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Saturday, July 14, 2007


A few years ago I was sometimes startled by the neologisms that I found in Russian journals—tineidzhery “teenagers”, komfortnyi (echoing earlier and mostly ironic borrowings such as respektabelnyi), etc., in addition to the various and predictable jargon items from the worlds of commerce and computers. And I was a bit dismayed by the frivolity of some of them. Is “teenager” really such an important concept? (Although I notice that Irish has the word déagóir, which is probably a recent coinage, but at least it's based on Irish.)

But there are also some interesting words and formations to be found in recent books.

Okay, I can't think of any off the top of my head. But here's an interesting one from a good twenty years ago: andergraund. This now seems to be well established, having survived the initial innovation-appeal to become commonplace, probably even an official category in publishers' catalogues and the like. But the curious thing is, what is the correct re-translation into English? I doubt that “underground” is really the equivalent of andergraund, because it is not a clever loanword from another, hipper language. So we need to borrow the new Russian word “andergraund” to get the same effect. Although not the “same” effect, of course. It gets a little complicated.

It's interesting that Anthony Burgess imagined English people of the future deriving “nadtsat” from part of the corresponding Russian numbers as slang for “teen”. I thought it was silly.



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