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SNP’s word of the day: Ostalgie

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Illustration by Lewis Mirrett

Word: Ostalgie

Meaning: A hybrid term derived from “Ost” (German for east) and “Nostalgie” (duh), meant to describe a nostalgic and/or ironic love of Old East German ways of life

Usage: “Ostalgie is not for the totalitarian government but for the clarity that emerges from the knowledge that great minds risked the gulag, the madhouse, the blindfold, and the rifle with every act of artistic creation.” —Paris Review

You should know it because: Ostalgie is the new nostalgic. Semi-synonymous with “Soviet chic,” the word refers to an often youthful (and kind of ignorant) reverence for life behind the wall: its austerity, its sober kitsch (best seen in the 2006 movie Goodbye, Lenin!). But it can be extrapolated for Westerners, I think, to mean that gilded longing for a time when things were harder but simpler. Anyone who read that first-world-problems-defining NYT Magazine article on decision fatigue knows what I mean. Even our pop stars, like Gaga and Nicki Minaj, are exhausting just to look at: constantly changing hair hues, concurrently wearing 16 different outfits.

That’s why, for every crazy-complicated pop star, there’s an old-school girl like Adele or Lana Del Ray. It’s also why, despite all the techy Balenciaga-type advancements in fashion, we’ve also seen a large-scale return to workwear (plain blue button-down shirts, utilitarian handbags, raw denim, and khakis, even overalls) from here to Copenhagen. It’s also why, every time we have a recession (and America might be headed for another one already), art critics get kind of happy. Austerity breeds the best art. Or, I should say, Ost-erity.

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