by Vladimir Golstein
Proverbial wisdom tells us that Eskimos have forty words for snow. Well, other cultures or people also have 40 shades of the same concept. Here is my version.
French definitely have 40 words for buttery sauce.
Israelis have forty concepts for “passive aggressive.” All of which mention Holocaust, however.
Russians surely have 40 different vodkas — the same tasteless, odorless drink.
(Well, I think I am too soft on Russians here. Maybe a better version would be:
Poor simple Russians have 40 ways of saying: let’s celebrate and drink vodka. While their rich educated counterpart have 40 ways of saying: we are barbarians, we are not civilized Europe.
Philosophers have 40 ways of defining freedom.
Bill Clinton has 40 ways of defining “is,” while his wife has 40 ways of taking credit for something and claiming “I didn’t do it.”
Canadians have 40 ways of saying, “We ain’t in America’s Pocket” including a Prime Minister who elbows ladies and uses the F-word.
Germans have 40 ways to say “we are not going back to the past.” One of which is : we don’t need a strong leader: we prefer to be ruled by US from outside and by unruly emigre thugs from inside.
Brits have 40 ways of saying: “we love our traditions,” and “we hate our traditions.”
Americans have 40 words for “exceptional” — including “exceptionally obese,” and “exceptionally poor amidst all the exceptional wealth.”
Ukrainians have 40 words for “I ain’t no Nazi” including, “Glory to Ukraine”, Glory to the Heroes,” “We want European Values,” Death to Moskals”, and “We share the pain of Crimean Tartars.”
Turks have forty ways of saying: “it wasn’t genocide, it was self Defense ” — for each ethnic group they tried to eliminate.
Poles have forty shades of Russophobia, including the Russophobia of the right, and Russophobia of the left, that of Catholics, and that of atheists, that of the poor, and that of the rich, even the one that describes the feeling of former dissidents who say that it is bad to hate anyone, but the world would surely be a better place had there not been Russia.
Vladimir Golstein is Associate Professor of Slavic Studies at Brown University.
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