Sunday, May 18, 2014

Little Green Men.

Little green men in Simferopol.

(new Russian)

Russian special forces that have been used against Ukraine, without insignia and on a deniable basis of course, have acquired the name "зеленые человечки" — little green men.  

It is noted, among others, by a popular blogger Ilya Varlamov (Илья Варламов), who has close relatives in Crimea. (Varlamov's blog is here.)  Varlamov doesn't explain where the new nickname appeared or who was the first to use it.

This is what he writes:

'Not to upset anyone I will just call the unidentified military 'the allegedly Russian military'. Local jokingly call them 'the polite people', 'Crimean self-defence or just 'little green men.' (In Russian: Чтобы никого не расстраивать, неопознанных военных я буду называть «предположительно русские военные». Местные в шутку называют их «вежливые люди», «крымская самооборона» или просто «зеленые человечки».)

I am just noting this as an amusing example of back translation, perhaps subliminal, of the English meme for aliens. The term apparently first established itself in the USA in 1950s on the wave of reports of encounters with extraterrestrial aliens. Some described them as small humanoids with green skin and elongated heads. As time passed the expression got a shade of irony to itself. It began to mean an account that is hard to believe.

Which fits exactly with what has been happening in Crimea and then in Eastern Ukraine.

A note on grammar. Russian is profusely rich in suffixes, especially diminutive. The word for man (generic) is человек. Add diminutive -ek, mutate k to ch and get человечек — little man. In plural it's человечки — chelovechki.

Some English language reports simply use 'green men' which is okay but misses the shrewdness of local attitudes.

Read the Russian version of this article here.

Wikipedia article on little green men is here.

Фото: Elizabeth Arrott, VOA, отсюда.

#Крым "Зеленые человечки"

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