What this blog is for and about

I also offer personally-tailored, individualized English conversation practice (including etiquette) and coaching in writing techniques. Finally, I edit texts such as magazines, business proposals, memorandums, emails so they are presented in English which does not embarrass you or your organization. For further details, please mail me at: language.etiquette@gmail.com

Remember: all pictures can be expanded to full page size by clicking on them.


22 May 2013

Sergei Lavrov, the English language and the Eurovision International Farting Competition

What's the point(s)?
The Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, has made a cod of himself (as we say in Scotland) today by making a diplomatic issue out of the fact that Azerbaijan gave no votes to the Russian entry in the Eurovision International Farting Competition held in Sweden last weekend. The idea that a serious country concerns itself officially with the results of something so idiotic, so trivial and so irrelevant to public life in general, is extraordinary. It makes Russia a laughing-stock and displays, in all its embarrassing nakedness, the inferiority complex which so-many Soviet-era Russians still retain from the days of being part of a super-power that could not feed itself or make anything that the world market wanted.
     However, having no wish to see Gospodin Lavrov laughed at in public, I have a consoling suggestion to make about the reason why Azerbaijan gave the Russian entry no points. The idea occurred to me when I watched the video to see what all the fuss was about (see here). To my surprise, I noticed that it was sung in English. Then it dawned upon me that the Azerbaijanis probably did not understand a word of it.
     If the Soviet Union had been more attentive towards teaching the international language to its subject nationalities, and had had less of an inferiority complex about speaking English, then those judges down in Baku or wherever might have got the message and been able to sympathise with the words of the Russian crooner.
     But then again, listening to the words, I wonder. I felt as if I was watching to someone on “Russia’s Got Talent” auditioning for an understudy in a 1980s musical about Jennifer Rush. I am not sure I’d’ve given the song many votes, even I had known that doing so might have risked making Mr Lavrov burst into tears at the humiliation of it all. One has, after all, one’s moral integrity to consider, even when it comes to International Farting Competitions.
     But a final, positive, point: Russian is a much more attractive-sounding a language for crooning than English. It can convey a sense of mystification with especial force outside the former Soviet Union, because we in the English-speaking world were (and are) so much worse at languages than even the Russians (who are not that great). I think the song would have done much better both inside and outside Azerbaijan  if it had been sung in Russian. The time for linguistic inferiority complexes is long past. Modern up, Sergei old chap! Who wants to hear Nezhnost, or even Podmoskovnye Vechera, sung in English, after all (except, perhaps, in a “creative” way by Bob Dylan, say, or Sid Vicious, two inferior singers who refused to accept their vocal limitations)?


  1. So true. Shame to see news like this.
    I am having hard time understanding why Lavrov did that. One hypothesis is that the president himself might be a disappointed viewer (http://avmalgin.livejournal.com/3801306.html). If true, this only proves your point on inferiority complex.

  2. Steady on, old chap! At a time when British politcos and chattering classes are obsessed with dancing attendance on something called 'Gay Marriage', I find Mr. Lavrov's concentration on the important matters of the day to be refreshing and appropriate. And God bless Eurovision for ensuring that modern European wars are fought in the crooner-sphere and not on physical battlefields. More scandalous - and even more entertaining - is the simmering Euro-resentment towards the UK, which ensures that even a delightful songstress like Ms Botox..sorry Bonny Tyler is ignored into oblivion. What's Mr. Vague doing about that? FA at the FO, pusillanimous as ever. So hats off to Mr.L for sticking up for his country's vital interests. Russia needs more of this robust diplomacy

  3. Looks like almost everything make Russia 'a laughing stock' in your opinion, Ian :).
    It's funny that Lavrov mentioned that but on the other hand I was watching the contest here, in Britain, it looked like I wasn't the only one watching it with interest, it's very popular in Britain too. And there were quite a few debates on Bonny Tyler - I mean British people take this contest close to heart to.

    And, seriously, Ian, you have Boris Johnson in the UK - Russians are not the only nation to have politicians at whose words they can laugh hysterically!