I find my relationship with Luludya goes much more smoothly if I give her grandmother a certain sum of money every Friday. Last week I was a bit late with her gift. Honestly, I wasn't skipping it on purpose — I know better than to try anything like that — but I was in fact a few hours late with the payment, an honest mistake, and as I entered the harridan's room, she gave me a certain look. When I returned home, I sensed a certain rumbling in my bowels, and then I spent the next ten hours in the smallest room of the house, and I knew:
|Старуха меня сглазила.||The old woman had hexed me.|
The phrase for ‘the evil eye’ in Russian is ‘дурной глаз’ or sometimes ‘лихой глаз’ or ‘худой глаз.’ When someone is affected by the evil eye, the Russians often use the word сглазить ‘to hex, jinx, curse’ to describe it. This verb only occurs in the perfective:
|Present||No such thing as
You can find the verb in phrases such as:
|Не обижай её, а то она сглазит.||Don't offend her or she'll put the evil eye on you.|
|Ребёнку плохо спится. Должно быть, кто-то его сглазил.||My child is sleeping poorly. Someone must have hexed him.|
|— У меня сегодня ничего не получается.
— Кто-то тебя сглазил.
|“Nothing is working out right for me today.”
“Someone jinxed you.”
Some years ago I came across a book called “Murphy’s Law and Other Reasons Why Things Go Wrong” by Arthur Bloch which contained a definition that went something like this:
The Unspeakable Law: The moment you mention something, if it's bad, it happens; if it's good, it goes away.
Many Russians have an inner feeling that the second bit is true. You musn't praise or compliment someone or express good expectations, otherwise you'll jinx yourself. So if you say something good, you need some magical little phrase to counteract the potential jinx. In AmE we say "knock on wood" in that context, and Russians may ceremonially spit over their left shoulder, which is represented in written form as «тьфу, тьфу», and then they add something like «чтобы не сглазить» “so that we don't jinx overselves”:
|Наш новый клиент завтра подпишет контракт, который принесёт в нашу фирму огромные деньги, тьфу, тьфу, чтобы не сглазить.||Our new client is signing a contract tomorrow that will bring our company a huge amount of money, knock on wood.|
Certain recent events have brought me to the conclusion that I may sometime need stronger counteragents to the evil eye. Fortunately a quick web search has revealed a most amazing website in Russia where for a mere $500 one can obtain such help. Here's a description of their remarkable wares:
|В центре «Линия жизни» можно будет приобрести ТАЛИСМАНЫ и АМУЛЕТЫ, «заряженные» нашими ведущими специалистами, победителями и финалистами телепередачи «Битва экстрасенсов». Это изделия из серебра с инкрустацией, каждое – прекрасное украшение, обладающее магической силой. (source)||At “Life Line” you can obtain TALISMANS and AMULETS ‘charged’ by our leading specialists, winners and finalists of the “Battle of the Psychics” TV show. These items are inlaid silver, each one a beautiful decoration with magical power.|
Yes, indeed. Three or four of those and I think I won't be having problems with the evil eye anymore. I'll place my order today.
The eyes are the mirrors of the soul, but sometimes something robs them of that ethereal connection. For instance, we can get something in our eye. In Russian this often includes the word соринка, which means ‘a little bit of junk’:
|У меня соринка в глазу. Не поможешь достать?||I've got something in my eye. Can you help me get it out?|
After someone has had too much to drink, the eyes may become bloodshot:
|— Почему твои глаза покраснели?||“Why are your eyes bloodshot?”|
|— Ну, как тебе сказать? У меня аллергия.||“Well, how can I say this? I have an allergy.”|
|— Понял. У тебя аллергия на трезвость.||“I understand perfectly. You're allergic to sobriety.”|
Yesterday we mentioned that the word глаз declines like this:
Note the alternative forms of the genitive case. The forms in -у are ‘second genitive’ forms which appear nowadays in certain stock phrases like «с глазу на глаз» ‘privately, confidentially’:
|Мы должны поговорить, но не по сотовому. Давай поговорим с глазу на глаз.||We need to have a talk, but not on the cell phone. Let's speak privately.|
‘To believe one's eyes’ is a stock phrase expressed with the dative plural:
|Она ведь была таким уродливым ребёнком, но вот она вернулась в деревню такой красавицей! Я не мог поверить своим глазам.||Y'know, she had been such an ugly child, but here she returned to our village such a beauty! I couldn't believe my eyes.|
Yesterday we mentioned that the word глаз declines like this:
Note the alternative forms of the prepositional case. The prepositional form in -у is a ‘locative’ form, which appears after the prepositions в and на when they indicate location. Thus I might say:
|У меня соринка в глазу.||I have a speck in my eye.|
But if I'm talking about an eye, then the form in -е appears:
|У моего брата разноцветные глаза. Я хочу сказать тебе о его левом глазе.||My brother's eyes are different colors. I want to tell you about his left eye.|
Luludya withdrew her lips from mine, gazed up at me soulfully and whispered:
|У тебя такие красивые глаза, как у верблюда!||Your eyes are as pretty as a camel’s!|
Several hours later, in the exhausted aftermath, it struck me that perhaps some Americans might have taken those words the wrong way, had they been in my oh-so-fortunate place. Camels have the most beautiful eyelashes of any animal. It is no surprise that a Gypsy woman in the throes of passion would say such a thing. And upon reflection it strikes me that all the best things in life are born in love, so it is only suitable that Luludya's love for me should elicit a blog entry on eyes.
The Russian word for eye is глаз, which declines like this:
Old Russian in addition to singular forms and plural forms had ‘dual’ forms, which were used to indicate things that came in pairs. For masculine nouns like глаз, that ending was -а, producing Old Russian глаза ‘two eyes, a pair of eyes.’ Nowadays that form has generalized to the plural form. We'll deal with the alternative forms of the genitive and the prepositional soon.
When you describe someone's eyes, the most common common colors are these:
|У моего брата голубые глаза.||My brother has blue eyes.|
|У её сестры зелёные глаза.||Her sister has green eyes.|
|У моего племянника карие глаза.||My nephew has brown eyes.|
|У вашего соседа серые глаза.||Your neighbor has gray eyes.|
When one is with one's beloved, it is absolutely essential to compliment the eyes, and since Russian intonation is different from English intonation, one must practice the phrases over and over again so that they sound sincere. Intonation construct (IC) 2 is often used for emphatic statements, so one could make the following compliment:
IC 5 is used for oohing and aahing, so one could pose the compliment thus:
Now we should probably address the issue of... damn... Luludya is calling my cell phone. Half a mo... Ohmigoodness, she just said:
|У тебя лапы, как у медведя!||You have paws like a bear’s!|
Gods! Is it any wonder that I love this woman? I must go to her immediately! Grammar must wait until tomorrow!