July 01, 2004



This May I spotted a curious book in a Moscow bookstore. The softcover yellow volume promised 97 sayings by the Russian president in just 200 pages, covering everything from олигархи (oligarchs) to Всевышний (God Almighty), from маньяки и шпионы (maniacs and spies) to пьяницы и матерщинники (drunkards and matershchinniks [those, who overuse Russian mat – extremely rude language]), from дойная корова (milkcow) to карманы Гусинского (Gusinsky’s pockets). Intrigued, I put out 78 rubles for Путинки. Краткий сборник изречений президента (Первый срок) – Putinki. Concise Collection of President’s Aphorisms (First Term).

President Putin’s dictums, just as those of President Bush, have entered everyday speech. Linguists and speech writers argue that most Russians like the way their president speaks and do not mind his occasional use of slang or even inappropriate language.

The president first revealed his taste for a strong word (крепкое слово), when, at the beginning of his career as state leader, he promised to “wet” terrorists in the “outhouse” (мочить в сортире), or when he suggested to a critical French journalist that he come to Moscow to get circumcised (сделать обрезание).

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