La lecture quotidienne

Russia’s Language is in the Soup

In English on 2011/04/21 at 10:31

Three hundred years ago Peter the Great cut a window into Europe. Foreign languages flooded into Russia: English, Dutch, French, and Italian. Today, new words and cultural concepts are also arriving in Russia at breathtaking speed. Sometimes they add to, sometimes they replace, Russian analogues.

But somebody thinks that all the old words should be deleted from our memories, that only one word — soup — should remain. Soup; soup in general, with no variations. Everything we eat with a spoon is soup; everything we eat with a fork is not soup. In all our menus we have soup – just that.

Forget what you’ve known, never remember, never try to find out what words like gazpacho or bouillabaisse might mean. Don’t ask what ingredients are used in making those dishes. You don’t need to know all this. In fact, why be concerned about the foreign gazpacho? Forget even a simple difference between the “shchi” (cabbage soup) and the “borshch” (beet soup). There is none. “Ukha” (fish soup), what is “ukha?” With all sorts of fish available, let’s eliminate the word for it. Why use a name when we have a product?

Under free market capitalism we can, at long last, live up to the communist ideal, “The whole Soviet nation like one man!” Excellent synonyms like “good, beautiful, valuable, positive, lovely, exceptional, super, enchanted, magic, adorable, remarkable, sweet, perfect, spectacular, fantastic, great, grandiose, irresistible, intriguing, entertaining, luring, incomparable, attractive, striking, divine,” are disappearing. What do we have nowadays? Only “krutoi” (cool), or “klevyi” (hot).

It is really “cool”, for example, to express oneself with just one-syllable words, selectively adopted from all the treasures of the English language.

via Russias Language is in the Soup by Tatyana Tolstaya – Project Syndicate.


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