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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

If You Are 'Nerezident' You Just Don't Belong

This space is often devoted to some arcane gripe about the language that has no real consequence. But this week, the word we're talking about hits me and you where we live.

To wit: What, pray tell, is a rezident?

Museum-goers will have noticed that anyone who shows a non-Soviet passport at the ticket window pays a special, high rate for being a nerezident.

I posed the question to the nice ticket lady, who curtly answered that a rezident is "the same thing as a citizen."

All of you taxpayers out there, meanwhile, are well aware that if you live here more than 180 days in a given year, you are considered a rezident and you have to pay.

Moderate Russian language sources laughed heartily and with no mean spirit at this dilemma, citing the native predilection for impossible situations and inherent contradictions.

Friends with the more patriotic leanings that are once again in vogue were less gracious, more often than not chirping the smug refrain the patriots have developed for just such situations: Tak tebe i nado -- "That's what you get."

Most others simply couldn't believe I actually pay taxes.

Frustrated, I went to a source that had never let me down before: The dictionary. More disappointment.

The great lexicographer Vladimir Dal, whose Tolkovy Slovar' had solved so many Word's Worth riddles in the past, defined rezident as a "lackey of a lower or third sort." Dal didn't get into what a nerezident was, and frankly, I didn't want to find out.

My locally published Russian-English dictionary wasn't much better: It defined rezident as "resident" -- oh, good -- "a foreign resident" -- even better -- or a "fixed-post spy."

The last definition at least would partially explain the low entry tariff for all those Russian visitors at the Pushkin -- evidently, they were being subsidized by the KGB in return for keeping tabs on foreign art-lovers.

I turned to the specialists.

But the best the Dictionary of Political Terminology could do was rezidentsiya ("the place where a visiting head of state stays during his visit"). My dictionary of Diplomatic Terminology refused to comment. I felt like a third-class lackey.

In utter desperation, I took a chance with the Short Dictionary of Prison Slang, and came up with a definition for rezident I guess I'll have to live with.

A rezident is "a person who supplies drugs." A nerezident is obviously someone who has used too many of them.

Why else would he pay Russian taxes?