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A Look at the Word of the Year

Published: December 18, 2013 (Issue # 1791)

: pseudo-Orthodox fanatic

Make some popcorn, pull out asix-pack, put onyour team scarves andsettle infor theexciting countdown tothe competition. Thats right, its time forthe annual 2013 (Word ofthe Year, 2013) contest.

Well, Im excited. Its always agood opportunity tolearn some new words andcheck out theRussian linguistic zeitgeist.

While Russia is still voting forits word ofthe year, theOxford dictionary has already announced its winner: selfie, aphoto taken ofoneself andposted ona social network. This was widely reported inthe Russian media, where I learned that inRussian, aselfie is . This was presumably fromthe English word look andnot thenative Russian word foran onion.

Russian also has thesub-category of aphoto ofoneself taken inan elevator, preferably with lots ofmirrors. One advocate ofthe explains helpfully: , ? , , , , (What else are you going todo inan elevator byyourself? Ofcourse, you could put onlipstick or look atthe ceiling while you listen tomusic, but its much more fun totake aselfie).

While I continue toponder how much this woman can accomplish inan elevator, Ive been following thevoting forone websites Russian word ofthe year. As usual, thecountrys political life is heavily represented inthe nominated words. Forexample, among thenominations is theverb , which means tostrip adeputy inthe State Duma ofhis seat toun-deputize him, as it were. This verb even has anadjectival form: (Gudkov, who was expelled fromthe Duma, might become anaide toMironov).

Thelist ofnominated words also reflects thepolitical andsocial mudslinging in2013 andoffers new ways toinsult your opponents. Theright wing coined theword fromthe first letters ofthe phrase (creative class), thephrase most commonly used todescribe thewhite-collar, progressive middle class. But is decidedly pejorative andbecame downright insulting after ablogger described inthe style ofthe Animal Kingdom: (The kreakl rarely crawls out ofits Internet burrow).

Thecreative class retaliated, ina way, with theinsult , aterm that describes fanatical Orthodox Christians whose religious zeal far exceeds their actual knowledge ofOrthodox dogma or history. Thesuffix is associated with other words like (touched inthe head) or (nutty). , , (Pseudo-Orthodox fanatics prefer not toknow about theStalinist repression ofchurchgoers).

Another adjective with thesame ending, , has made aroaring comeback fromits initial appearance in2004. Its from (square) andmeans democratic, pro-Western Ukrainian demonstrators who came out ofthe square during theOrange Revolution. As far as I can tell, connotation depends onthe speaker.

My reaction toall this is another nominated word ofthe year , which describes aminor cause fordismay, often with humor. . ! (I didnt get achance tovote forthe word ofthe year. Bummer!)

Michele A. Berdy, aMoscow-based translator andinterpreter, is the author ofThe Russian Words Worth (Glas), acollection ofher columns.


Times Talk


Sunday, Apr. 20

Celebrate Easter at Pavlovsk during the Easter Fair that begins today and continues through next Sunday. Visitors will have the chance to paint Easter eggs and children can take part in games as well as help decorate a tree in honor of Christianitys holiest day.

Today is one of the final days to see the exhibit Cacti Children of the Sun at the Peter the Great Botanical Garden. Starting Apr. 17, budding botanists will marvel at the variety and beauty of the deserts most iconic plant.

Monday, Apr. 21

Improve your grasp of Neruda, Bolano and Marquez at TrueDAs Beginners Spanish Lesson this evening at their location on the Petrograd Side. An experienced teacher will be on hand to help all attendees better understand the intricacies of the language and improve their accent.

Tuesday, Apr. 22

SPIBAs Breakfast with the Director event series continues as the association welcomes Andrei Barannikov, general director of SPN Communications, to the Anna Pavlova Hall of the Angleterre Hotel this morning at 9 a.m. Attendees must confirm their participation by Apr. 21.

The AmCham Environment, Health and Safety Committee Meeting is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. this morning in the their St. Petersburg office.