Avatar, orc, chandelier: Ukrainians invent new meanings of familiar words because of war
Created: 12/28/2022, 12:08 p.m
By: Marcus Giebel
Consequences of the Ukraine war: The use of language also changes.
© IMAGO / NurPhoto
The Ukraine war also has an impact on the vocabulary of the people in the attacked country.
Even a translation program on the Internet has its influence on it.
Munich – The Ukraine war costs countless lives, devours incredible material costs, and causes an energy and food crisis.
Immense losses are to be lamented not only in the two countries directly involved.
This is how coffins and graves fill up, but also – far less cruelly – dictionaries.
Kiev correspondent Peter Beaumont from the English daily newspaper
provides information on some of the new word creations and meanings .
Some of the terms have been used in Ukrainian society since the start of hostilities in 2014, others date back to the Soviet era and have now become popular again, and a third group has been completely reintroduced into the language.
Ukraine war and new terms: "avatar" for drunk soldiers and "zero point" for front line
So drunken soldiers would be referred to as "avatar".
This is derived from a Ukrainian expression for "getting drunk" and refers to the color "blue" - the skin color of the characters in James Cameron's blockbuster of the same name, which had its first sequel this year.
In the case of an air raid with white phosphorus, a "chandelier" is spoken of - because of the falling and white radiant lights.
The front line is called the "zero point" in Ukraine.
The paraphrase “in the basement” describes the risk that a Ukrainian captured by Russian forces faces.
Video: Childhood at War - A life in the basement in Ukraine
Military language is carried over into normal life: terms like "two hundred" from Soviet times
"In general, there is a certain lexicon of words that were previously only used in military language, but now have a broader context," explains Les Beley of the Potebnya Linguistics Institute at the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine.
He cites “two hundred” as an example of military jargon common in Russian and Ukrainian, which dates back to the time of the Soviet war in Afghanistan.
This was already a paraphrase for the dead and wounded among the Soviet troops, because a coffin used to bring the dead from Afghanistan home weighed 200 kilograms.
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journalist Beaumont explains these borrowings from the military by saying that armed conflicts like the Ukraine war affect society as a whole and everyday life.
This is how you can talk about reality and the experiences associated with it.
On the other hand, language can also be used to distance oneself from the terrible reality.
Word borrowings to mock Russians: Explosions are called "cotton".
Beley explains the phenomenon like this: “We have all the people who serve in the army.
Then we have millions of volunteers.
This is the reality we live in.
And this reality calls for a dictionary.
Language is constantly changing and adapting.” Some of the new terms came about as an ironic reaction to the Russian euphemisms.
In Russia, for example, there is still talk of a military special operation, which glorifies the war.
In this context, Ukrainian memes are particularly well-known, which speak of “cotton” in the case of explosions with Russian troops as the target.
Beley explains: “Russians don't talk about an explosion.
They often say 'klapok', which represents a loud noise or a smack.
If you ask 'Google Translate' that word, it will also bring up the word for 'cotton', which is used to mock the Russians.”
In addition, the Russian invaders in Ukraine would be referred to as "Orcs", again borrowed from JRR Tolkien's fantasy novel The Lord of the Rings.
However, the origin of today's language usage is unclear.
According to Beley, the greeting and farewell formulas for text messages and emails have also changed.
“New rules have emerged.
In the past, etiquette was just saying 'hello'.
It's now common to start with 'How are you' and end with 'Take care',” explains the language expert.