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Editorial

(3/2012)

Dear Mr. Andreas Trossek,

You wrote to the Institute of the Estonian Language asking for advice:

"A question in regard to the 20th anniversary of Jaan Toomik’s infamous installation "16th–31st of May 1992” this summer. The vulgar folk-like phrase purkisittuja (in Estonian 'someone who shits in a jar') does not appear in the Estonian Ortological Dictionary (ÕS), although it has been used regularly as a negative figure of speech in regard of contemporary (Estonian) art/artists since re-independence. For example, the search engine Google finds over 1000 uses of the word on the internet, and it has even found its way into the Estonian print media. Furthermore the word does not seem to be associated much with its origin – the specific piece of art, because the people who use the word seldom know of Toomik’s installation and are mostly not even capable of describing it, let alone employing any elementary interpretation (a post-Soviet rationcard era scarce dinner table and the artist’s diary of food consumed over a period of a couple of weeks). It is therefore mainly used as a universally negative figure of speech in order to describe abstruse, uncomfortable or ugly art/artist. The word is also mostly used to illustrate (nonmimicking) art that can be placed chronologically into the time after the fall of the Soviet Union and is usually based on or inspired by examples from the history of the free West (mainly conceptualism, but also other post World War II movements). From the point of view of the artist it is like a ‘trauma phrase’ – on the one hand, this vulgar compound embodies all the problems surrounding the desovietisation and westernisation of the art world in Estonia in the 1990s, and on the other hand, it symbolises a ‘lost war’ on a, so to speak, public-social front, where contemporary art/artist must still focus on with self-justification. So, linguistically where does this compound word belong? Or ought it perhaps be considered a slang word at the very least?"

The Intsitute of the Estonian Language replies: ÕS does not contain every compound word or derivative in the Estonian language for they are of an infinite number. The words ‘shit’ and ‘shitter’ are marked in ÕS with the note VULG, which means vulgar. Therefore ‘purkisittuja’ is a vulgar (turn of) phrase. Please, don’t use this word anymore.

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