These Russians are AT WAR with English words in the Russian language


A skinny man in stark rectangular glasses, sporting a shaggy beard and looking like a cross between a scholar and a homeless man, walks slowly down the street. Noticing a small grocery store, he enters and walks directly towards two chatty saleswomen.

“Do you have rye zhito? How much does it cost?”

Zhito? What is it? ”They ask him in surprise.

“It means bread – that’s what it was called in old Russia. And how much does a zemnyashka? “

” And what zemnyashka average? ”The saleswomen ask him for more, still bewildered.

“It means potatoes. The old name was zemnyashka, because potatoes grow in the ground [Russian: ‘zemlya’], explains the man.

For Kim Sushichev, a 36-year-old janitor with a degree in psychology, such misunderstandings happen all the time. Almost every day for the past four years, Kim has been telling friends, family and passers-by that serene is a shopping center, kazalnik is a television set, Navarre is the word for soup, zhizha means juice, etc. According to Sushichev, most people smile, but are not yet ready to start speaking Old Russian.

“Only my late grandmother agreed to a certain extent with my point of view,” he laments.

For four years now, Kim has been a member of the “Rodnorechie” and “Chistorechie” communities, which campaign against Anglicisms and words borrowed from other languages ​​in the Russian language. No one has counted the number of Anglicisms in the Russian language, but the average Russian meets them every day: Russian clothing brands, cafes and restaurants use English in their names; ordinary office workers increasingly use words like pofiksit [to fix], carry [report] and riser [research]; and on the Internet almost every word, including messendzhr [messenger], regular [follower] or layk [like], is an Anglicism. In addition, every year new anglicisms appear in youth slang and quickly enter daily usage and pop culture, be it krash [crush, in the sense of infatuation], rofl [ROFL, abbreviation for “Rolling On Floor Laughing”] or fleks [flex, i.e. show off]. So how do these communities try to counter all of this?

Russian without Russian

“At school age, I had a copy of Vladimir Dal’s explanatory dictionary. Reading the entries, I noticed that the Russian synonyms help to understand better and faster the meaning of a loan. This is how I became interested in translating almost all the borrowings I encountered and it allowed me to more quickly integrate new information full of different scientific terminology. And anglicisms have become part of this hobby, ”remembers Leonid Marshev, a 27-year-old unemployed man, one of the three administrators of the community of Chistorechie.

In his opinion, for a Russian, words like rasprodazha, otkloneniye and bezotkhodnik are much easier to understand than equivalents derived from English – seyl [sale], deviatsiya [deviation] and zeroveyster [zero waster]. To a Russian, such borrowings are just empty words, he thinks.

Marshev met the “Rodnorechie” (“Native Speak”) community (8,500 subscribers) on the Russian social network VKontakte in 2015. He offered Russian replacement suggestions for words borrowed from English and other languages. foreigners. After watching him for a while, he started posting his own suggestions to the group and, with the permission of the website administrators at the time, became one of the community administrators himself. Three years later, in 2018, he started managing another group called “Chistorechie” (“Clear Speak”; 2,300 subscribers), whose members are only involved in the campaign against Anglicisms.

On the community website, Anglicisms are most often associated with “native Russian” synonyms. Sometimes admins ask group members to submit their own synonyms in comments. For example:

Taksi [taxi] – prolyotka [Russian “hackney-cab”]

A person’s social media page – veschchalnik [similar in meaning to “channel”, from the Russian verb veshchat – “to broadcast”, “to pronounce”]

Nouneym [no-name] – besprozvanets [obsolete Russian word for someone without a name]

The Internet – mezhdustye [Russian “between” + “network”]

Mites [mass meeting, rally] – skhodka [Russian “gathering” or “assembly”]

spades [parliamentary speaker] – glasnik [from the Russian verb glasit -  “to proclaim”]

And so the list goes on …

Community administrators are also campaigning for the active use of Russian equivalents in everyday language, writing all English words – for example, YouTube and Google – in Cyrillic, prohibiting the media from using Anglicisms in production and also prohibiting Russian companies from adopting names such as “Moscow City” and even “Robot Fedor” (the normal-sounding Russian name of the robot is now used as an acronym in English for “Final Experimental Demonstration Object Research” ).

“Seeing so many Anglicisms, you realize that the Russian language is being replaced by English. Borrowing is a natural phenomenon in any language, but when a language borrows more words than it produces, it loses its distinctiveness. By borrowing from Anglicisms, the Russian language loses its “russia”, and it is a national decline which shows that the country does not develop in an autonomous way. We need to develop the Russian language rather than the English language within Russian, ”according to Marshev.

Game against anglicisms

Kim Sushichev initially paid no attention to Anglicisms in Russian discourse, and like many in the group, he stumbled upon these communities by chance.

“At first, it was something like a linguistic and intellectual game, then I met members of the Rodnorechie community. What they were doing and their views on the Russian language and language loans resonated in my heart and I became one of them, ”says Kim.

Mikhail Arkharov, a 21-year-old student at Bauman State Technical University in Moscow, did not study English at school, so every new Anglicism is a “hostile” word to him. “Subsequently, I began to notice the emergence of Anglicisms in the media and related fields – feyk, performans, khayp, khendmeyd, klining [fake, performance, hype, handmade, cleaning]. It only strengthened my conviction, because I didn’t see any new Russian words – they were just missing, ”says Arkharov.

The majority of the members of the two communities, interviewed, say that they try not to use Anglicisms in everyday language and when they find that they have used one by mistake, they turn to their own words. They say that most often people around them do not understand the replacement of Anglicism, and in the most obscure cases wonder about the meaning of the Russian synonym.

In contrast, Chistorechie member Gennady Uryadov, a 37-year-old engineer, does not try to give up all Anglicisms altogether, but only found himself resisting borrowing when his own children started using them too frequently.

“I must admit that I am not against borrowing, I am not a fanatic. It’s just hard for me to remember words that I don’t understand, since I studied German myself. I have a hard time digesting words like sherit [to share] or keis [case]. But, at the same time, I like the word khaip [hype]. If a suitable Russian synonym for this is found, however, I will be all too happy, ”Uryadov says.

You’re gonna twist your tongue and break your tooth on Chicken McNuggets

Politicians also periodically speak out against the use of Anglicisms. For example, in November 2019, State Duma Chairman Vyacheslav Volodin criticized the billboards in English during a visit to Saratov.

“You can lose the country that way. Tut-tut – people get rich here, but want to become like the British and stay in the pub until morning. Check out this – Chicken McNuggets. You’re going to twist your tongue and break your tooth on it! The speaker said, pointing to a notice board.

“And it’s kotleta v khlebe [patty in a bun], not a hamburger ”, added the mayor of Saratov, Mikhail Isaev.

In October of the same year, the then Prime Minister criticized members of the government for using Anglicisms, telling them that “we must not litter the language with unnecessary words”. In March 2019, the chairman of the Federation Council’s Committee on Information Policy, Alexey Pushkov, posted on Twitter a list of Anglicisms that he said turned the Russian language into a “malformed mutant.” They understood kouching [coaching], timbiling [team building] and farminzhiniring [farm engineering].

“The time has come to make a horror film about this linguistic khorror [horror]”, According to the senator. However, he didn’t mind using an Anglicism in his own remark.

Blogger and linguist under the pseudonym Mikitko Syn-Alexeev believes that there is no point in looking for or inventing “more Russian” words for Anglicisms, because their old contexts and associations will only get in the way.

“Many centuries of experience show that this sort of thing just doesn’t work in our country. Out of 1,000 words invented, only one or two will become established in the language and it will only be in some unique cases when, say, a well-known person starts using the new word in a specific context, ”Syn-Alexeev explains.

In his opinion, all loanwords are useful in Russian when they mean a new or non-current phenomenon or object, whether it is sintipop, messendzhr, android, emodzi or ben [synth-pop, messenger, android, emoji, internet ban].

Borrowed words and Anglicisms really change the way people think, but in a positive sense, because they contribute to a globalization of thought, says Dmitry Petrov, professor at Moscow State Linguistic University. And their use – as long as the foundations of one’s own language remain in place – is perfectly capable of enriching the Russian language, according to the lecturer.

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Sylvester L. Goldfarb

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