Magazine article Russian Life

Verbs Take a Holiday

Magazine article Russian Life

Verbs Take a Holiday

Article excerpt

DURING MY LIFETIME the Russian language [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (has changed beyond recognition). And not always for the better ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]).

I could demonstrate this in many ways, but for now I will share five verbs that have changed their [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (usage).

First there is the verb [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (to light). It is typically [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (transitive), meaning it demands a direct object ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). We light a fire ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) or a candle ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). But our yellow-tinged press has given [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (and its near synonym [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) a [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (intransitive) meaning: "to rock, or to shake it up" (e.g. at a disco or party). It is used in the past tense ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) and in the present: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (we are rocking it).

Respectable papers or magazines still write "[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]" and its new derivatives in quotation marks to underscore that this is not yet a standard usage. But others--like, say, Kommersant, don't bother. So Mayakovsky's famous romantic line, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("If they light the stars, it must be because it is useful to someone") now reads, "If stars (e.g. in showbiz) rock it, it is because it is useful to someone." And don't get me started about the classic Pushkin line, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("Light people's hearts with your words"). In modem Russian I guess they would just cut the heart out and say something like [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("Rock it with your verb"). Alexander Sergeyevich [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (would roll over in his grave).

The second example [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], to order. As your venerable Russian textbooks taught you, you can [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (order dinner in a restaurant). But this, to paraphrase Ill and Petrov, was [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (prior to the advent of the epoch of wild Russian capitalism). Now if you meet the phrase "[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]" it means that someone ordered a [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (contract killing) on the poor fellow. [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (feel the difference) as our idiotic TV commercials advise. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.