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  • Yelena McCafferty

Observations on modern Russian language: cause for concern or natural progression?

Updated: Nov 18, 2020

Language is an evolving phenomenon and my recent trip to Moscow has proved just that. Over the past few years I have read a few articles on how Russian has been massively influenced by the increasing dominance of everything English and how simple English words are slowly ousting perfectly good Russian ones. Take “cleaning”, for example, it has come into Russian as “клининг”, replacing “уборка” and duly finding its place in the modern Russian spelling dictionary.

I made further discoveries during my trip to Russia. What struck me straight away at the airport’s passport control, is complete disregard for punctuation: the Russian word “пожалуйста”, written on a glass window of the border control booth, wasn't separated by commas. During my years at school you couldn't possibly get an excellent mark for writing if there was at least one comma missing, so strict is Russian punctuation.

Commas have gone missing in other places too. As you come out of Okhotny Ryad metro station, you face a posh restaurant with a fancy name on a big sign “Страна которой нет”.

No commas were found on a few restaurant bills either, as the pictures below show:

Commas can't be ignored in Russian.

Make sure Russian punctuation is correct.

The second receipt shows an error in the sentence agreement too, something unusual to find so common place, considering it’s the country’s official language which it has always taken pride in. Perhaps, there has been a lot of influence of social media networks where users are not too concerned about correctness and the habits are easily transferred into everything else we write.

In the same tendency to sway towards the West, I spotted two interesting brands. One is a swimming pool with a peculiar combination of English and Russian in its name: The БАSSЕЙН. One thing for sure: this swimming pool in Sokolniki Park does stand out from others and tempts you to check it out to see how different it really is.

Borrow linguistic concept.

The other advert, “Рузские дачи” was found in one of the trains in Moscow Metro. While you would think it should say “Русские дачи” (Russian dachas), the area where these dachas have been built is near the River Ruz, giving the project quite a colourful name.

Clever Russian branding

I must say this kind of clever use of the language in brands and advertising appeals to me much more than errors. To me every little detail represents a company. During my visit to Moscow I also came across a few typos and mistranslations but this will be a topic for my next article.

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