Friday, April 18, 2008

It's good to be the kleptocrat!

Russian gossips are whispering about Vladimir Putin and a 24-year-old gymnast:
This sudden frenzied interest in a woman who, until yesterday, was frankly a rather obscure Russian athlete, comes after a Moscow newspaper reported that Mr Putin recently split with Ludmilla and is preparing to marry the young and very pretty Miss Kabaeva.
Mr Putin today appeared to relish being linked to a beautiful gymnast less than half his age as he gave a press conference alongside Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi -- himself no stranger to allegations of womanising.
Denying the claims of a divorce and marriage plans, 55-year-old Mr Putin seemed to enjoy playing up the image of a ladies' man.
"In other publications of the same type, the names of other successful, beautiful young women from Russia are mentioned," he said. "I think it won't be unexpected if I say that I like them all -- just as I like all Russian women."
All in all, I'd rather have a president who was rumored to have an affair with the impressively agile Alina Kabaeva than to have a president who was rumored to have an affair with a telecom lobbyist.

BTW, the Daily Mail's headline writer misuses the word "nubile," a word specific to young women, meaning "of marriageable age," and derived from the same Latin root as "nuptial." To call Miss Kabaeva a "nubile 24-year-old" is redundant. All unmarried 24-year-old women are "nubile."

"Nubile" is one of those words whose meaning gets corrupted by writers who read it in a book and, from the context, think they know what it means, then use it in that (mistaken) sense. The misusage then gets picked up by another half-ignorant writer, and thus transmitted to other readers. Bad usage spreads like an etymological virus.

So, to clear up the misconception, I will state clearly that "nubile" is not a synonym for "sexy" or "hot" or "hard body" -- all terms that could be applied to Putin's putative paramour with some justice.

I've gotten used to corrupt politicians, but corrupt language still bothers me.

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