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Двойной стандарт: double standard

posted by zaina19 on July, 2007 as ANALYSIS / OPINION

From: MSN NicknameEagle_wng  (Original Message)    Sent: 7/6/2007 2:29 PM
Friday, July 6, 2007
Russian Double Vision

By Michele A. Berdy

Двойной стандарт: double standard

Are translators natural-born obsessives who were drawn to the field because it provided boundless scope for our nitpicking, or did we start out as normal people whom translation turned into nitpickers and obsessives? When we get a hold of some word or group of words, we're like terriers with a bone. We just won't leave it alone until it has been licked clean, pulverized into bone meal, and used to fertilize the garden.

Which is to say that I'm still stuck in the terrible twos. Or rather all the doubles and duals that are conveyed by двойной, двойственный and двоякий.

Of the three, двоякий is the most straightforward. As an adjective or adverb (двояко), it refers to anything that is dual or ambivalent: Фильм можно истолковать двояко. (The film could be interpreted in two ways.)

Двойственный refers to something that has two aspects, usually contradictory. You can talk about your двойственное чувство (mixed; literally "dual" feelings), or a country's двойственная политика (two-faced policy), or someone's двойственный характер (dual nature). Often the duality is unsavory or uncomfortable. This is not surprising, considering that "Какой ты простой!" (You're just a regular guy; literally, "so simple") in Russian is still one of the greatest compliments. Duality in human beings is complicated and complexity is usually not good in the Russian language.

And finally there's двойной, which has quadruple meanings. It can mean twice as much of something: Женщина несёт двойную нагрузку -- дома и на работе. (Women bear a double burden -- at home and at work.) Or it can mean "having two parts": Сквозь двойные рамы можно слышать шум стройки. (You can hear the sound of construction through the double-framed windows.)

Sometimes these concepts are expressed differently in English. Двойная фамилия is a hyphenated or double-barreled last name. Двойное дно is what we call a "false bottom": what bad guys hide drugs under in a suitcase -- not what people use to plump up their behinds. This is often used figuratively to mean someone untrustworthy: человек с двойным дном is someone who is two-faced or hiding his true nature.

Двойной can also refer to something that has two parts or comes in twos, like двойное гражданство (dual citizenship), двойной смысл (a double meaning) or двойная задача (a dual task).

There are a number of phrases where duality is sinister. Я ему не доверяю. Он всегда ведёт двойную игру. (I don't trust him. He's always playing a double game.)

The apotheosis of evil duality is двойной стандарт (double standard), especially in the world of politics. If I were Queen of the Universe, instead of just a nitpicking translator, I'd ban this tiresome phrase from all political discourse. Двойной стандарт is just human nature. A nagging wife observes the couple next door and says: Почему она на него так наезжает? Жена должна быть мягкой. (Why is she on his case? A wife should be gentle). A statesman whose country is supporting three breakaway territories while vociferously objecting to the independence of a fourth would say: Они ведут политику двойного стандарта -- они не поддерживают независимость для всех! (They have double standards -- they don't support independence for everyone!)

Ну, да. (Well, of course.) They're human beings. That's what they do. That's what you do. That's what we all do.

Michele A. Berdy is a Moscow-based translator and interpreter.

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