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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Stick Out Your Tongue And Let Boris Have It

It was not until I came to Russia many years ago that I suddenly found myself in possession of a last name that was easily pronounceable. The very same name that thwarted so many attendance-takers and direct-marketing salespeople in the United States suddenly rolled off the tongues of Muscovites.

A name that is slightly "different" can serve as a source of inspiration for children ever eager to push their creative skills to find new rhythms that might taunt the name-bearer. Some of their efforts were exemplary — others half-hearted. Did I mind? Maybe, a little. But at the same time, I was proud of the fact that I had a name like no one else did. Maybe no one bothered to come up with a teasing rhythm for a Smith or a Murphy, but they had to go through life sharing their identities with the masses.

I have dedicated more than one column to the more creative and unusual names — both first and last — one finds in Russia. But let’s face it, one hears an awful lot of repetition. When you get a written message saying that "Lena called," and you can only narrow it down to one of 40 possible candidates, then you start to realize that Russia needs a larger cache of names.

I would assume that in a country where 47 percent of the population is named Sasha or Olga (and please bare with this gross exaggeration so that I might make a point), these childish teasing rhythms would not be necessary. After all, if there are seven children playing in the park, chances are at least two of them have the same name. Correct?

Nonetheless, I was pleasantly surprised recently to stumble upon a number of rhythms that children may use when exchanging insults in the park. Admittedly, I did not score any rhythms to taunt a Sasha or an Olga — perhaps there is some security in numbers. But Antons beware! Step out into the schoolyard and you are in danger of being called Antoshka-kartoshka, or, Anton the potato. Harsh words, indeed!

Little Vladimirs, or Vovkas, may also be haunted by vegetables that grow underground. Take that, Vovka-morkovka, or Vovka the carrot!

I know what you’re thinking. These are pretty lame, right? I was thinking the same thing, especially when I heard the rhythms for Dasha and Lyuba: Dashka-promokashka (Dasha — blotting paper) and Lyuba, slezai s duba, Lyuba, come down from the oak tree. Surely a language as musically textured as Russian could produces something a little more damning.

But while these schoolyard rhythms may go easy on the Antons and Vladimirs of the world, they are a little harsher on the Lenas. Lenka — penka, or Lena is scum, is pretty harsh, but not as bad as what little Boris must endure: Boris na govne povis, or Boris is hanging from, well, poo-poo.

Poor Boris. I think I’ll stick with my own name, and all its variations.