ISSN 2330-717X

2011 Year Of ‘Police’, ‘Alfa-Male’ – OpEd


By Elena Kovachich

The words полиция (police) and альфа-самец (alpha male) have become the words of 2011 in Russia. There are two winners instead of traditionally one winner because the choice was made both by the Expert Council of the Center for the Development of the Russian Language and facebook users. The linguists voted for the new name of Russia’s law enforcement agency and common people picked the word, which became symbolic in the expiring year.

The two evident leaders have rivals – the words, which were also typical for 2011, according to Russian citizens. These words are манежка (manezhka – a colloquial for the Manezhnaya Square in Moscow), твиттер (Twitter), the verb лайкать (laikat – a derivative from an English verb “to like”) айфон (iPhone), Ё-мобиль (Yo-mobile) and Фукусима (Fukushima). They all more or less reflect the signs of the time, the head of the public relations department at the Pushkin Leningrad State University in St. Petersburg Maryana Yagodkina says:

“Any emerging words reflect the current situation in society. Such different winners point at different interests of the modern society. For example, the verb лайкать (laikat) uses a Russian word building pattern and the root of an English word. There were many words reflecting the things, which are going on in our society. For example, this is the word “twitter” was among the winners. All the leading words characterize people’s interests and the new social trends.”

In this respect the words полиция (police) is the most telling example. In 2011 by renaming militia in police, Russia stopped being different from most of the countries. The renaming is not about playing with words but it is an attempt to influence the reform of the law enforcement agencies and change people’s negative attitude towards them, the linguist says:

“The image of a policeman formed by Western films is the image of a superman, a hero defending his country. The image of a militiaman in our country has become quite negative recently. Militiamen are seen as bribe takers and double dealers. Actually when we change the name of the organization we can also influence the image of people who work there.”

As for the word альфа-самец (alpha male) favored by Facebook’s users it became the leader thanks to journalists who took this term from biology into politics. Russians like it as a synonym for the head of the state.

The word гламур (glamour) has been chosen as the word of the decade (2001-2011). It is followed by the words “blog” and “blogger”. The word гастарбайтер (gastarbeiter, migrant worker) leads among foreign words which became widely used in Russian.

It is interesting that in 2007, when the word of the year was chosen in Russia for the first time it was the word гламур(glamour) that won but than the priorities changed. In 2008, кризис (crisis) was the main word, in 2009 it was перезагрузка (reset) and in 2010 it was жара (heat). Accord to the experts’ report, despite all difficulties and disasters Russia faced in the first 10 years of the new century the first decade was “glamorous” for Russians. It difficult to say, whether it is linked with how compact this word is or with people’s striving for bright and careless living. Whatever it is 10 years of glamour are better than 10 years of crisis.

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VOR, or the Voice of Russia, was the Russian government's international radio broadcasting service from 1993 until 2014, when it was reorganised as Radio Sputnik.

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