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I'm writing a poem in Russian, and maybe I'm tired, but I'm kind of stuck on one particular word. Here's the couplet I'm working on right now:

мне теперь не до твоего смол-тока
о японском пиве заискивающегося

The basic meaning is "Right now, I have no time for your ingratiating small talk about Japanese beer." (By the way, "ingratiating" coordinates with "small talk." I can't move the words around because it breaks my rhyme scheme.)

My dad tells me that заискивающегося doesn't really exist, as such (but Google does turn up a few results). He also says that I should use заискивающего, but I'm not 100% sure. Something is off with my coordination here (I think we can ask the question "Какого смол-тока?" to test it), but I'm still confused. Can someone please help?

3 Answers 3

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Well, poetic language is more liberate than "standard" one. In Russian poetic tradition it is not that rare to change, for example, word stressing in order to make sound things more pleasant.

The word you've mentioned, заискивающегося indeed is de-facto not used in Russian Language, but at the same time it is understandable to that extent that can not be even named neologism, just a specific verb form.

This is actually a reflexive verb, the postfix -ся turns the verb to reflexiveness. To put it simple it means, that the subject and the object of the action, indicated by that verb is the same. So it is something like it is small-talk that is about (making up to) get some Japanese beer.

So, to conclude, yes, you can use this form (if you 100% sure what you are exactly meaning), no one will blame you.

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  • Thanks for the explanation. I do realize that the suffix makes the word reflexive, but that still doesn't entirely help me. Maybe my question is whether it's jarring or not to read it, or whether you can forgive this due to the poetic license that you mention. (By the way, now I think that I may have formed the word using something like извиняющегося as an example...which still doesn't necessarily make it correct. Argh.) I'll think about this again tomorrow. Утро вечера мудренее.
    – user1388
    Jan 27, 2013 at 8:17
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    Well, I guess, your question is hardly to be answered precisely, since it is about poetic language. It is all about how you feel the language and how personally you decide to use it. All I can testify that, though your dad is right and this word is not used, this do not sound that something irritatingly wrong to native speaker. Как говорится, уха не режет )
    – shabunc
    Jan 27, 2013 at 8:21
  • Well, I think you've answered my question. Thanks! :) P.S. You can read the entire poem here: mig81.com/archives/057213.php
    – user1388
    Jan 27, 2013 at 8:27
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    @mig81 I like it! But заискивающего would fit there just fine and wouldn't raise any questions, I think. I'd just change this one word, I don't think it'd break the rhyme or anything. P.S. And you forgot to close the bracket in the end. Jan 27, 2013 at 8:43
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    Lev, that's good advice! Thank you. I think I'll change the word. Having said that, my one open bracket is a bit of a poetic "trademark." :)
    – user1388
    Jan 27, 2013 at 8:52
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I am sorry about it, but I simply have to write this answer.

Probably the reason for your confusion is that you have a very good intuition in languages. The problem here is not whether to choose заискивающий or заискивающийся, but with the choice of the word itself and, which is more important, the government.

OK. If you leave the word заискивающий in your poem, then it needs to be followed by preposition перед and the word must be in Instrumental. It should look like this:

мне теперь не до твоего смол-тока,

перед японским пивом заискивающего.

Actually here the usage is not quite correct, too: one can be ingratiating oneself with somebody, not something.

However, the other problem is that this word doesn't correspond with your desired translation. Заискивающий (перед кем-то) means ingratiating oneself (with somebody). For reference you can browse Academica, where you can find extracts from different dictionaries.

What could have caused the wrong usage of заискивать? Maybe this word resembles the word заикаться о ( заикнуться о), which means yпоминать вскользь, осторожно, намёками and could be used in your case, but it is very different in terms of stylistics, and I personally wouldn't use it here (it seems that the customs worker is quite enthusiastic about Japanese beer and talks about it continuously). Just remember the phrase

  • "Даже не заикайся!" or

  • "Он было заикнулся о поездке, но суровый вид отца напомнил ему о том, что он наказан." (Poor guy from my imagination! =))

The reference to this word : (http://dic.academic.ru/searchall.php?SWord=заикаться)

EDIT.

I'll be adding my ideas of how those two lines could be translated here.

So far I have come up with some simplified versions (i.e. they are shorter than the original):

мне теперь не до твоего смол-тока (about what?)

о (всех - optional) прелестях пива японского
о японцах с их пивом (add suitable beer characteristics here)

Both of them show that the traveler is ironic about both the beer and the customs worker's enthusiasm. However, here the obsequiousness of the small talk is not directly mentioned.

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    Initially I also thought the same: instead of "о" - "перед" needs to be used, but later I persuaded myself that the custom worker заискивал перед mig81 by means of talking about Japanese beer. So, the whole "перед..." part is omitted in the poem, and the phrase "заискивающего путем разговора о пиве" shortened to "о пиве заискивающего". I guess it can be accepted in poetry...
    – farfareast
    Jan 28, 2013 at 23:50
  • Umari, I am very grateful for your comment, and I accept that I may have misused a common collocation (especially with regard to the missing "перед"), but there are two things I don't quite understand completely in your explanation: 1. What does the government have to do with anything? :) 2. I am familiar with "заикаться о" and its usage, and it doesn't really fit what I'm trying to say. In fact, your reading--that "it seems that the customs worker is quite enthusiastic about Japanese beer" is completely correct. However...if "заискивать" doesn't quite fit, what word would you recommend here?
    – user1388
    Jan 29, 2013 at 6:01
  • farfareast, I like your comment as well. I think this may be the "intuition in languages" that Umari talks about above. You see, I was born speaking Russian, but (after learning Hebrew, French, English, and Japanese) I never studied Russian as thoroughly as I study English (I am actually a Ph.D. student of American literature). Hence, because I read and noticed patterns, I probably unconsciously shortened a common form and then became confused because I didn't really know the grammar behind it. The lesson here is that I ought to study more. :)
    – user1388
    Jan 29, 2013 at 6:03
  • P.S. Umari, I thought about it some more, and the word I would have used in English would be "obsequious," as in "obsequious small talk." However, I don't think that "мне теперь не до твоего смол-тока [...] угодливого / подобострастного / раболепного" would fit anywhere in the poem.
    – user1388
    Jan 29, 2013 at 6:09
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    @mig81,thanks for appreciating help =) Now I realize you really did mean that the small talk is obsequious. If so, I'll agree with farfareast: the word заискивающий can be used here. Just remember Lermontov with his "Из пламя и света // Рождённое слово..." The incorrect conjugation of the word пламя doesn't make the poem any worse! Of course your suggestion from the P.S. comment is better in terms of lexis and grammar, but if it doesn't fit in the rhythm, then you shouldn't force yourself. If I come up with any suggestions of how to modify this quote, I'll write.
    – petajamaja
    Jan 29, 2013 at 21:55
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I think that it might be a derivative from искать - to search and mean to search intensively, to get lost in search.

Here, it might be a metonymy. There are 2 people here: the author and the one who wants to talk. The latter is interested in Japanese beer and searches for information about it. The author attributes this characteristic to the words of the one who is talking, which results in saying that the small talk is intensively searching for information about beer.

Therefore, it doesn't have to do anything with the verb заискивать - to fawn upon smb, reflexive suffix and unusual preposition need not to be explained in this case.

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  • Olga, unfortunately this is not at all I meant in my poem. No one is getting lost or searching for anything (least of all Japanese beer). As Umari points out, the meaning of the couplet is "that the customs worker is quite enthusiastic about Japanese beer and talks about it continuously." Sorry. :)
    – user1388
    Jan 29, 2013 at 6:56

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