BLAST FROM THE PAST*

by Anthony Georgieff; photography by BTA

Am I a mutra?

Boyko Borisov_0.jpg

Bulgaria's courts have been given the chance to write legal history as former Prime Minister Boyko Borisov is suing Yordan Tsonev, the MP for the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, over Tsonev's referral to him as a mutra.

Obviously, to produce an informed ruling, the courts will have to consider whether being called a mutra is offensive. To do that they will need the help of linguists to elucidate whether the word mutra is good or bad. Linguists will have to turn to sociologists who will explain public sentiments, possibly based on polls, to assess prevailing attitudes to what a mutra in Bulgaria is.

During the years, this journal has tried repeatedly to explain the term, but has miserably failed to even find a proper translation for it. Historically, a mutra means an ugly face, but during Bulgaria's transition to democracy it came to mean many other things as well. Depending on the circumstances, whom you are talking with and who is being talked about, a mutra may mean a former professional wrestler who's become a businessman, a thick-set "insurance" agent, a gangster, an unintelligent thug, or a goon. In more recent years, the concept has evolved.

A mutra now does not have to be particularly ugly in the face. He may just be a rich person whose wealth has been accumulated during the time when the only people who made any money were mutri. Or he may be a genuine entrepreneur surrounded by bodyguards who have telltale thick necks. Similar difficulties are presented by the female for mutra, which is mutresa. Contrary to common linguistic logic, this is not a female gangster, but the girlfriend of a mutra. Some revealing indicators are peroxided hair, very thin body, skimpy dresses, silicone lips, and a penchant for 4WD cars with a going price of at least 100K.

Bearing in mind the past successes of Bulgarian courts in complicated cases that require non-legal knowledge, we may be in for a long wait before judges rule in favour or against Plaintiff Borisov. In the meantime, Bulgarians will have to contend with the original meaning of mutra, which is "ugly face." 

*Originally publshed in Vagabond 86, December 2013

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