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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.


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Friday, Apr. 25

Light Music presents the main events for their Cultural Kitchen project at Loft-Project Etagi today. A B2B event that focuses on Finnish food, arts, travel, music and design, the evening will conclude with a dinner by chef Jyrki Tsutsunen and dancing to music by Aino Venna. The event, which began yesterday with presentations by tourism and cultural institutions, concludes today with a preview of Finlands Flow festival and other musical events. Invitations are available from

Saturday, Apr. 26

At 6 p.m. this evening, stylist Liliana Modigliani offers 50 simple ways to up your style quotient with beauty tips at the Galeria shopping center on Ligovsky Prospekt. The event is part of the final day of the shopping malls Fashion Saturday sales event, this week focusing on top brands located on the ground floor as well as presentation from fashion experts on sprucing up your spring look.

Sunday, Apr. 27

Families shouldnt miss Childhood Planet 2014, the trade fair that started yesterday and concludes today at LenExpo. Not only will goods and services be provided for children and families but the event hopes to promote Russian brands and eco-friendly products using the latest technology available in the childcare industry.

Monday, Apr. 28

The Hotel Indigo will be the site of SPIBAs Acting Skills for HR and Other Managers master class this morning starting at 9 a.m. The event will begin with coffee before moving on to the class itself and conclude with a tour of the recently opened hotel. Confirm attendance by Apr. 24.

Tuesday, Apr. 29

Improve your English at the British Book Centers Interactive English Lesson tonight at 6 p.m. Students at pre-intermediate and intermediate levels are welcome discuss topics that are selected to help learners master the more difficult aspects of English grammar and vocabulary.