November 01, 2014

The English Invasion

The English Invasion

In case you haven’t heard, we’re very anti-West over here in Russia these days. If it comes from Europe or America – мы против (we’re against it). We’re against iPhones (except the iPhone 6 hidden in our pocket). We’re against European cars (except the really expensive ones we like to drive). We’re against European values (whatever they are), and European food (except the Parmesan and prosciutto we smuggled back in our suitcases from Rome). We’re outlawing foreign-made computer programs (except the ones in our iPads). We’re against Mastercard and Visa (although we use their cards). We’re even closing down McDonald’s restaurants, looking for something wrong so we can be against them, too. If it’s foreign, we’re against it.

Except words. Despite proposed laws to ban the use of foreign words, Russians are still borrowing words like crazy, mostly from English, and fully integrating them into everyday speech.

Sometimes these are words that don’t have easy equivalents in Russian, like паттерн (pattern), used in the sense of typical, repetitive behavior. I often see this word in articles about politics and governance. Someone asks, “Происходят ли существенные изменения в паттернах власти”? (Are the patterns of governance changing significantly?) But sometimes people – probably people who have been spending a lot of time in an English-speaking country – use it to describe little Vanya’s tantrums: Это уже определённый паттерн поведения (That’s already a behavior pattern.)

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