Monday, November 19, 2012

What IS that word?

Over at the Moscow Times, Michelle Berdy samples some Russian kids' history papers from a linguistic point of view. One paragraph reads:
Others had some issues with word choice, something I sympathize with: В советских школах дети были как инкубаторы — у них всё было одинаковое (In Soviet schools, children were like incubators, they all had the same things). Врагов советской власти называли дивидентами. Дивидентское движение росло и ширилось (Enemies of Soviet power were called dividents. The divident movement grew and spread.) Ельцин осуществлял политику шаговой терапии (Yeltsin carried out a policy of step-by-step therapy).
Now, two of those seem obvious to me - the second should be диссидент (dissident) and the third should be шоковой (shock - shokovoj vs shagovoj). But that first sentence? Man, I don't know. Clearly "incubators" is the wrong word, but what's the right one?

One of the native speakers I work with emailed me that "We've always said 'they look like they are from one and the same incubator' which in Russian is они как инкубаторские". So the adjective instead of the noun... Not quite the same error, but okay. At least I understand it now.

Word play is so hard to translate, and that's if you even get the joke in the first place! 

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