November 12th, 2014 — posted by Evgeny

The Russian word Звонок means ‘bell’, ‘ring’, ‘call’ or ‘buzzer’. It declines like so:

  Sg Pl
Nom звонок звонки
Acc звонок звонки
Gen звонка звонков
Pre звонке звонках
Dat звонку звонкам
Ins звонком звонками

The word звонок can have a different meaning, depending on the context it is used in. For example, a door bell and a phone call are both translated as звонок. Also, there is an event called “последний звонок” (“last bell/buzz”), which is a celebration for high school students that are graduating. It is similar to american graduation ceremony and takes place between the last day of classes and the beginning of final exams. During the celebration, a small bell is rung quite often. It symbolizes a buzzer that sounds at the beginning and at the end of classes, letting the students know that a class period just started or ended.

Последний звонок прозвенел. The last bell has rung.
Его разбудил звонок в дверь.

He was awakened by the doorbell.

Ему был разрешен один телефонный звонок. He was allowed one phone call.


November 11th, 2014 — posted by Janell

When people get a set of keys they normally attach it to something to put it with whether it was a lanyard or it is a key chain. The little decoration attached to a key chain is a ‘fob’ in English, which is known as брелок in Russian. According to most standard dictionaries this is how this word declines:


У него нет брелка. He does not have a key fob.
Мне не нравятся брелки. I don’t like fob.
Что ты делаешь с брелками? What do you do with key fobs?
Я узнала о брелках от друзей. I learned about key fobs from friends.

Those are the little charms or trinkets that a person can use to accessorize their keys and help keep a better track of them. There are ones for both ones for men and women. Guys normally choose ones such as bottle openers or more masculine ones where as girls have more options such as teddy bears, butterflies, or hearts. Personally I have cartoon characters. There are also ones that you can use to show support for things such as the support ribbons or national ones. Holidays have their own key chains or ones from movies. They make good gifts for little kids or friends. My friend for one Christmas got our group of friends all matching ones.There are two declensions of брелок because there is the formal form and the colloquial form.

Don comments: The word брелок is actually undergoing a shift in Russian. Originally the word was borrowed from French breloque, and in the sense of a pendant or decoration that hangs from a bracelet or pocket watch, it always declined like this:


Nowadays almost no one has a pocket watch, much less one with a decoration, so the word is very commonly used to mean a fob on a key chain. In that sense the declension that Janell mentioned is much more common. There is a nice discussion of the issue at rg.ru (mirror). My own advice at this stage would be to use the new declension in conversation, and the old version in professional writing.


November 10th, 2014 — posted by Evgeny

The Russian word Сила means ‘strength’, ‘force’ or ‘power’. It declines like so:


The word Сила is used quite often in Russia since it can be used in many contexts. For example, there is a popular saying in Russia: «Сила есть - ума не надо», which means roughly, “If you have strength, you don’t need a brain.” It is usually used sarcastically when describing somebody big and stupid, or when somebody tries to achieve something by using brute force. A good example of that is Mike Tyson joining the Union of Russian Writers. Even though he is a legendary boxer known for the power of his knockouts, some people find this absurd and think that he does not deserve to be on the same . His membership was officially announced October 27th, 2014, when his memoir book “Undisputed Truth” was presented in Moscow. He is by far not the most intelligent guy, but his strength and commitment to what he does best got him here.

Here are a few sample sentences:

Сила в знаниях. Power is in knowledge.
У каждого своя сила. Each has their own strength.
Он бежал изо всех сил. He ran as fast as he could.
У моей машины триста лошадиных сил My car has three hundred horsepower.
Он обладал великой силой воли. He had great will power.


October 9th, 2014 — posted by Natasha

The Russian word for 'wallet' is бумажник. It declines like so:


Here are a few sample sentences:

Он потерял свой бумажник. He lost his wallet.
Милиционер нашёл мой бумажник в парке. The police officer found my wallet in the park.
Его бумажник был пуст. His wallet was empty.
Почему у тебя нет бужажника? Why don't you have a wallet?.
В бумажнике находились его водительские права, деньги и кусок засохшей жвачки. The wallet had his driver's license, some money and a piece of dried-up gum.

Кирпич, часть вторая

October 8th, 2014 — posted by Don

Previously we discussed the endings and common uses of кирпич ‘brick.’ There is a Russian idiom that uses this word, «морда просит кирпича», which literally means “his face is asking for a brick.” It means someone whose face is really ugly, and it’s often accompanied by the idea that the person’s behavior is vulgar as well. The word for ‘face’ in these contexts is often «рожа, морда», which don't really have equivalents in current American English, although previously “mug, puss” were mild versions of them. Sometimes the phrase is associated with the very vulgar ебало, a word for face that is derived from the Russian eff word, which generally foreigners should avoid using. English has a few idioms to express the idea of someone being exceedingly ugly. Among them are:

Here is an example of how the кирпич idiom is used in Russian.

Сегодня ко мне на собеседование очередной кандидат заявился. Тот ещё кадр: все руки в наколках, морда кирпича просит, и перегаром прёт за три метра. Пришлось вежливо отказать. (source) Our next applicant came to see me today. What a great co-worker he’d be: tatoos all over his arms, ugly as a baboon’s ass, and reeking of alcohol from ten feet away. We had to politely reject his application.
— Ты вчера познакомился с другом Светы?
— К сожалению, да. Он такой урод!
— Что ты имеешь ввиду?
— Такой роже и кирпич не поможет.
— Да ты что! Наверно переувеличиваешь.
— Сама посмотри! Я не удержался, перешлось сфотографировать.
“Did you meet Sveta's friend yesterday?”
“Unfortunately, I did. He is so freakin’ ugly.”
“What do you mean?”
“If you hit him in the face with a brick, it would be an improvement.”
“Oh, come on. You must be exaggerating.”
“You should look for yourself. I couln’t help myself. I had to take a picture.”

Although the phrase is mostly used of physical ugliness, it can be used metaphorically as well. There is a well-known piece of WWII bilingual Nazi propaganda that uses the phrase:

Бей жида-политрука, рожа просит кирпича (source) Kill the Jewish political officer; he’s as ugly as sin.

Y’know, most of the time I'm delighted to present a Russian idiom, but on this occasion it makes me sad. The idea that those who are ugly deserve a brick in the face is a horrible one. There is, I think, evolutionarily in many human beings an idea that those who are weak, ugly, less fit for the wolves-vs-sheep existence decreed by pure materialism, an idea that such people are less fit to live, to be happy, to survive to wisdom and maturity... that idea is simply awful. Instead we should dedicate ourselves to a life where not only the strong-vicious-dominant survive. It is one of the reasons that I think religion is still significant in the scientific age: religion teaches that we will be judged in the same way that we treat the least of our brethren. Let us live in such a way that we do not have to throw a brick in the face of those who are different from us, those who are odd, those whom we don't yet understand. That way we can all enter the next millenium knowing that we have done the best we can to pursue kindness, wisdom and diversity in the best sense. And if you think you don't like the idea of diversity, then you need to rethink that right now.