One more item from my blog backlog, this one starting with a January 2nd op-ed column in the NYT by Paul Krugman, “America Becomes a Stan”, which began:
In 2015 the city of Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan, was graced with a new public monument: a giant gold-plated sculpture portraying the country’s president on horseback. This may strike you as a bit excessive. But cults of personality are actually the norm in the “stans,” the Central Asian countries that emerged after the fall of the Soviet Union, all of which are ruled by strongmen who surround themselves with tiny cliques of wealthy crony capitalists.
Americans used to find the antics of these regimes, with their tinpot dictators, funny. But who’s laughing now?
We are, after all, about to [remember that this was published on January 2nd] hand over power to a man who has spent his whole adult life trying to build a cult of personality around himself; remember, his “charitable” foundation spent a lot of money buying a six-foot portrait of its founder. Meanwhile, one look at his Twitter account is enough to show that victory has done nothing to slake his thirst for ego gratification. So we can expect lots of self-aggrandizement once he’s in office. I don’t think it will go as far as gold-plated statues, but really, who knows?
I don’t mean to slight the social and political message here — that our country risks becoming a gold-plated failed-state autocracy — but this posting is mostly about the linguistic point, the appearance of the independent word stan, extracted from English names of regions and political entities with the libfix -(i/y)stan, originally an element in such names in other languages but now available for forming new names in English.