Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Language according to Slavophiles

The French have been outlawing words for many years. Now the Russians may be about to. (But, is Slavophile an imported word?)

Without Foreign Words, Here's What Russians Can't Talk About Anymore
You could call it cultural imperialism. You could call it nationalism. You could even call it absurd.

Except, under a new plan supported by the State Duma's Culture Committee, you really couldn't. Because the plan proposes to ban foreign words from public speech in Russia — including terms like the ones used above.

Aimed at protecting the Russian language, the new bill would see citizens face a fine for using words that have roots in another language.

It would also deprive the language of some of its most interesting, complex and evocative terms — as well as making some subject matters virtually impossible to talk about.

Small talk has just gotten that much harder now that these five topics could become taboo…

The story of how Peter the Great worked undercover at a Dutch shipyard during his Grand Embassy is famous… But Russians would have a hard time even talking about shipbuilding and seafaring without the Dutch language.

Upon his return to Russia, the Tsar brought with him not only Dutch shipbuilding expertise to strengthen the Russian navy, but also a myriad of Dutch terms. Without каюта (cabin), шкипер (skipper), киль (keel) and флагшток (flagstaff), there wouldn't be much of a boat to begin with…

Don't get us started on Latin. For the starting letter "a" alone, there are hundreds of words in Russian whose roots trace back to ancient Rome…

Many professions take their Russian names from German terms. Without them, there's no… секретарь (secretary) to take dictation, no коммандир (commander) leading his troops. You'd also have to grow your hair long without the парикмахер (literally, the "wig-maker") to cut them for you…

When St.Petersburg was Russia's capital, everyone looked to France as the example to follow. Needless to say, this has left Russia with beaucoup de French words. And it is telling that without French, you couldn't come home to find someone waiting on the шезлонг (chaise longue) wearing a неглиже (negligée)…

Without English, working in Russia would be nigh impossible to talk about. No бизнес-ланч (business lunch) for the hungry бизнесме́н (businessmen) and his colleagues, whether they work in маркетинг (marketing) or пиар (pr).

Back at the office, they'd be hard pressed to get their work done - what with no компьютер (computer), no Интернет (Internet), no бра́узер (browser) and no Принтер (printer). And if they do manage to send a mail, they can't even sign off with a Смайлик (smiley)…

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

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