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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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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