Parse details carefully, repeat

For a short while, after visiting the UN when I was about ten, I thought I wanted to be a simultaneous translator. Of course, I only knew one language, and that rather irregularly. The simultaneous translator idea didn’t last long, BTW. Still, I have retained a curiosity about language.

So, an article this week was right up my alley. It’s by Timothy Snyder, in the New York Times, dated April 22nd, and titled, The War in Ukraine Has Unleashed a New Word.

The new word is “рашизм.” And it’s Ukrainian, if you didn’t catch that; written Ukrainian uses Cyrillic letters, like Russian, but it’s not Russian (duh). Roughly, рашизм translates as “Russian fascism.” The article is about how much that translation skips all the cleverness folded into the actual word. Lesson: plenty is missed in translation.

First, рашизм’s seriously multi-lingual, including English. So clever, so complicated. Go to the article (apologies: paywall) and learn all the intricacies.

One thing I didn’t know, while English refers to Russian and Rus (red), etc., with the vowel u, in Ukranian and Russian the vowel is o. I had no idea (why would I, actually?). (And it’s more than o, actually, as Russians pronounce it like an a. Surprise.)

And now, we have handy pocket translators, good for a giant assortment of languages. I have not checked what mine makes of the Ukrainian рашизм.

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