George Carlin versus Vladimir Putin

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The New Yorker pulled this from Pushkin’s “The Wagon of Life;” it contains swearing:

At dawn we jump inside the wagon.
Happy to break our necks like glass,
We scorn life’s hedonistic languor,
And yell “Man, fuck it! Just haul ass!”

It’s not by accident they chose this particular passage. Swearing is close to the heart of Russian culture, and as inextricably embedded in Russian art as labor—close enough, in fact, to have its own name: Mat. Mat comes from the verb materit, to scold one’s mother. It refers to the four base linguistic ingredients of the hardest Russian swearing, of which there are “thousands of variations and elaborations.” As of July 1st, 2014, these words were outlawed from Russian theatre, music, and movies.


Casey Dayan is a Rumpus intern and musician. He is finishing up his undergraduate studies in literature and anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz where he is working on a memoir and trying to one-up Jeff Buckley. Find his twitter here, @caseydayan. Find his band, “Moo,” here. More from this author →