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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

THE WORD'S WORTH: Communists, Privatizers Add to Thieves' Tongue




There is something about the holiday season in New York that makes me think of shoplifting. The stores are packed with seasonal consumers laden with every kind of box and bag - a perfect cover for those who wish to consume without shelling out the cash or compromising their credit cards.


So it is not entirely without foundation that I have been dwelling on the verb to steal. This seasonal obsession has found an outlet in the Russian tongue, fo r I am delighted to discover there are many ways to express thieves and thieving.


Many of you have already heard the ever functional ?™?†??" or ?????†?" - both of which mean to steal. But these are just the tip of the iceberg. For more official occasions you may use the legal expression ?®?*_®* ??¶?L? ®???*???†, or the misappropriation of a stranger's property. You may also ??®°?®?", or ??*?*?". Semantically, I am told, there is very little difference among the meaning of these verbs, but there is a world of difference in style. ??®°?®?", meaning to pinch, is literary enough to be found in the dictionary, while ??*?*?", which stems from the verb ?*?*?" (to carry something big and heavy) is more colloquial, and so, for that matter, is ?...??"®?" and ???_??". The list could go on.


The verb ??®°?®?" is often used by the younger generation. Less frequently used is "†L?†°†??†?", and a lighter form of pinching is to ??-™_??". Or perhaps you have no intention of stealing anything, but just decide to grab something that happens to catch your eye. For impulse stealing such as this, ??®??†?®?" is the verb you need.


Thieving - one of the world's oldest professions - certainly predates communism. However, that period of Russian history also gave us a number of new verbs meaning to steal. One of my favorites is ?™????_®"§®?" - or to make communist or communal. See a few things lying around the office that might come in handy at home? Just stick them in your briefcase and ?™????_®"§® them. A person who carries these office goodies home on a regular basis is not called a thief, or ???, but a _*??_, from the verb _*??®, or to carry. In this sense, the verb ?-_*??®, or to carry out (of the work place), is much more appropriate.


The modern day version of ?™????_®"§®?" is ??®??†?®"†-®? - a play on the term ??®?†?®"†-®?, or privatization. This clever twist of letters introduces the Russian root ??†?†?", or to grab, into a word otherwise imported from the West. But if in Soviet times people tended to steal things like light bulbs from the government, now they steal oil companies. And the _*??_- need a much bigger briefcase to carry home the booty.