How do you say ‘I’d rather not indulge in hypothetical speculations’ in Russian?
Let’s ask that celebrated translator Col. Putin, who is past master at finding idiomatic equivalents to the desiccated, denatured vocabulary of diplomatic discourse.
At a press conference in elegant Milan, the colonel was asked the other day what would happen to the Russian economy if oil prices continued to slide.
The phrase I used above was the reply Putin wished to deliver, but how colourful is that? How naked-to-the-waste muscular? How vox populi?
Above all, how close would such effete wording be to the hearts of the Russians who, like our own Peter Hitchens, have an almost erotic craving for a strong leader, a man’s man whose language must reflect martial arts, a nude torso in front of which a rifle is gripped, a career in history’s most murderous organisation?
Not at all close, is the answer to that. That’s why the ultimate man’s man won’t talk sissy. None of those indulgings in hypothetical speculations or speculatings in hypothetical indulgences or hypothesisings in indulgent rathers.
A real man must speak in a real man’s language, which in Putin’s case means that of the ‘common Leningrad street thug’ he self-admittedly and proudly was in his formative years.
That’s why he smiled scabrously and uttered the phrase my mother first scolded me for using when I was five years old: “If Grandma had balls she’d be not a Grandma but a Grandpa.”
Actually he made a concession to decorum by replacing the word ‘balls’ in this common Russian saying with ‘external sex organs’, but the job was done. ‘Balls’ was what the Russians heard, and this mellifluous word was music to their ears.
They had their confirmation: Putin is a real muzhik, a man’s man. He won’t let the country down.
This is yet another valuable entry in the thesaurus of Putin’s vulgarities, filling up rapidly with sinewy phrases, many uttered in press conferences.
Thus, when a journalist once asked a question implicitly critical of the atrocities the Russians were then committing in Chechnya, the colonel put him in his place with some élan:
“If you want to become an Islamic radical for real, to the point of getting circumcised, I invite you to Moscow… I’ll tell them to do the surgery so that nothing will grow back.”
And what about those Chechens who had the temerity to resist? “We’ll pursue terrorists everywhere… If we catch’em in the toilet, we’ll whack’em in the shithouse.”
On the dangers of procrastination: “If we chew on our own snot for years, we won’t change anything.”
On the papers publishing something the colonel didn’t like: “They dug bogies out of their noses and smeared them all over the papers.”
On Israel’s president Moshe Katsav who was later sentenced to seven years in prison: “He raped ten women! I never expected that from him! He surprised us all! We all envy him!”
“Like priest, like parish”, says another Russian proverb. It’s in no way surprising that Putin’s henchmen fall over themselves trying to emulate, or possibly even outdo, their leader in using the language of the gutter.
For example, Prime Minister Medvedev and Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the leader of the Russian LibDems, have regaled YouTube viewers with long clips that succeeded in the unlikely feat of making even me wince.
The former was giving unsolicited advice to President Mubarak of Egypt on how to deal with Islamic rebels, which advice heavily centred on using a length of steel pipe to “f*** them up the a***”.
The latter also relied on sexual imagery in his criticism of America’s then State Secretary Condoleezza Rice, whose global aggressiveness, according to Zhirinovsky, was a function of a sluggish sex life. To remedy that deficiency he invited Miss Rice to visit Spetsnaz barracks where she would be “f***ed until the soldiers’ sperm would be coming out of her ears”.
Lest I be accused of digging up ancient stuff, here, for the delectation of the Russophones among you, is a clip barely a fortnight old: http://www.compromat.ru/page_35033.htm
It shows Vitaly Mutko, Putin’s Minister for Sport and Tourism, wishing the denizens of Cheboksary a happy National Sports Day. The words the Minister chose to convey his warm feelings came from the depth of his mysterious Russian soul: “I congratulate you all from the bottom of my f***ing heart!” (I’m open to other versions of the translation, never an easy task when it comes to Russian idioms.)
All these clips show that Messrs Medvedev, Zhirinovsky and Mutko were visibly inebriated when expressing themselves with so much poignant lucidity. Putin, on the other hand, is always sober when speaking ex cathedra.
But their drunkenness can’t be used as a mitigating circumstance any more than Putin’s sobriety can serve as an aggravating one. In all three cases, and many others one could cite, Russian politicians know exactly what they are saying, and why.
Their flock have been thoroughly brutalised by relentless propaganda based on fascist values and images. Julius Streicher didn’t pull his punches when addressing the readers of Der Stürmer, and neither do members of Russia’s kleptofascist government when addressing their captive audience.
The Russians do so for the same reason the Germans did: the public must be imbued with the cult of muscular strength and crude testosterone-spewing aggressiveness. Using robust, vulgar language is part and parcel of this on-going effort.
Conventions of civilised speech have to be cast aside when what is planned is an assault on that very civilisation. Hence I wouldn’t dismiss the verbal savagery of Russian leaders lightly.
They are clearly house-training the populace to be real men towering above effete etiquettes and other paraphernalia of good behaviour. The words they use are neatly harmonised with the roar of drum and bugles in the background.
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