‘Cyborg,’ Not ‘Annexation,’ Word of the Year in Ukraine

January 16, 2015

Staunton, January 7 – During 2014, “Cyborg” was used more often in the Ukrainian portion of the Internet than any other word, including some like “annexation” and “war” which might have been expected to take the lead, according to a study conducted by Mislovo, the online dictionary of contemporary Ukrainian usage.

This slang term for the defenders of the Donetsk airport “left far behind words like ‘war,’ ‘annexation,’ and ‘the quilted jacket ones’ [‘vatniks’].” Its popularity, the dictionary service says, derives from its origins.

It was first used, according to a widely-circulated story, by a pro-Moscow fighter who was seeking to explain why Russian forces couldn’t take the Donetsk airport which was held by only a small Ukrainian force. According to the Russian, those Ukrainians, he said, “aren’t people; they are cyborgs!”

The term was extrapolated to all Ukrainian fighters against Russian fighters by the media and came to be used not only by journalists and politically active Ukrainians, according to Anatoly Vasilyev of RFE/RL, but also by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

A major reason for its adoption, the Mislovo researchers suggested, is that it was almost the only new word that had a positive connotation for Ukrainians and was thus has become a source of pride rather than concern or anger. In 2013, the same research group identified “Maidan” as the world of the year.