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Fighting Words

Published: September 5, 2014 (Issue # 1827)



Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Чмарить: to bully (slang)

Although I adore most things about the Russian language, there is a group of verbs I detest. Чмарить, угнетать, обижать, издеваться and притеснять all mean to persecute, bully, make fun of, oppress, torture or defile. Obviously I don't like the activities they express. But I especially loathe them as a translator, since the meaning almost always depends on context. In some cases, the word издеваться can mean to tease someone. In other cases, it means to defile. And in still other cases, it means to torture.

So every time I see one of these words, my fingers twitch over the keyboard as I try to determine where the author is on the scale of atrocity.

Let's start with чмарить (also чмырить, чморить), a slang word that means to make fun of someone, to bully, to harass. It seems to be youth slang — in any case, almost all the examples I found are connected with schools or schooldays. Мальчик не понимает, что лузер в этом коридоре не очкарик, которого он чмарит, а он сам (The kid doesn't get that he's the loser in the hallway, not the nerdy guy in glasses he is bullying).

Угнетать means to oppress. Often it is used to describe a psychological state caused by an emotion: Безвыходность ситуации нас угнетала (The hopelessness of the situation weighed heavily on us). Circumstances can oppress, too: Домашняя тишина стала угнетать его (The quiet at home began to oppress him). But the oppression can also be external. One woman blogger laments the workplace pattern of bonuses going only to her male colleagues. When she and her female cohorts complained to their boss, he said: "Я никого не угнетал!" ("I didn't discriminate against anyone!") In the end, she writes: "остаётся только мысль, что угнетают нас какие-то инопланетяне" (we're left with the thought that we are discriminated against by some kind of aliens from outer space).

Притеснять is also often used to describe oppression, persecution or discrimination of classes, races or religious groups. Новый король сильно притеснял пуритан (The new king brutally persecuted the Puritans). Or what Russians call друзья по интересам (interest groups): Владельцы кафе настаивали, что они не вправе притеснять своих курящих посетителей (Cafe owners insisted that they didn't have the right to discriminate against their clients who smoked). But it can also be personal and vicious: Недалёкий и мелочный отец жестоко притеснял сына (The stupid and petty father cruelly tormented his son).

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Wednesday, Dec. 17


Although the next trade event at Lenexpo convention center isn’t until January, the center is playing host to “Monet to Cezanne: The French Impressionists,” an art show that brings 19th-century art classics to life. Using state-of-the-art technology, the show takes the work of the French masters and adds another dimension to them using light and shadow.



Thursday, Dec. 18


Improve your English and knowledge of British culture during today’s FORM lesson at the British Book Center. These free English lessons with a native speaker elaborate not only on grammar particulars but cultural topics as well. Today’s event will discuss the BBC Two documentary “Victorian Farm Christmas.”



Friday, Dec. 19


Test your mastery of parlor games during Game Evening at the British Book Center. Learn how to play a variety of classic, mentally challenging games and use your newly acquired skills to crush weaker opponents. The event beings at 5 p.m.



Saturday, Dec. 20


The city’s Babushkina Park on Prospekt Obukhovskoy Oborony will be invaded by dozens of rocking-and-rolling Santa Clauses during today’s Santa Claus Parade. Not only will they parade through the park but there will also be competitions amongst the festively-clad participants and a musical master class. There will also be a prize for the best-dressed Santa Claus.


Stock up your record collection during the Vinyl Christmas Sale at the KL10TCH bar on Konyushennaya ploschad today. Spend the afternoon perusing the records for sale while listening the classic, clean sound of records spinning out hits from a variety of musical genres and time periods.



Sunday, Dec. 21


TheZenit St. Petersburg basketball team returns to the northern capital this evening for a matchup with Krasny Oktyabr, a Volgograd-based basketball club. Tickets for the game, which tips off at 6 p.m. this evening, can be purchased on the club’s website or at their arena, Sibur Arena, on Krestovsky island.


Satisfy your sugar cravings during Sweet New Year, an ongoing seasonal festival at the Raduga shopping center. Each weekend of December will welcome hungry visitors to taste hundreds of different kinds of desserts made from a plethora of sweet treats. Workshops are open to visitors and seasonal gifts can also be purchased for those rushing to finish their New Year shopping.



Monday, Dec. 22


Pick out the latest fashions as holiday gifts for loved ones or as early presents for yourself during the Christmas Design Sale at Kraft on Obvodny Kanal, starting on Dec. 20 and continuing through Dec. 27. Designer clothes will be on sale every day of the week or you can buy something more festive to decorate the home while sipping on hot coffee and perusing the various master classes.



Tuesday, Dec. 23


Meet Arctic explorers Fedor Konukhov and Viktor Simonov during SPIBA’s and Capital Legal Service’s event “Arctic Expedition” this morning in the Mertens House business center at 21 Nevsky Prospekt. The meeting will discuss the explorers’ ongoing eco-social project and how companies can use the project as a unique marketing opportunity. Email office@spiba.ru by Dec. 22 if you wish to attend.



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