Towards the end of his (paywalled) piece on Magna Carta in the London Review of Books, Ferdinand Mount writes:

Belief in the untrammelled sovereignty of Parliament is now decidedly vieux jeu and nekulturny. Power is no longer clenched in Westminster and Whitehall. Magna Carta is back.

While I dislike the idea of parliamentary supremacy without constitutionally grounded judicial oversight, I’m quoting this because of the author’s word choice.

Nekulturny is a somewhat dated Soviet-Russian word that literally translates as “uncultured” and usually means “ill-mannered” or “rude.” Spitting on the floor, sticking out your tongue at strangers and yelling obscenities are all examples of nekulturny behavior. According to the Urban Dictionary:

Literally means uncultured, but has connotations of white trash, chav, or naco.

As for vieux jeu, literally “old game,” it merely means “old-fashioned,” “old-school,” “stuffy,” “conservative.” By the way, here’s Ferdinand Mount with Anne Applebaum and Peter Pomerantsev, discussing the latter’s new book, Nothing Is Real and Everything Is Possible.

[Updated May 11.] I’ve said the word nekulturny was dated, something that my grandmother might have used, a bit facetiously. Yesterday, I passed by a young couple in an urban park in Moscow. The young man was talking on his cell phone; the girl did not like his vocabulary. “Phew,” she said, “nekulturno!” They both looked like they might be new to Moscow, but she sounded like a native speaker to me.


  1. Magna Carta is back.

    If only. If there is any area of life which modern day politicians believe is none of their business, I’d like to know about it.

    • I think the author meant to say that parliamentary sovereignty has been undermined by the incorporation of European rights legislation into English law and by the Scottish and other devolutions. Neither will stop politicians from regulating what is best left alone.

Comments are closed.

Discover more from Winterings in Trans-Scythia

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading