This week I
begin my trek through time in a traffic jam. The place: Moscow. The year:
2005. From there I make my way through the glamorous early ‘oughts toward the
fraught teen years of this century, when politics began to shape everything,
including the way we talk. Better fasten your seat belts — it’s a bumpy ride
that no urban improvement program can fix.

Пробка: cork, traffic jam; in Moscow the kind of traffic jam where you turn off
the engine, do your taxes, give yourself a manicure, and finish an audio book
to the accompaniment of 659 drivers hysterically honking their horns; пробки
are worse in summer and when it rains or snows — that is, they are almost
always worse than yesterday but not as bad as tomorrow

2006 Гламурный: any vulgar display of high fashion
and wealth, often with sexual innuendo; also used to describe anything
expensive and “in” among the rich and anonymous crowd; improbably used to
describe anything attractive or fun, from kitchen tile to pre-Lenten Fast

2007 Олбанский: Olbanian, aka Albanian, but
actually an incredibly annoying form of writing in online forums that uses
exaggerated phonetic spelling so that автор (author) is the barely recognizable аффтар and гыгыгыгыгыгыгыгы means LOL which is sometimes also ЛОЛ; not practiced or understood by
most people over the age of puberty (physical or emotional)

2008 Пиндос: an American in derogatory slang of
obscure origins; originally a hearty Greek pony, пиндос was once used to describe the Greek settlers
in the Black Sea region, but the sound of the word — half comical and half
obscene — made it an insult looking for a subject; one story has it that the
Russian soldiers in Kosovo started using пиндос to describe the American soldiers bristling
with equipment, packs, and weaponry because they looked like overburdened trail
ponies; in any case, now пиндосы live in Пиндостан (Pindostan, aka U.S.A.)

2009 Перегрузка: Not reset; what someone poor soul
with poor Russian skills stuck on a button so that Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov could push it, smile, and welcome in
new era of cordial cooperation; unfortunately, the button should have been labeled
перезагрузка (reboot)
and перегрузка means an
overload of the system; very unfortunately, Clinton and Lavrov pushed the перегрузка button anyway, causing relations to
completely short-circuit and giving the alt-right another thing to blame
Hillary for

2010 Полиция: police, the new name of the vast law
enforcement agency once called Полиция in pre-Revolutionary Russia, then called Милиция (militia) in Soviet Russia to
distinguish it from the Полиция, and now once again called Полиция to distinguish it from the Милиция — a process, perhaps endless, that
entails changing every station name, every stamp, every bit of stationary,
every badge, every uniform, every vehicle marking and so on in 89 regions
across 11 time zones; that is, a very profitable endeavor

2011 Рокировка: castling, job swap at the top, in
particular, the decision announced at the United Russia party convention in
September 2011 for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to run for president and
President Dmitry Medvedev to revert to the role of prime minister; if
instituted as part of the system, the Medvedev-Putin and Putin-Medvedev tandem
may rule Russia until the end of time

2012: Оккупай: Occupy! what a few hundred
protesters did in Moscow after a series of demonstrations against electoral
falsification and for President Putin’s resignation, first near the monument to
the Kazakh poet Abai Kunanbayev — giving the world the melodious slogan Occupy
Abai! — and then in various spots around the city; after a few arrests and the
unlikelihood of any demands being met — as well as the oncoming cold weather —
the movement activists quietly went home to occupy their warm apartments

2013 Чмо: schmuck, weirdo, bum, jerk; of
highly debated origins, this word is an all-purpose insult that can refer to
stupidly gullible neighbors, smelly drunk people by the metro station, dorky
science majors at institutes and, apparently, every American president in
history, but especially Barack Obama, who has been declared a чмо on thousands of Russian cars,
fences and toilet walls

2014: Крымнаш: Crimea is Ours, turned into one
word and a meme that means: We took back our land from the fascist junta and
NATO and in the process showed the whole world that we’re back in prime
fighting form, up off our knees, and happy to push anyone out of the way of our
national interests

2015 Ватник: a good ole boy, Russian style —
the kind of fellow who gets all his news from Russian television and believes
it, thinks Ukrainians are fascists and Americans are the devil incarnate, and
generally thinks that everything Russian is the best — except for his car,
sneakers, jeans, cell phone, contact lenses, computer, computer programs and
apps, which were all Made in the U.S.A. but don’t count because the Americans
stole them from someone anyway

2016 Русиано: Rusiano — what Prime Minister
Dmitry Medvedev thinks Americano coffee should be called in Russia and anywhere
in the world except the U.S. Down with American-style coffee! Er, no, that
should be: Up with American-style coffee, down with calling it American-style

2017 Благоустройство: beautification, as in urban
beautification — the process of ripping up all the outdoor urban beautification
done the previous year and spending the entire three summer months — i.e., the
only time Muscovites can enjoy the beautified outdoor urban environment — on
replacing it, typically with badly installed tile blocks (all the better to
catch your high heel on); 40-meter wide sidewalks (for strolling in bad
weather); and specially imported trees that cost their weight in gold and die
before ever sprouting a leaf; an urban project that has eliminated virtually
all parking in the city center, caused
daily 10-on-a-scale-of-10 traffic jams; and has the distinction of being
the only urban project that has made Muscovites long for snow, slush, and
freezing weather in which no благоустройство can be carried out

Start at the beginning with 25 Russian Words for 25 Years: Part One.

Michele A.
Berdy is a Moscow-based translator and interpreter, author of “The Russian
Word’s Worth,” a collection of her columns. Follow her on Twitter