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Words new to me: фифа

January 9, 2018

This word is new enough that it’s not in Ushakov or Dal’, though it is in Ozhegov’s dictionary, marked as substandard and pejorative: “a woman or girl who attracts attention through her appearance, dress, conduct.” Ten years ago native speakers on the internet were asking what the word meant to people and declaring Ozhegov’s definition was obsolete. The Russian National Corpus shows few results before 1950 (nineteenth-century uses by Druzhinin and Chekhov and one from a 1913 newspaper are actually people and dogs named “Fif” or “Fifa”) and a sharp increase after 2000; examples from 1954 and 1966 use quotation marks, while ones from the 1970s don’tFifa is a minimal pair with FIFA, the soccer organization, which in Russian is stressed on the second syllable.

Someone writing on как-понять.рф discusses the modern meaning in depth:

We all love women and think up various nicknames for them that differ considerably from our attitude toward them, from “maramoika” to “fifa.” [….] Have you often in life met haughty girls whose clothes follow the latest fashion and who see those around them as trash? If you have, that means you understand what a Fifa girl is. If you have nerves of iron and an “ocean” of free time, you can try to melt the ice around the heart of so distinctive a person. However, I wouldn’t fool yourself on that score; she needs everyone around her only to show what a princess she is and to look like “eye candy” with them as a background. That’s why you should keep as far away as you can from fifochki, guys. Why? First, so you don’t “strike out,” second, because you’ll spend a lot of money, and third, she’ll really get on your nerves. Ask yourself if you really need all that? Find yourself a simple sweet niasha and take her to bed. Fifochki aren’t for you, they’re not for anyone, they’re just for themselves.

I knew няша / niasha from this video, but I’m only now learning марамойкаmaramoika ( “1. a pejorative name for a woman, sometimes applied also to men, 2. (rarely used) a woman who drinks, who leads an indecent sort of life, 3. Narrowly: a common whore, a female drunk who sells herself”).

The word came up in a police procedural, The Police Station (Полицейский участок, first season 2015). Here a policewoman from St. Petersburg with the rank of майор has been sent to take over a police station in the smaller city of Rechensk. Two of her new subordinates call her a fifa at the 21:11 and 24:01 marks:

Dar’ia Moroz as Aleksandra Moskvina in Prestuplenie (2016)

Is the word being used in a different meaning here? The reply to the first fifa is “да, попали мы” — ‘yeah, we’re in for it.’ From this context I’d think fifa was being used to mean something like ‘hardass’: with such a strict, by-the-books boss, things are going to be unpleasant around here. But is “attractive woman who dresses fashionably and thinks she’s superior” the actual meaning here? Or is it both things at once? Both things would go with the big city/small town dynamic.

If this character played by Anna Snatkina in The Police Station is initially seen as a fifa by the men she works with, could anyone call the policewoman played by Dar’ia Moroz in Crime (2016) a fifa? She seems to take a similarly no-nonsense attitude with her new colleague (subordinate?), but wears different clothes.

As usual, even though there’s no shortage of demeaning words for women in either English or Russian, it’s hard to come up with an equivalent.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. January 9, 2018 7:45 am

    It’s in my Oxford dictionary (2nd ed., 1992) as “(coll.) flibbertigibbet”; at some point I added “fashion-crazy girl” in pencil, so I must have run across it somewhere. I wonder what the etymologies of these terms are.

    • lizoksbookshelf permalink
      January 10, 2018 7:54 am

      My 2007 Oxford (4th ed.) also lists “bimbo.” And my 2014 Ozhegov adds “makeup” to the фифа’s list of charms.

  2. January 10, 2018 4:59 pm

    my 2014 Ozhegov adds “makeup” to the фифа’s list of charms

    Thanks, Lizok! I was sure I’d read that in the definition, and when it wasn’t there in the version of Ozhegov I thought I was losing my mind. That explains it.

    By the way, I ran this by a group of native speakers today, and they all agreed that in the —
    Фифа! — Да, попали мы. exchange, the first policeman is referring to the main character’s appearance and self-presentation, and the second policeman to her strictness, with both lines logically coming out of the situation but the second not directly coming from the first. They all thought a фифа was someone who tried hard, but unsuccessfully, to dress fashionably. And Hat, the other English native speaker present immediately suggested “flibbertigibbet,” which for me had until now existed only in The Sound of Music.

  3. January 17, 2018 8:15 am

    You must have been reading Grigori Utgof a lot: you even have Daria Moroz bear his last name, as if in marriage. 🙂 She’s actually married to the theater director Konstantin Bogomolov – I only know her as an actress from his productions.

    • January 17, 2018 11:45 am

      Oops – thank you for catching that! I have no idea how I managed to combine those two names into one.

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