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Apr 2, 2021
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Illiteracy has become rampant

Recently, I began to pay attention to how the meaning of words is distorted on the radio. It looks strange and, I would say, revolutionary. This was not the case before.

There were even dictionaries for radio announcers, but they, of course, concerned not etymology, but stress. Thus, a common pronunciation standard for the whole country was established.

For example, it is correct to say a contract, not a contract, a quarter, not a quarter, a portfolio, and not a portfolio. It was possible to defeat general illiteracy with portfolios, but with quarters and contracts it turned out to be more difficult – the Russian language resists, for some reason it is more convenient for many to emphasize the first syllable.

Incidentally, there is nothing wrong with that. I don’t know why the people insist on the agreement, but with the quarters it is more or less clear – the stress is put, as in the word “quart”. Why not?

However, there is no guarantee that literacy will win. For example, I started using the word “foil” only thirty years ago, when I saw it in the dictionary: foil. In the 1960 dictionary, it was strictly indicated: fólga (not foil). I had to artificially remove it from the lexicon – what’s the point of showing off if the whole country puts emphasis on the second syllable? I waited until the stress on the second syllable in dictionaries passed from the colloquial category to the acceptable one, and then it became the norm.

Illiteracy won, say? No, the Russian language won – he insisted on a more convenient version for him.

By the way, I have preserved this dictionary – please, you can be sure.

The same story with the word “coffee”, which quite logically acquired a colloquial form of the neuter gender. Of course, I will never say “black coffee”, but I was calm about the metamorphosis. It is quite possible that in 50-100 years the expression “black coffee” will be recognized by linguists as obsolete.

However, what I have been hearing on the radio lately is, frankly, puzzling. I will not name the names of the presenters – there are simply too many of them, illiteracy has become rampant. Two words especially hit the ears: “complimentarity” and “confession”.

The first word is clear – it is not in Russian at all (at least not yet). There is “complementarity” that came from science and began to be used in a market economy. These are several goods (two or more) that complement each other and are consumed at the same time: car and gasoline; computer, monitor, keyboard and mouse; pillow and blanket and so on. Each product from the group is called a complement.

It is clear that the leading (quite literate and intelligent people, by the way) are disoriented by the word “compliment”, which, as we all understand, has a completely different meaning. Therefore, they say, strictly speaking, not “complementarity”, but “complementarity”, meaning, for example, flattering (“complimentary”) reviews about someone. But this is a clear neologism, invented out of a desire to be smart.

There is another problem with confession.

You’ve probably heard: Russia is a multi-confessional state. Meaning a state in which many religions coexist. This is categorically wrong.

Confession is a feature of a religion within one religion. For example, in Christianity there are such confessions: Orthodoxy, Catholicism, Protestantism. In Islam, there are Sunnis and Shiites. There are confessions in Judaism and Buddhism.

I admit that someday such a word as “complementarity” will appear in the Russian language, or the word “confession” will acquire a new meaning – “religion”. But pay attention: if earlier dictionaries had to be edited under pressure, so to speak, from below – “inconvenient” words forced the common people to change, now they speak illiterately “above”. Opinion leaders broadcast their misconceptions down here to us, inventing new words or giving a different meaning to old ones. “Complimentarity” is taking root badly so far, but I hear “multi-confessional country” quite often.

Something needs to be done about it, don’t you think? At least to point out gross mistakes to radio hosts, since now each of them has an account on some kind of Facebook.

Extremely polite and even sometimes “complimentary”, of course.

Pavel Shipilin



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