The alert reader might remember when Hillary Clinton gave a Russian diplomat a plastic “reset” button. Here is a picture:
Without stopping to comment on the lameness of such a stunt, I remember that the Russian took one look at it and said, “You have the wrong word.” It turns out that the button is labeled “overload”. Now, you may think this is not especially important. You’d be wrong.
Here is the interesting part:
I noticed this immediately because of my long-ago acquaintance with Russian. The “wrong word” is also spelled in the wrong alphabet. This “PEREGRUZKA” marking is what is called a transliteration. It is a Russian word spelled with Latin letters (the same ones we use to spell English). Transliteration is used in teaching the Russian language to people who use the Latin alphabet for their own language.
The true spelling of the word looks like this: “ПЕРЕГРУЗКА “. That is spelled in the Cyrillic alphabet which every beginning Russian student is doomed to learn. My keyboard does not type Cyrillic and I could look up the keyboard number codes and generate these letters one at a time – OR – I could type the English word “overload” into an online translator and cut and paste the results. I did the latter.
You see that only the “E”, the “K” and the “A” are similar and the letter that looks like a “P” is actually the equivalent of a Latin “R”. The “Y” is a “U”, the “3” is a “Z”. The Cyrillic letter for the “P” sound resembles the Greek letter π (pi – hold “alt” key and type “227”) and the Cyrillic “G” looks a bit like a Latin lower case “r”.
So, to sum this up: Our Secretary of State was completely ignorant of the Russian language. Furthermore, her staff who had this toy made up is equally ignorant. A first-semester student of Russian would have caught this. I speak as a former first-semester student of Russian.
On the other hand, the Russian diplomat can recognize his own language in a foreign alphabet – so well that he knows they picked the wrong word.
I guess we know who is going to come out ahead in these negotiations, don’t we?
But, what Secretary of State was ever fluent in Russian?
That would be Condolezza Rice.
However, Madam Secretary Rice would never stoop to such a silly stunt.