March 01, 2022

Watch Where You Step

Watch Where You Step

In recent months the Russian press corps has been honing its euphemistic language skills. The first problem arose when a sculpture went up in front of the new GES-2 House of Culture, a hub of very cutting-edge contemporary art. Called “Big Clay #4,” it was meant to depict pieces of clay that an artist had begun to soften in his hands just before the moment of creation.

Unfortunately, most Muscovites thought it looked like what your dog leaves behind on the sidewalk. But journalists couldn’t put in the newspaper what people were saying on the street. So they called it большая куча (a big pile) or looked for a quote fit to print: В соцсетях чаще всего скульптуру сравнивают с “горой фекалий” (In social media the sculpture is most often compared to a “mountain of feces”).

And then in St. Petersburg a young artist-activist made a statement of sorts in the Field of Mars, where revolutionary war dead are buried. One newspaper announced:  В Петербурге появились гигантские фекалии из снега, их окружает жёлтая “лужа” (Giant feces made of snow and surrounded by a yellow “puddle” appeared in St. Petersburg). But other newspapers just quoted the artist, who said he created a пятиметровую “какашку” (a five-meter turd). Note the use of quotation marks used to distance the editorial board from the nasty word.

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