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Thread: Michele A. Berdy. Articles in The Moscow Times

  1. #21
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    http://www.cdi.org/russia/johnson/7272-2.cfm

    Moscow Times

    August 1, 2003

    Sounds Like: A Frog With a Russian Accent

    By Michele A. Berdy

    Zvukopodrazhaniye: onomatopoeia.

    You don't have to live long in Russia to discover that animals here speak Russian. Not only does your friend's cat understand Brys! (Scat!) and dog understand Lezhat! (Lie down!), they "speak" differently -- or at least the Russian transcriptions of their sounds differ from English. I've always wondered if this is just because we use the sounds we have available in our language to describe, say, the mooing of a cow, or if the sounds we have hard-wired into our heads in our languages actually determine what we hear.

    Luckily for those of us who have American and Russian feline families, cats are bilingual, albeit Russian cats are slightly more sensuous than their English-speaking cohorts. They say Myau-myau (meow-meow) and mur-mur (purr-purr), expressed by the verb murlykat (to purr). You can also use the verb urchat, which can refer to both a feline and a well-running machine: Dvizhok urchit. (The motor is purring.).

    Dogs, however, speak a slightly different dialect. Growling dogs say r-r-r (grrr), big ones bark as gav-gav or av-av (woof woof, bow-bow), and little dogs yap tyav-tyav. Since living in Russia and becoming a conspiracy nut (the Byzantine politics encourage it), I'm convinced that there is a secret law stipulating the presence of at least one very small, incredibly annoying yapping dog in every apartment building. In addition to yipping and yapping at 250 decibels day and night, if you go to pet them, they might take your finger off. On menya tsapnul! (He nipped me!). By the way, Russians also use the word for barking to describe a reprimand: Chto s shefom segodnya? Kak tolko ya voshol, on menya gavknul. (What's wrong with the boss today? As soon as I walked in, he chewed me out.)

    Crows caw kar-kar; geese don't honk in Russian, they say ga-ga-ga. Birds chirp (chirikat) chik-chirik, ducks say krya-krya (quack quack), and chickens cluck ko-ko-ko. A rooster's paean to dawn in Russian is kukareku! (Cock-a-doodle-doo!).

    Russian bees don't buzz, they make the sound zh-zh-zh. Horses neigh i-i-i, and when they walk down the street, their hooves make the sound tsok-tsok (clip clop). Russian frogs say kva-kva, and clearly would not understand a word of their American relatives, who croak or say "ribbit."

    Pigs might also have some cross-cultural misunderstandings: Russian pigs say khryu-khryu, while American or British pigs oink. Khryushka is also a good word to use to describe any untidy or ice-cream-smeared child.

    Humans sounds are also expressed differently in Russian and English. The sound of a sneeze -- an exuberant Ah-choo! in English -- is the dignified Ap-chkhi! in Russian. And apparently we snore very differently. To snore in Russian is khrapet, and the sound you make is khrap -- which sounds to me far more like the jarring racket of a noisy sleeper than the sonorous "snore."

    Gun sounds are also a bit different in Russian. A large gun makes the sound ba-bakh! (Bam!) and a pop-gun goes paf or pif-paf (Bang bang!). For machine guns, we switch the order of the letters around: in Russian it is tra-ta-ta; in English it's rat-tat-tat.

    However, in both Russian and English the ability to imitate any machine sound is clearly part of the genetic code contained in the Y chromosome. I cannot make a convincing motor or gun sound to save my life, but have been woken up at the dacha by what I thought were the sounds of a foreign invasion, only to find three five-year old boys playing war under my window. Tra-ta-ta! Ba-bakh!

    Michele A. Berdy is a Moscow-based translator.
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    "...Важно, чтобы форум оставался местом, объединяющим людей, для которых интересны русский язык и культура. ..." - MasterАdmin (из переписки)



  2. #22
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    http://www.cdi.org/russia/johnson/6340.htm

    Moscow Times

    July 5, 2002

    Conditionality Homegrown, Not Imposed

    By Michele A. Berdy

    Uslovno: refers to an action or thing that is dependent on other circumstances; can be translated as conditionally, provisionally; "sort of" or "kind of" or "let's say"

    The adverb uslovno and the adjective uslovnyi are headaches for the translator. It seems simple -- it's based on the word for condition -- uslovie -- so it's "conditional" or "conditionally," right? Only when you sit down to your text, you find that "conditionally" almost never fits.

    One example when it does fit: My uslovno dogovorilis. Seichas nado vsyo utochnit i napisat podrobnyi dogovor. (We came to a conditional agreement. Now we have to clarify everything and write a detailed contract.)

    But here's another example: Ya dam tebe primer. On zarabatyvaet 500 dollarov -- uslovno. Ot etikh 500 sot, on poluchaet 300 posle nalogov. (I'll give you an example. Let's say he makes 500 dollars. Out of those 500, he gets 300 after taxes).

    There is also something about this word that can make for good humor. I recall a conversation I once had with a guy at a party. After he made a reference to his family, I asked if he were married.

    - Nu, kak vam skazat?
    - Skazhite, kak est..
    - Nu, skazhem -- da. Uslovno.

    How should I say this?
    Say it like it is.
    Well, let's say yes. Sort of.

    Or take a recent court case. A man was convicted of ordering a contract killing (in Russian you say simply, "on ego zakazal" -- "he ordered the hit"). And he was sentenced to "shest let uslovno. " In English you'd say "he was sentenced to six years probation," or "he received a suspended sentence of six years." Except, of course, you wouldn't have much cause to say that in English, because there aren't many mitigating circumstances (smyagchayushchie obstoyatelstva) that allow a convicted murderer to walk out of the courtroom on a suspended sentence. The only thing I can figure is that the judge thought the hit deserved to die.

    My favorite form of "sort-of-ness" is the UE: uslovnye edinitsy. UE are, to my mind, one of the finest manifestations of the Russian genius for getting around an inconvenient law. Once upon a time, somebody screamed that it was a national shame for Russians to price goods in dollars in their stores. U nas svoi dengi -- rubli. Pust tseny budut vyrazheny v rublyakh! (We've got our own money -- rubles. The prices should be in rubles!) Makes sense, only this was a time of galloping inflation, so an imported washing machine that cost 14,000 rubles one day would cost 14,500 the next, and 15,000 the day after that. No one could afford to change the price tags every day or hour, so they came up with "uslovnye edinitsy" -- provisional monetary units -- that just happened to have the same value as the dollar.

    This is a case in which the so-called correct translation of "provisional monetary units" isn't useful at all, unless you are sure your audience knows that these provisional units are always the value of the dollar. If they don't, it's better to translate them as "dollar equivalents." One of my business colleagues jokingly declines UE, so that his prices sound like this: Tirazh stoit 5 tysyach uyov. For clarity, I'd translate this as "Your print run will cost 5 thousand dollar equivalents." Now, this is also a little crazy in English, but don't shoot the translator: we're only reflecting reality.

    Michele A. Berdy, a Moscow-based translator and interpreter, is co-author
    of a Russian-English dictionary.
    "...Важно, чтобы форум оставался местом, объединяющим людей, для которых интересны русский язык и культура. ..." - MasterАdmin (из переписки)



  3. #23
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    Friday, January 14, 2005. Issue 3084. Page 8.

    Aa Aa Aa


    Interpreting Russian Weather

    By Michele A. Berdy


    Умеренно-континентальный климат: moderate continental climate; said seriously of Moscow, but widely quoted ironically whenever there is extreme weather

    In the West "talking about the weather" may be a euphemism for inconsequential small talk, but in Moscow, it's serious business. In a place where the temperature might plunge to minus 30 degrees Celsius or soar to plus 30, and where a serious snowfall can cause a 17-hour traffic jam, you have to know what's happening outside before you get dressed or make your plans for the day.

    The geography books and tourist guides all tell you В Москве умеренно-континентальный климат. (Moscow has a moderate continental climate.) In fact, one tourist web site goes so far as to maintain: Ни лютых морозов, ни чрезмерного зноя в Москве не бывает. (Moscow never has freezing cold or extreme heat waves). Yeah, right. Compared to what, the equator or the Arctic Circle?

    The most common ways to ask about the weather are Какой прогноз погоды на сегодня? (What is the weather forecast for today?) or Какая будет погода? (What's the weather going to be like?).

    Muscovites, used to the vagaries of the weather and the difficulties of accurate forecasts, will often begin their answer with Обещают ... ("they say;" literally "they promise") and then whatever the television, radio or Internet meteorologist predicted. Обещают дождь. (They say rain.) Обещают без осадков. (They say no precipitation.) But most of the time the forecast is so uncertain as to be useless. There are the mysterious потепление (warming trend) and похолодание (cold front), which can mean anything from a 5-degree to a 25-degree change in temperature, or the 50-50 chance of облачно с прояснениями (cloud cover with partial clearing, what we call "partly cloudy") or the crap-shoot of преимущественно без осадков (largely without precipitation), which they may as well rephrase as "might rain, might not." Бог его знает. (God only knows.)

    If temperature and precipitation weren't enough to worry about, the weather forecasters include two other categories in their reports: атмосферное давление (atmospheric pressure) and геомагнитная обстановка or геомагнитный фон (the geomagnetic situation, i.e., sunspot activity). You probably never gave a moment's thought to these phenomena before you came to Russia, but after a week you will notice that your friends and colleagues complain of fatigue when the pressure is low, or attribute a variety of aches and pains to what's happening on the sun. Нет заметных геомагнитных возмущений (there are no noticeable geomagnetic disturbances) means it's safe to go outside; геомагнитные бури (geomagnetic storms) provoke discomfort in people who are метеозависимые (weather-sensitive), and геомагнитный шторм (a large/great geomagnetic storm) will keep people with heart trouble or high blood pressure home in bed.

    And then, if you weren't already overcome by the abundance of contradictory information, there is народный календарь (the "folk calendar," similar to the Farmer's Almanac in the United States). Hundreds of generations of weather-watchers have given a set of predictors tied to most days of the year. Here's the entry for Jan. 14, Васильев день (St. Vasily's Day): -сухой, студеный январь -- к жаркому, яркому лету. (A dry, bitterly cold January means a hot, sunny summer.) And Если Васильев день в году веселый, то и год будет таков. (If St. Vasily's Day is bright and cheerful, the whole year will be that way.)

    Despite my initial skepticism, after years of living in Moscow, I believe the Russians. It's their country, they've been watching the skies for millennia, and they ought to know. So the next time someone tells me my headache is associated with sunspots, or that a snowfall today means a late spring, I say, Да? А какая погода будет завтра?


    Michele A. Berdy is a Moscow-based translator and interpreter.
    "...Важно, чтобы форум оставался местом, объединяющим людей, для которых интересны русский язык и культура. ..." - MasterАdmin (из переписки)



  4. #24
    Moderator Lampada's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Suobig View Post
    ...caution - no way. Cautious nations don't have word "авось" in their's dictionary
    collectivism - agree
    pessimism - no, we are very optimistic (see "авось" ) ...

    " Better Sorry Than Safe?

    17 May 2002 | Issue 2439

    By Michele A. Berdy

    Avos
    : (participle) faith in success or good fortune, often unfounded. Can be translated as faith in good luck, trust in a favorable outcome, counting on/expecting a miracle or windfall, "with luck," or "God willing."

    My trusty Dal dictionary tells me avos is a conflation of a vot seichas (a-vo-se) which I'd translate as "any minute now." As in, "Any minute now, Prosya, the rain will come and save our crops" or "You just wait, Vanya, any minute now my company will pay me the wages it owes me and then we can buy some drink." Over time, it's come to represent a deeply held belief in a deus ex machina salvation.

    I think of avos as one of those seminal concepts in Russian life, something that goes into making Russians Russian. It's what Ivan the Fool counted on to get him out of a jam in Russian fairy tales, and what saved him time and again, despite his foolishness. Today it's what spurs the driver of the Mercedes 600SL to slip into the lane of oncoming traffic at 120 kilometers per hour: with certainty (totally unfounded) that he'll zip back into his lane before a truck appears.

    It's avos that was responsible for probably half the babies in the country -- their parents were sure they could make love without protection just this once avos pronesyot (with any luck nothing will happen -- literally misfortune will pass us by).

    And it's avos government officials count on when they plan a budget in which expenditures routinely exceed revenues by 50 percent: Somehow they are sure that the heavens will open and there will be enough money to pay the pensioners, the military and state employees. (And if the heavens don't deliver, maybe the IMF will.)

    I can see how avos took hold of the Russian psyche. Imagine you are a Russian peasant, circa 1235. You live in a dark and smoky hovel with about 25 of your closest relatives, two goats, five chickens and a pig. Your daily back breaking struggle to work the land barely produces enough to sustain life, and you never know when you will be wiped out by a drought, flash flood, hailstorm, or early or late frost. Or when the local prince will need all your grain for some campaign in the south. Or when the church will need it to buy gold leaf for the new cupola. Or when Mongol invaders will come screaming over the steppes for a round of raping, pillaging and burning.

    There is no way you can pull yourself and your family out of the muck and mud of poverty by your own efforts. When you are utterly powerless and without rights, the only thing you can do is hope that God willing the prince will collect enough grain before the officials get to your house or any minute now the Mongols will get bored with raping and pillaging and pass your village by.

    We Western plodders, with our Protestant work ethic, our belief that "slow and steady wins the race," our genetic memories of gentler climates and richer land, never enjoy the adrenaline rush of avos. We rarely walk off the diving board of caution into the void of "it will all work out fine."

    When a Russian driver stops dead in the middle of the Garden Ring at rush hour to consider whether he should pay his cell phone bill now or not, and it doesn't even occur to him to be afraid that the eight-ton Kamaz behind him will turn his car into a concertina -- well, this is evidence of a far deeper belief in a benevolent God than I possess. I envy him.

    But a tip for state budget makers: Remember all those babies. Avos doesn't always work."

    Michele A. Berdy, a Moscow-based translator and interpreter, is co-author of a Russian-English dictionary.

    Better Sorry Than Safe? | The Moscow Times Archive | The Moscow Times
    "...Важно, чтобы форум оставался местом, объединяющим людей, для которых интересны русский язык и культура. ..." - MasterАdmin (из переписки)



  5. #25
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    fortheether likes this.

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    https://themoscowtimes.com/articles/...ian-word-54968

    Stocking Up on Character, or a Multi-Purpose Russian Word

    Aug. 12 2016 — 12:14


    By Michele A. Berdy

    m.berdy@imedia.ru
    @micheleberdy

    Склад: warehouse, mindset

    In my never-ending search for the most confusing aspects of the Russian language, I’ve stumbled across this: one word that means both a warehouse and a way of thinking, and has a verb that can mean adding, making up, putting together or storing. Pretty cool, right?

    The word is склад, which comes from the verb класть (to place). The storehouse part is obvious – it’s a place where things are put: Книги на складе нет и в ближайшее время не ожидается (We don’t have that book in the warehouse and don’t expect to get it any time soon.)

    Small tricky thing: in the plural, the stress stays on the first syllable. So now you know how to say this properly: На складах издательств пылятся миллионы экземпляров непроданных книг (Millions of unsold books are gathering dust in the publishing house’s book depositories.)

    Склад isn’t just the storehouse. It can also be the things being stored: Склад оружия обнаружен полицией в московской квартире (A stockpile of arms was discovered by the police in a Moscow apartment.)

    You can also talk about складские помещения (warehouses) or use the handy verb складывать, which is what you do with things in a склад: Крестьяне складывали сено (The peasants were stocking up hay.)

    But the notion of “grouping things together” that is at the heart of складывать takes some interesting turns.
    It can mean to add up: Учёные знают показатели российской экономики и умеют складывать цифры (The scholars know Russian economic indicators and know how to add up the figures.)

    Or to place things in a particular way: Они складывают картинки из мозаики (They make pictures out of mosaics.)

    Or fold in a special way: Как складывать салфетки: 60 способов (How to fold napkins: 60 different ways.)

    And you can even put together stories: О нём складывали легенды (People made up legends about him.)

    And then there is склад in the sense of the character of something or someone, a way of thinking. Here it’s a stretch to see how the original sense of placing or putting morphed into mentality. Perhaps it’s the notion of how information or emotions are put together in your mind — how you’re wired, as it were. In any case, it can mean a type of person: Север формирует людей особого склада (The northern climate casts people from a certain mold.)

    Or a certain way of thinking about things: Начальником медицинской части он ни по складу, ни по духу своему не был (He wasn’t meant to be the head of medical corps — he didn’t have the right mindset or spirit.)

    Причина её снисходительности к невестке заключалась в совершенно чуждом складе ума (The reason she was condescending to her daughter-in-law was that she had an entirely different mentality.)

    Приехали работать люди очень разных складов. (Very different types of people came here to work.)

    And this is dated, but you still might hear it: склад in the sense of a syllable: Она читать-то по складам едва научилась (She could barely read by sounding out the word syllable by syllable.) Small tricky thing, part two: when you use склад in this sense in the plural, the stress is on the suffix.

    To sum up: Складывается впечатление, что в складе хранится склад идей для людей одного склада ума (You get the sense that in the storehouse there is a store of ideas for people of the same mindset.)

    Got it?


    Michele A. Berdy is Moscow-based translator and interpreter, author of “The Russian Word’s Worth,” a collection of her columns.
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