Ever since I added Gasan Guseinov’s LiveJournal (in Russian; see this LH post) to my Google Reader feed, I’ve enjoyed his cheeky, hyperliterate essays (and his gravelly voice—the posts come with an audio file) on a regular basis. His latest is called “Жириновский – это Достоевский сегодня!” [Zhirinovsky is the Dostoevsky of today!], and I’m posting about it here because of his citing of Dostoevsky, specifically the November 1877 issue of his Writer’s Diary. The first section of the issue is devoted to explications of two words which Dostoevsky says he introduced into Russian literature, “стрюцкие” [stryutskie], something like ‘worthless bums,’ and “стушеваться” [stushevat’sya], ‘to disappear gradually, fade away to nothing.’ The first is a piece of
Petersburg street slang [see Sashura’s comment below] he used several times in the Diary (e.g., “Мы в Европе лишь стрюцкие,” which Kenneth Lantz translates “We are but useless wretches in Europe”) and says people keep writing him about, so he has decided to explain it. He goes into some detail about the situations in which Petersburgers use it (often of drunks), and ends by saying that such worthless creatures exist in educated circles as well, and “how can one resist calling these higher-ups ‘striutskys’ as well?” I enjoyed the word (and Dostoevsky’s obvious relish in it), but the reason I decided to post about it is that I looked it up in Vasmer and discovered that it was an expansion of стрюк [stryuk], with the same meaning, and стрюк in turn is a shortened form of бастрюк [bastryuk] ‘bastard,’ which comes (via Polish) from German bastard! Whodathunkit?
As for стушеваться, he describes how it arose as student slang “when I was studying in the Main School of Military Engineering” and derived from the importance of learning how to shade [стушёвывать] plans drawn in India ink [тушь], but what I want to quote here is the final paragraph of the section, which illustrates one reason it’s hard to dislike Dostoevsky (again, the translation is Lantz’s):
I have written with such seriousness and at such length on the history of such an unimportant little word only for the sake of some future scholar compiling a Russian dictionary—some future Dahl; and if I have now bored my readers, the future Dahl will still thank me. So let’s say that this was written only for him. But if you like, for the sake of clarity, I’ll make a full confession: in the course of my literary career, what I’ve liked most is the fact that I managed to introduce an entirely new word into the Russian language; and whenever I encounter that word in print I’m always very pleased; and so now you’ll understand why I thought it possible to devote a special chapter to describing such a trifle.
[Написал я столь серьезно такое пространное изложение истории такого неважного словца – хотя бы для будущего ученого собирателя русского словаря, для какого-нибудь будущего Даля, и если я читателям теперь надоел, то зато будущий Даль меня поблагодарит. Ну так пусть для него одного и написано. Если же хотите, то, для ясности, покаюсь вполне: мне, в продолжение всей моей литературной деятельности, всего более нравилось в ней то, что и мне удалось ввести совсем новое словечко в русскую речь, и когда я встречал это словцо в печати, то всегда ощущал самое приятное впечатление; ну, теперь, стало быть, вы поймете, почему я нашел возможным описать такие пустяки даже в особой статейке.]
Incidentally, in the course of putting together the post I discovered Grzegorz Danowski’s master’s thesis, “Translation and the problematics of textual integrity: A comparative analysis of two English renderings of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Дневник писателя” (pdf), which looks quite interesting and has a detailed discussion of this very section of the Diary.