by Stamen Manolov

Аnd other bons mots from the Bulgarian prime minister

Boyko Borisov Tsveta Karayancheva.jpg

Boyko Borisov, Bulgaria's prime minister during the past 11 years, may have many faults, his critics say, but he is without a doubt a master of the Bulgarian language. Borisov's virtuoso use of the lingo plays on many levels. His uncouth nativism enchants some domestic audiences, especially cab drivers and horsecart repairers. At the same time his obsequious promises of police cooperation endears his Western counterparts. Last but not least his off-the-cuff rant confounds his translators and interpreters who are usually caught between the fire of having to translate exactly what this country's prime minister has to say and the frying pan of having to keep their translations to what is fit to print and/or speak out.

The collection of Boyko "Big Brother" Borisov's bons mots, and the impact they have had on millions of Bulgarians, will provide fodder for thought for politicians, sociologists, fire fighters, road builders, psychologists and probably psychiatrists for years to come. From a purely linguistic point of view, the prime minister's speech is difficult to pinpoint. Sometimes his language evokes a streetwise small-time crook from the outskirts who's just arrived in a posh neighbourhood. At other times there is the football fan, an yob, whose bark is worse than his bite. As he usually peppers his language with some officialese to make it sound more convincing, Borisov sometimes reminds of a mid-level office clerk. More often than not, he acts and speaks like the boss of a criminal syndicate, a padrino, minus the elegance and the refinement.

To Bulgaria's prime minister the journalists politely asking questions are "turkey hens." Once upon a time he used to communicate with them through text messages (Twitter was in its infancy and then it's never been particularly popular in Bulgaria). To the more daring ones he has promised he'd let them "touch his muscle." Touché.

Then, perhaps unwittingly, he has resorted to different rhetoric tactics. Trying to appease workers unhappy over their unpaid salaries he has propounded: "You are simple people. And I am a simple man. That's why we'll get together."

His critics, he recently said, are tulups. A tulup, probably of Turkish origin, may mean a/ a thick furry overcoat, b/ a stupid man, and c/ a toe loup jump, a figure in skating. Borisov is presumably not very interested in skating, so it would be safe to assume he meant the first or the second.

However, anything he has said of recent pales in comparison to his June 2020 assertion about Tsveta Karayancheva, the current speaker of the National Assembly and Boyko Borisov's own handpicked nominee. In an audio recording released on the Internet, someone alleged to be Boyko Borisov refers to Mrs Karayancheva as a "stupid c*nt from Kardzhali."

Who made the recording, who is Borisov speaking with and how it leaked out will probably remain a mystery forever – or at least until the prime minister remains in office.

A few days after the recordings were made public an enraged Borisov, surrounded by his senior associates, gave a press conference. Mrs Karayancheva stood next to him. This is sometimes how we talk to each other, Borisov said, then grabbed the astounded woman and kissed her on the head. Touché. 


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