Thursday, June 27, 2013

Shirnarmass. (New Russian)

Shirnarmass — ширнармасс or, in plural, ширнармассы.

It's a funny Oriental sounding recent coinage from the Russian 'wide people's masses' — "широкие народные массы". I couldn't find, if there's an author to it but it seems to be circulating on its own, without any references to a source. A Google search gives over forty thousand hits on shirnarmass.

'Let's hit the beautiful with the useful, we shouldn't fall behind the shirnarmasses,' writes one blogger.

'All factions in the Duma voted for the new law, everybody wants to earn support of the shirnarmass,' says a commenter on an internet forum.

It is used in roughly the same way as hoi polloi in English, a derogatory or humorous reference to the masses, the unsophisticated or the ordinary.

'Wide people's masses' or simply 'masses' is an idiom deeply rooted in Soviet discourse. 'The masses' was something that the ruling nomenklatura swore by. They were the ones in the name of whom and for whom everything that was done or pronounced to be done ostensibly was being done. In aesthetics, 'the masses' were the touchstone by which any literary, artistic, musical or architectural work could have been judged. 'The masses' will accept this, good. 'This is alien to the masses, the masses don't need this, the masses don't understand this,' prepare for a period without work and pack a bag with bare necessities in case the masses decide that you'd be better off in the gulag.

Picture: a symbol of Russia, The Girl with an Oar, my design in progress, based on the sculpture by Ivan Shadr. This first version was rejected as unacceptable to the masses.  


Jamie Olson said...

Fascinating! I'd never heard the word, but it reminds me of another Russian contraction used derisively: ширпотреб (mass-produced crap). Their shared first syllable clearly indicates that - to a Russian mind, at least - wide distribution (of ideas, of goods) always has a cheapening effect.

Alexander Anichkin said...

ah, I forgot about shirpotreb!

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