memory lane. In my case, I’ve been walking down Linguistic Lane, pulling up words that are emblematic of various years. Here are the first 13 years of Russian words for your first blast from the past.
1992 Хозрасчёт: for-profit — the totally revolutionary concept of making a profit from a company’s business activities, introduced in the late Soviet period in either special divisions of large, otherwise loss-making companies or in independent businesses; in most cases, these profit-making entities were used as cash cows for the “red directors” at the top, starting a great new tradition of outrageous wealth disparity
1993  Подворовывать: to steal a little on the side, especially from your employer; may range from tucking a half-used roll of toilet paper into your briefcase to working with the bookkeepers to skim profits; considered fair play at the bottom when asset-stripping at the top was rampant (see 1992: хозрасчёт)
1994 Пирамида: a financial scheme in which people invest money at extremely high returns — returns that are funded solely by new investments — until the entire pyramid collapses; one of the favorite ways to bilk citizens in the 1990s; the most famous pyramid scheme, MMM, crashed in August 1994, contributing to the population’s growing skepticism of capitalism
1995 Наличка: cash, something the legislation did not permit companies to have much of; most of the 1990s were spent employing 10 bookkeepers whose entire job was to make up fake receipts so cash could be withdrawn from company bank accounts
1996 Пальцевать: show off, play the big shot; from палец (finger) and the gesture of extending index finger and little finger as a sign of being a tough guy in the criminal world
1997 Тусовка: crowd, party, bash, get-together — both a group of friends and any kind of get-together; also тусоваться: what you do at a party, mingle, hang out, be seen; also тусовщик: someone who does the rounds of parties, a generally derogatory term for a party animal, socialite, a hanger-on; all of this was the new incarnation of the post-Soviet social scene, where money and flash counted more than party membership
1998 Кинуть: slang word used by Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais to describe what Russia did to the IMF when the country defaulted on its debt; the word, which meant an intentional scam in criminal slang, had come to mean unintentional failure to do something among the general population; unfortunately, the change in meaning hadn’t reached all the translators, and the U.S. Congress held hearings on why Russia “conned the IMF” out of several billion dollars 
1999 Бардак: total mess, a brothel; how бардак began as a house of ill repute and came to mean a mess has been lost in the mists of time, but it is the ubiquitous description of anything disordered, from a bedroom and an analytical report up to a political leader’s thinking processes
2000 Замочить в сортире: to wipe 'em out in the outhouse, what President Putin said should be done to Chechen bandits; uttered at a press conference, this was the first of Mr. Putin’s Russian Lessons, a series of helpful language learning classes he held during the first years in office 
2001 Вообще, pronounced вааааааще: yowza, wow, golly gosh darn, i.e., any exclamatory phrase that expresses astonishment, either good or bad; of unclear provenance — how a word that means “in general” came to mean “can you believe it?” is at present unexplained; conveniently used in the phrase “ну ты вообще,” which means either “you are great” or “you are horrible” and is therefore applicable to anything your spouse ever says or does
2002 Как бы: kinda, a parasitic phrase that for several years was uttered constantly by everyone in every situation in Moscow, then St. Petersburg and for all we know — eventually every nook and cranny of this great, vast land; for several years when it was at its peak use, it seemed that people did not do things, they kinda did things; they kinda read books, they kinda felt well, they kinda went to work — as if they lived in a virtual reality; in retrospect, they kinda did
2003 Пофигист: someone who doesn’t care about anything, especially elections but also politics, economic indicators, climate change, clothing styles, or cleaning up the kitchen and changing the sheets; from the expression мне по фигу (I don’t give a hoot); the typical пофигист has good and bad qualities: he is hard to live with but very easy to rule
2004 Экзит-пол: exit poll, what was used in earlier elections to determine the outcome of the elections after people voted — I know, right? what a concept!; annoying term for Russian-speaking people in Russia who did not spend their youth working the primaries on the Jersey shore; not used in over a decade because: Why?  

This week I begin my trek through time in a traffic jam. The place: Moscow. The year: 2005. From there I make my way through the glamorous early ‘oughts toward the fraught teen years of this century, when politics began to shape everything, including the way we talk. Better fasten your seat belts — it’s a bumpy ride that no urban improvement program can fix.
 2005 Пробка: cork, traffic jam; in Moscow the kind of traffic jam where you turn off the engine, do your taxes, give yourself a manicure, and finish an audio book to the accompaniment of 659 drivers hysterically honking their horns; пробки are worse in summer and when it rains or snows — that is, they are almost always worse than yesterday but not as bad as tomorrow
2006 Гламурный: any vulgar display of high fashion and wealth, often with sexual innuendo; also used to describe anything expensive and “in” among the rich and anonymous crowd; improbably used to describe anything attractive or fun, from kitchen tile to pre-Lenten Fast parties
2007 Олбанский: Olbanian, aka Albanian, but actually an incredibly annoying form of writing in online forums that uses exaggerated phonetic spelling so that автор (author) is the barely recognizable аффтар and гыгыгыгыгыгыгыгы means LOL which is sometimes also ЛОЛ; not practiced or understood by most people over the age of puberty (physical or emotional)
2008 Пиндос: an American in derogatory slang of obscure origins; originally a hearty Greek pony, пиндос was once used to describe the Greek settlers in the Black Sea region, but the sound of the word — half comical and half obscene — made it an insult looking for a subject; one story has it that the Russian soldiers in Kosovo started using пиндос to describe the American soldiers bristling with equipment, packs, and weaponry because they looked like overburdened trail ponies; in any case, now  пиндосы live in Пиндостан (Pindostan, aka U.S.A.)
2009 Перегрузка: Not reset; what someone with poor Russian skills stuck on a button so that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov could push it, smile, and welcome in new era of cordial cooperation; unfortunately, the button should have been labeled перезагрузка (reboot) and перегрузка means an overload of the system; very unfortunately, Clinton and Lavrov pushed the перегрузка button anyway, causing relations to completely short-circuit and giving the alt-right another thing to blame Hillary for
2010  Полиция: police, the new name of the vast law enforcement agency once called Полиция in pre-Revolutionary Russia, then called Милиция (militia) in Soviet Russia to distinguish it from the Полиция, and now once again called Полиция to distinguish it from the Милиция — a process, perhaps endless, that entails changing every station name, every stamp, every bit of stationary, every badge, every uniform, every vehicle marking and so on in 89 regions across 11 time zones; that is, a very profitable endeavor 
2011 Рокировка: castling, job swap at the top, in particular, the decision announced at the United Russia party convention in September 2011 for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to run for president and President Dmitry Medvedev to revert to the role of prime minister; if instituted as part of the system, the Medvedev-Putin and Putin-Medvedev tandem may rule Russia until the end of time
2012: Оккупай: Occupy! what a few hundred protesters did in Moscow after a series of demonstrations against electoral falsification and for President Putin’s resignation, first near the monument to the Kazakh poet Abai Kunanbayev — giving the world the melodious slogan Occupy Abai! — and then in various spots around the city; after a few arrests and the unlikelihood of any demands being met — as well as the oncoming cold weather — the movement activists quietly went home to occupy their warm apartments
2013 Чмо: schmuck, weirdo, bum, jerk; of highly debated origins, this word is an all-purpose insult that can refer to stupidly gullible neighbors, smelly drunk people by the metro station, dorky science majors at institutes and, apparently, every American president in history, but especially Barack Obama, who has been declared a чмо on thousands of Russian cars, fences and toilet walls
2014: Крымнаш: Crimea is Ours, turned into one word and a meme that means: We took back our land from the fascist junta and NATO and in the process showed the whole world that we’re back in prime fighting form, up off our knees, and happy to push anyone out of the way of our national interests
2015 Ватник: a good ole boy, Russian style — the kind of fellow who gets all his news from Russian television and believes it, thinks Ukrainians are fascists and Americans are the devil incarnate, and generally thinks that everything Russian is the best — except for his car, sneakers, jeans, cell phone, contact lenses, computer, computer programs and apps, which were all Made in the U.S.A. but don’t count because the Americans stole them from someone anyway
2016 Русиано: Rusiano — what Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev thinks Americano coffee should be called in Russia and anywhere in the world except the U.S. Down with American-style coffee! Er, no, that should be: Up with American-style coffee, down with calling it American-style coffee
2017 Благоустройство: beautification, as in urban beautification — the process of ripping up all the outdoor urban beautification done the previous year and spending the entire three summer months — i.e., the only time Muscovites can enjoy the beautified outdoor urban environment — on replacing it, typically with badly installed tile blocks (all the better to catch your high heel on); 40-meter wide sidewalks (for strolling in bad weather); and specially imported trees that cost their weight in gold and die before ever sprouting a leaf; an urban project that has eliminated virtually all parking in the city center, caused  daily 10-on-a-scale-of-10 traffic jams; and has the distinction of being the only urban project that has made Muscovites long for snow, slush, and freezing weather in which no благоустройство can be carried out

Michele A. Berdy is a Moscow-based translator and interpreter, author of “The Russian Word’s Worth,” a collection of her columns. Follow her on Twitter @MicheleBerdy.

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