A fantasy on the genitive plural

Russian is a beautifully constructed language, with simple near phonetic spelling and a logical grammar – yes there are exceptions and a whole swag of rules, but it’s simple – six cases, three genders, three tenses, the past and future tense having an imperfect and perfect view, the present always being imperfect (who couldn’t love that?).

Sure the rules for numbers are a little odd, and because the language is so inflected sentences can consist of words in almost any order one has to become sensitive to dramatic effect, but overall wonderful and simple. No more complex really than teaching yourself perl or python, if you want a computing analogy.

Except of course for the genitive plural – which is needlessly complex and which squats like an unreformed toad in Russian grammar books saying, so you thought this was easy, I’ve got news for you…

I’ve always had this fantasy that one night in 1918, at the People’s Commission for Enlightenment, in Petrograd, which of course was a building with colonnades, a group of grammarians had been assembled to reform the genitive plural.

– But Comrade Lunacharsky, the genitive plural, it will take weeks

– I want it done, if we are to teach the peasants and the minorities to read we must simplify, simplify

– Comrade, there is no tea, no vodka, not even tobacco, we cannot continue, we cannot start

– Very well, I will arrange supplies

And in the chaos of the Revolution,  the grammar committee never reconvened, for want of a packet of tea and a bottle of Stolichnaya …


About dgm

Former IT professional, previously a digital archiving and repository person, ex research psychologist, blogger, twitterer, and amateur classical medieval and nineteenth century historian ...
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