Around the world it’s Word Of The Year®™ time!

Countless (and pointless) places are taking a moment to declare the word of the year, if for no other reason than it lets them pretend they’re working. Here are the ones I’ve been able to find:

  1. Merriam-Webster: Austerity
  2. Germany picked two: One is “niveaulimbo” which translates as “limbo level”, and refers to the constantly lowered standards of television programming and conversations. The other is Wutbürger, or “enraged citizen.” 
  3. The Philippines: j3j3mon, or jejemon – a little monster who only writes in text speak.
  4. Denmark: Vuvuzela (Yawn. That is so last summer.)
  5. The Flemmings chose Tentsletje, or tent-slut, “a word for a woman who has multiple sexual partners at a music festival, a popular summer pastime for young people in Flanders.” No news yet about how the Walloons voted – but I always think Walloon should be word of the year because of how it sounds.
  6. The Dutch themselves (who live just north of the Phlegms) picked Gedoogregering – the nickname given to the current minority government. The word that came in third should have won:  bestuursobesitas — an exaggerated desire to develop company policy and carry it out.
  7. The Swiss seemed to have picked the German word Ausschaffung (deportation) which became popular in the run-up to a recent referendum to automatically expel any foreigner convicted of a serious crime. (The Swiss continue a tradition of intolerance with this choice. Last year’s word was Minarettverbot, = ‘minaret ban.)’
  8. Russia: Аномальные погодные условия — anomalous weather conditions. Re: Last summer’s sweltering weather. Followed by: Ничего подобного никогда не было (There’s never been anything like this).
  9. China: "to swell" (漲, pronounced zhang) is used when describing rapid rising prices and forms part of the Chinese word for inflation.
  10. UK: Big Society – As in the new coalition government’s dream of…


And what about Eyjafjallajökull? Blowout Preventer? Robo-signers?


Russians use insane squirrel as mascot for anti-alcohol campaign

Trying to get Russians to stop drinking is one of the few things more doomed to failure than trying to get The Cubs to win the The World Series. Still, in both cases, you have to try – right? The Russians have purposefully turned this job over to one of the least appealing mascots ever – an insane squirrel with a terrifying case of mange. This is not as bizarre as it sounds. According to The Telegraph:

In Russian slang, delirium tremens, the moment of inebriation when people start to get the shakes and to hallucinate, is known as “belochka” or “a little squirrel.” The squirrel in the video, who is red-eyed and bedraggled, is therefore shown ranting, singing, and delivering a nonsensical monologue.

That’s kind of how I imagine Glenn Beck is when he first gets out of bed.

He talks about “chasing spiders up the walls” and finishes up by offering to kill his neighbour’s wife because she is “the devil.” “Are you a boozer?” the deranged squirrel asks in the finale. “Then I am coming around to your place.”

Just replace “spiders” with “Nazis” and “his Neighbor’s wife” with “Democrats,” and it’s practically a transcript of Mr. Beck’s show.

Demon squirrel wants you!

To say Russia has a severe problem with alcoholism is to dangerously understate the case

Alcohol is to Russians what coals are to Newcastle. Russians drink more than 32 pints of pure alcohol per capita per year, more than double the World Health Organisation’s recommended maximum. During the Cold War, the Soviet Army was constantly having to guard against its soldiers drinking the brake fluid from vehicles. In his great book Lenin’s Tomb: The Last Days of The Soviet Empire, David Remnick expressed his total amazement at a Soviet general being sacked for drunkenness this way: “I’m not sure it is possible to describe just how hard it is to acquire a reputation as a drunk in Russia.” At the start of World War I, Czar Nicholas threw a bone to the serfs and got rid of the government tax on vodka. This cut the government’s budget in half.

This ad campaign follows a decision to reduce the amount of alcohol permissible in motorists’ blood to 0 and the introduction of a minimum price for a half-litre bottle of vodka of 89 roubles ($2.80). To put the price issue into context consider that a Russian airline pilot has a net average monthly salary of $864 and a bus driver nets $242.

It also suggests the Russian economy is doing better. In November 2008 stockpiles of Russia’s national drink were six times higher at the start of the month than the same time a year ago because factories were producing vodka faster than they could sell it.

US candy chain sells commemorative Barack Obama chocolates


(Pic via ace marketer/stand-up comedian Nathan Hartswick. Follow him on Twitter!)

CandyExpress claims these commemorative Barack Obama heads are available for a limited time only. Not limited enough, unfortunately.  Off the top of my head I would thought of three things Mr. Obama should not be used to advertise: Chocolate, fried chicken (as a German company did), watermelon (that’s a yet).  The Russians are clearly out-thinking me on this: I didn’t even consider someone would use President O for a tanning salon. They did.


The president is apparently quiet the commercial draw in Mother Russia. In addition to the tanning salon and he has also been featured in an ad forthe MeraDent chain of dental clinics with the slogan "Full Dental Democracy!"And of course for this wonderful ice cream treat.

In case you don’t read Russian the slogan says: "Everyone’s talking about it: dark inside white!" The bars have a chocolate-flavored center embedded in a layer of vanilla.

As Russia used home grown slaves instead of importing them as the US did people of African heritage are quite rare. Worth noting: Alexander Pushkin – the nation’s first great poet – was one of those few African-Russians.

End times alert: Russians buying less vodka



As economic indicators go this is pretty much all four of the horsemen of the apocalypse and the opening of the Seventh Seal all in one:

The global financial crisis has grown so bad that Russians are cutting back on vodka. Stockpiles of Russia’s national drink were six times higher at the start of the month than the same time a year ago because factories are producing vodka faster than they can sell it.

Alcohol is to Russians what coals are to Newcastle. During the Cold War, the Soviet Army was constantly having to guard against its soldiers drinking the brake fluid from vehicles. As David Remnick puts it in the great Lenin’s Tomb: The Last Days of The Soviet Empire, ” I’m not sure it is possible to describe just how hard it is to acquire a reputation as a drunk in Russia.” The phrase “too much vodka in Russia” is like the phrase “Cubs win the World Series”: a linguistically logical construct with (until now) no chance of ever happening.

Russia wants to ban “extremist” South Park

Prosecutors in Russia want to ban the award-winning satirical U.S. cartoon South Park, calling the series “extremist” after receiving viewer complaints, a spokeswoman said Monday.

I felt the exact same way after I saw the Mr. Hankey The Christmas Poo episode. However I felt better following the “Blame Canada” part of the South Park Movie.

I miss Chef.

Russia uses smiling kids in tourism ad for war zone

Hey, they originated the Potemkin Village, right?

Russia’s southern region of Ingushetia is trying to overcome its reputation for bombs, murders and shootouts by paying for a glossy supplement featuring strutting dancers and smiling mothers. The eight-page, full colour supplement entitled “My Favourite Republic” appeared inside copies of the popular Moscow newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda on Tuesday. … “Ingushetia, it is an amazing, beautiful region,” the supplement said on its front page. “You could talk about it endlessly.”

Or you can believe what the US State Department says about Inqushetia and the rest of the Caucasus:

Throughout the region, local criminal gangs have kidnapped foreigners, including Americans, for ransom. U.S. citizens have disappeared in Chechnya and remain missing. Close contacts with the local population do not guarantee safety. There have been several kidnappings of foreigners and Russians working for media and non-governmental organizations in the region. Due to the ongoing security concerns, U.S. Government travel to the area is very limited. American citizens residing in these areas should depart immediately as the safety of Americans and other foreigners cannot be effectively guaranteed.

I went to, the website for Robert Young Pelton who writes The World’s Most Dangerous Places and was very disappointed to find only very dated material on Russia and its dangerous places. Tsk, Tsk, Robert. CLARIFICATION: Actually the site does have more recent info, it’s just that when I used the search function the first page and a half or so of results were all for the site’s DangerFinder archives. Once I did a search for Chechnya -DangerFinder, I got the new stuff. Now I’m just disappointed with the site’s search function, not its actual content.

Radiation poisoning is good exposure for UK restaurant

Bookings are way up at a UK restaurant named “Polonium Restaurant” following the death-by-radiation murder of Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB agent and foe of Russian President-For-Life Putin. The owner of the restaurant, Boguslaw Sidorowicz, said he named the eatery after a band he was in.

When I saw the restaurant’s name all over the papers — I thought someone had booked us an advert. We’ve had an incredible 728,000 hits on the Polonium website, and have been inundated with calls from around the globe,” he said.

Meanwhile in China … The Dayawan nuclear power plant located by the South China Sea in southern Guangdong province is opening up its doors to tourists. For 30 Yuan entry fee you get to learn about its construction and safety measures and get “access to ‘Lovers’ Island,’ a wharf and a lookout point offering a view of Dayawan and Lingao, another nuclear plant being built nearby.” No word on a gift shop or t-shirts yet but all proceeds will go to charity. Could amount to $3 a year…

… which could be used to repair a new hole in the Great Wall. The Hongji Landbridge construction company has been fined $62K for blowing up a chunk of the Wall and building a highway through it. Officials say they warned the company against doing this. And after issuing the warning they laughed all the way to the bank.

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Smoking new airline to feature black lungs along with black boxes

The existence of Smoker’s International Airlines begs the question: Does every niche have to be filled?

Alexander Schoppmann, a 55-year-old former stockbroker, has come up with a business plan for Smoker’s International Airways, or Smintair, which he says will offer flights between his home town of Duesseldorf in western Germany and Tokyo. It’s all about service, he said — and that includes helping people avoid long hours confined without a cigarette break during a long-haul flight.

Schoppmann says he will begin service in March but, given that he’s a 30 A DAY smoker, odds are against him being there even if for some reason his airline does get off the ground. A fact that even Schoppmann seems willing to acknowledge:

Asked how certain he is that Smintair will take off as planned in March, Schoppmann said: “How certain is it that I will be alive by then?”

If you had any doubts about his business acumen, a press release by Herr Schoppman mentions the Nazis. It seems to me that the release implies that smokers are suffering a persecution similiar to … well you know who. But, given my last name, I may be overly sensitive on the subject so I’ll let you decide:

Ladies and Gentlemen, dear Guests, before I would like to share my next to 50 years of experience as an airline passenger with you, I’d like to take the opportunity to clear one of the biggest lies floating around everywhere in the World: “Second Hand Smoke (SHS, a.k.a. ETS, Environmental Tobacco Smoke) damages your health”. Please refer to our DOWNLOADS page and be surprised by the overwhelming, neutral evidence. By the way, did you know that the NAZIs also sported a huge Anti-Smoking campaign? Yes, they did and the one we experience now, frightningly, carries exactly the same insignia. Now on to a more pleasant subject than fat lies…

Hmmm, flying from Dusseldorf to Tokyo means flying over Russia who no doubt will embrace the return of the Luftwaffe to their sunny skies.