Here’s What Vladimir Putin Really Said About Donald Trump Today

LA Times reporter Michael Hiltzik has spent time reporting from Russia and speaks the language well. Via email, he offers this explanation of what Vladimir Putin really said about Donald Trump today:

From what I can hear from the video you posted, he calls Trump a “yarkom chelovekom.” In my dictionary, “yarkii” can be “clear, bright, dazzling.” You sometimes hear Russians using the term to denote the bright sky of a bracing, clear morning.

Brilliant I think would be wrong to the extent it connotes intelligence—that’s not what Putin’s driving at. Outstanding is a pretty lazy translation. Bright personality captures the meaning, but not the idiomatic tone, of the word. Very colorful is downplaying the real meaning.

I’d go with something like vivid. The word also could mean garish, but I think Putin was trying to be complimentary, and garish would be criticism.

I’d guess that the reason all the translations agree on “talented” is that —though I can’t hear it in the clip—Putin probably used “talantlivii,” which is a common Russian adjective, stolen from the French.

So Putin was probably just trying to say that Trump is a big personality. Hiltzik says—and I agree—that Putin wasn’t especially trying to say anything either good or bad about Trump—though knowing Putin, it’s a good guess that he approves of big personalities. Basically, he was just trying to state the obvious about Trump. In any case, there you have it.