Vladimir Putin Calls Donald Trump Brilliant, Flamboyant, Lively, Colorful, Outstanding….Um, What?

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The opening line of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Notes from the Underground is “I am a sick man…a spiteful man.” Or is it? I once read a fascinating introduction to Dostoyevsky’s famous novella that began by collecting a dozen different translations of that line, all of them suggesting a slightly different meaning. So what did Dostoyevsky really mean? It may be impossible to say for sure in English.

That’s how I feel today, reading the news that Vladimir Putin praised Donald Trump at a news conference. Here are eight different translations of Putin’s remarks:

He is a brilliant and talented person without a doubt…

He is a very outstanding person, talented, without any doubt…

He is a very bright person, talented without any doubt…

He’s a very colorful person. Talented, without any doubt…

He is a standout, talented person, without any doubt

He is a bright personality, a talented person, no doubt about it…

He is a very flamboyant man, very talented, no doubt about that…

He’s a very lively man, talented without doubt…

Needless to say, these are very different things. “Outstanding” suggests that Putin thinks well of Trump. “Bright” suggests a more neutral assessment. And “flamboyant” and “lively” suggest that he thinks Trump is a blowhard.

So what did Putin really say? Beats me. But video of his remarks is above for anyone who wants to provide a deeper analysis of Putin’s word choice and what it really means in Russian.

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