If Russian Was Good Enough for Our Lord and Savior, Jesus…


If there is another country in the world that displays the kind of ignorance, xenophobia and nationalism that we find in huge supply in this country, it’s Russia. Another example: They’re now considering a law to ban the use of non-Russian words, especially American ones.

‘We’re tormented with Americanisms,’ the leader of Russia’s Liberal Democratic Party, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, complained last week. ‘We need to liberate our language from foreign words.’ He is drawing up a list of 100 words which he would like it to be illegal for broadcasters, writers and academics to use in public. Fines and unemployment could face anyone caught saying café, bar, restaurant, sale, mouton, performance or trader. Some of the words have come into use since the fall of the Soviet Union; others have been around for decades, if not centuries. ‘There are perfectly good Russian words you can use,’ Zhirinovsky says. ‘Why say boutique when we have lavka?’ (Lavka is usually translated into English as something like ‘stall’.)

Zhirinovsky singled out for criticism the cable channel TV Dozhd (‘Rain TV’), which broadcasts lifestyle programmes with English titles and gives airtime to opposition leaders banned from media loyal to the Kremlin. ‘They’ll soon go over to English entirely,’ Zhirinovsky said. In December, Evgeny Fyodorov, a Duma deputy in Putin’s United Russia Party, offered the influx of foreign words as evidence that Russia is controlled by US agents: ‘President and mayor are not Russian words, they are words that came with the occupying forces’ of the US after 1991.

Damn foreigners, messing with Americanisms!

Comments

  1. says

    I could get behind a ban in the US for the “words” “irregardless” and “Kardashian”, and the phrases “I could care less” and “Just sayin'”

  2. says

    I think if I catch someone talking trash about the mere use of other languages, I’ll send him a link to this story and tell him to go back to Russia if he loves their philosophy so much.

  3. roggg says

    We need to liberate our language from foreign words

    You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

  4. slc1 says

    Mr. Zhirinovsky is considered something of a clown in Russian politics so it is doubtful that his bill will go anywhere, unless Putin proposes the same thing. One of the most amusing things about the man is that he is a vociferous anti-Semite and Israel basher, whose father is buried in Israel. His visit to his father’s grave several years ago was extensively covered in the Israeli press (he was allowed in only because of his membership in the Russian Duma, otherwise he would have been denied entry).

  5. =8)-DX says

    Time to pull out a new version of an old joke:

    In post-Soviet Russia a café, bar, restaurant, sale, mouton, performance, trader walks into a seo expert.

  6. David Marjanović says

    Yeah, I was going to say that Zhirinovskiy can be safely ignored. Let’s just hope this nonsense doesn’t spread too far within Putin’s own party.

    Russian is, of course, full of French and other western European words from the 18th century, and various words from Turkic languages have been indispensable for longer still.

  7. says

    Subbie Um… that is French (think it has the accent in the film).
    Casablanca was set in a Vichy colony.

    Actually the Russians are merely going back to stealing lots of their culture from the French (as in the C19).
    Remember it was the French who started the whole ‘Anglicism Bad So Ban It!’ movement.

  8. voidhawk says

    I’m trying to learn Russian at the moment.

    Easy words like ‘Restoran’ and ‘taksi’ were vital when I was trying to remember what all the funny cyrillic letters sounded like.

  9. daved says

    I seem to recall the French having a similar snit about American words creeping into French usage some years ago. They went so far as to come up with a list of properly Frenchified terms that were supposed to be used instead. I’m not sure this effort ever went anywhere, but I can’t recall one way or the other.

  10. laurentweppe says

    C’est vrai! “Boutique” is so American!

    That’s why I think we should adopt French as world language: notre grammaire est byzantine, notre vocabulaire plus abâtardi encore que le vocable étatsunien, et cerise sur le gâteau, une clique de viellards lubriques cooptés est chargée de fixer les règles de la langue: French IS the imperial language par excelence, besides, both the anglo-saxon & the russian elites used to speak french, so l’appel à la sacro-sainte tradition is valid.

  11. Canadian Yankee says

    I’m an American. What the heck is “mouton”?

    It’s actually from the French (like “café”) and means “sheepskin”. Do a google images search for “mouton usahnka” and you’ll be bombarded with images of the stereotypical Russian furry hat – the “ushanka” part is the name of the hat, and the “mouton” part tells you that it’s made from sheepskin.

  12. says

    “Occupying forces of the US after 1991?” That alone tells us how unhinged these people are.

    And Zhirinovsky is a blustering, dick-waving, macho buffoon from way back. The fact that he’s the head of a credible political party says a lot about the state of Russian society.

  13. cottonnero says

    Zhirinovsky’s position in Russia would be like if Glenn Beck were leader of an actual independent Tea Party.

  14. manfromflanders says

    I seem to recall the French having a similar snit about American words creeping into French usage some years ago. They went so far as to come up with a list of properly Frenchified terms that were supposed to be used instead. I’m not sure this effort ever went anywhere, but I can’t recall one way or the other.

    Being French and old enough to remember anything from the past 20 years, I can’t actually think of any law related to frenchify English words. Anyway, some intellectual effort – albeit weak – was attempted to curb the nefast presence of that pesky foreign language interfering with the language of the Lumières but nothing substantial resulted from it.

    The closest thing to a law protecting the French patrimoine was the Loi Toubon (Named after the politican who initiated this law) enacted in 1994. Beyond making French mandatory in every aspect of public life as official language. For instance, commercial with English taglines should have a mandatory French version affixed to it. Concerning the airing of songs on radio programs, 40% of them should be of French expression through that same law.

    Pretty funny when you consider that English borrowed most of its vocabulary from old French.

  15. says

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who sees the irony of a country who wants to purge French from their language. As a Canadian, that was the first thing that jumped out at me.

  16. davidhart says

    Man@24:

    “airing of songs on radio programs, 40% of them should be of French expression through that same law.”

    What percentage of songs were required to be in Breton, or in Basque, or in Occitan? If they’re going to apply that principle on a global scale, they should apply it on a local scale too.

  17. says

    I have a problem with Americanisms in German. but not so much because they’re there, but because they’re used in abysmally dumb ways. “I love sale”!? “body bag” for backpack?!

    fucking idiots. stick to German if you don’t know how to use English [/slightly OT rant]

  18. JustaTech says

    manfromflanders @24: English doesn’t borrow from other languages; English follows other languages down dark alleys, hits them over the head and digs through their pockets for spare grammer. (Source unknown.)

  19. says

    “body bag” for backpack?!

    Seriously? The Germans are calling backpacks “body bags”? Maybe Americans should reciprocate and start calling aerosol sprays “Zyklon B”.

  20. says

    Clearly, Zhirinovsky is not one of the intelligentsia:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_English_words_of_Russian_origin

    @19:

    “I have sampled every language, French is my favorite. Fantastic language. Especially to curse with. Nom de dieu de putain de bordel de merde de saloperie de connard d’enculer ta mère.” -The Merovingian, The Matrix.

    For those of you not up on French cursing: that’s actually Quebecois French sacre, which works by stringing together every obscenity you can think of one after the other.

    @28:

    I’ve heard the joke before. But I’m wondering: are there are interesting cases where English grammar, rather than words, were recently lifted from another language?

  21. robertfaber says

    The most hilarious misuse of English over in Europe is their use of “life” instead of “live” when they advertise sex shows: “Life Show”. But I do understand where the French and the Russians and others are coming from. No one really wants their language to go the way of Gaelic, as happened in Ireland. It’s part of their culture that’s lost when a language dies. On the other hand, suggestions, which is what the Academie Française amounts to, is a better way to go than threats of jail time.

  22. JCB says

    JustaTech @28: That’s from James Nicoll (reference here, with a link to the original Usenet posting). Here’s the full quote:

    The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.

  23. zekehoskin says

    JustaTech@24: I believe your quote is from Terry Pratchett. H Beam Piper wrote: “English is the result of Norman men-at-arms trying to make dates with Saxon barmaids, and is no more legitimate than any of the other results”. But linguistic purging is so much fun! Jewish tailors with Hebrew signs being prosecuted under the no-Irish law. Legislators saying “vagina”. Western Canadians getting bent out of shape about the French side of their cereal boxes. Quebecois up in arms about “patates” instead of “pommes de terre” (literally “earth apples”) for their fried potatoes. Anybody who knows Arabic is too suspicious to hire as an Arabic translator. I’d say et cetera, but that’s a surrender monkey Latin language.

  24. manfromflanders says

    What percentage of songs were required to be in Breton, or in Basque, or in Occitan? If they’re going to apply that principle on a global scale, they should apply it on a local scale too

    Hey ! You forgot Ch’ti language in the mix, which is spoken in some parts of my area.

    Honestly I don’t know. Our friend Wikipedia has, however, a say about how the law deals with provincial languages there:

    Under the Toubon law, schools that do not use French as the medium of instruction are ineligible for government funding. This includes the Breton language schools of Brittany

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toubon_Law

  25. says

    When I covered this on my own blog I pointed out that the Russian name for “Russia” is itself a loanword (ultimately a Norse term, *rods, meaning “men who row”).

  26. jefferylanam says

    But I’m wondering: are there are interesting cases where English grammar, rather than words, were recently lifted from another language?

    It’s not a recent change, but the combination of Old English with Old Danish in the Danelaw caused English to lose a lot of it grammar, including noun cases. So much so that Middle English has been said to be a Scandinavian, rather than West Germanic, language. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121127094111.htm

  27. iangould says

    According to one major strain of Russian pseodoscience, Jesus WAS Russian.

    As were Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar and Genghis Khan.

  28. jameshanley says

    Maybe the English words they should abandon are “liberal democratic.” They obviously don’t know know how to use them right, anyway.

  29. says

    German or French or any other European language that has the status of national language are in no danger of going the way of Breton or Gaelic or Frisian, making this more a case of xenophobia and less so of cultural preservation.

    And Jadehawk, why should it matter whether German words of English origin are used correctly according to the rules of English? Every time a word is borrowed from one language into another, it becomes part of the lexicon of the borrowing language. Differences in meaning and usage are a common occurrence in loanwords..

  30. says

    Maybe the English words they should abandon are “liberal democratic.” They obviously don’t know know how to use them right, anyway.

    Yeah, that’s what happens when you learn English word usage from American capitalists.

  31. slc1 says

    Re iangould @ #37

    During the sojourn of the former Soviet Union, the Russians also claimed to have invented baseball.

  32. savagemutt says

    According to one major strain of Russian pseodoscience, Jesus WAS Russian.

    As were Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar and Genghis Khan.

    Reminds me of Star Trek’s ensign Chekhov insisting things were invented by “…a little old lady from Moscow.”

  33. khms says

    Differences in meaning and usage are a common occurrence in loanwords..

    That’s fine for loanwords, but what about fraudwords[1] (as in, never was a part of the language)?

    Such as the German pseudo-English word “Handy” (complete with correct English pronunciation), known to English-speaking people as “mobile” or “cellphone”.

    [1] You just witnessed the invention of another English word by a German.

  34. says

    khms,

    so what? That’s a coinage with English lexical material. Happens all the time as well. Look at the Latinate vocabulary in western languages, the Chinese vocabulary in Japanese, or even Sanskrit vocabulary in Indonesian.

    Also, “handy” is most likely an English term which has fallen out of use in English, but caught on in German.

  35. dingojack says

    Speaking of ”mein handy

    “That’s fine for loanwords, but what about fraudwords … (as in, never was a part of the language)?”

    Well, duh! If it were part of the language, why would you borrow a word for it from another language?

    :) Dingo

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