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November 14th, 2008 ? posted by Olga

The Russian word for monkey is ????????. Monkeys are very intelligent creatures and are often trained to perform in the Russian circus and can even help individuals with disabilities. Monkeys that are trained to perform at the circus are taught many tricks and are often dressed up in colorful and shiny costumes.

My grandmother told me the story of how her eye glasses were almost stolen once by a circus monkey. On my grandmother?s birthday, she decided to go to the circus with with my grandfather. When the circus show ended, the trainers came out and announced that individuals can buy an extra ticket to play with some of the trained monkeys after the show. My grandmother turned to my grandfather and said ????? ?????? ? ???????? ? ?????????? ????? ?????????! ?Lets go and play with the monkeys after the show!? Once my grandmother walked into the room and saw all the monkeys bouncing off the walls, she said ????? ?????????? ????????! ?What energetic monkeys!?

She approached one of the monkeys and began petting it. All of the sudden the monkey reached for her eye glasses and ran off with them. My grandmother began laughing when the monkey stopped and waved the glasses at her. Everyone around her began laughing loudly when the monkey put the glasses on himself. Everyone said ????? ??????? ????????! ?What a funny monkey!? My grandmother began chasing him and calling out O???? ??? ????! ?Give me back my eye glasses!? Eventually the monkey gave in and returned her glasses to her.


Don's additional notes: the word ???????? includes both monkeys and apes, so it's a bit broader than ?monkey? in English. I rather suspect that most readers won't know the difference between monkeys and apes. Hm. Now I'm curious. If you read this post, please add a comment to it saying something like, "Yes, I know the difference" or "No, I don't know the difference."

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November 13th, 2008 ? posted by Olga

The Russian word for cake is ????. I am the one to prepare all desserts for family gatherings because I love to cook and I always make all my deserts from scratch, making sure to use the freshest ingredients. I find that people generally love my desserts and I feel very lucky and fortunate to have people to cook for.

It was a few days prior to my sister?s birthday and I decided to make her a birthday cake. She absolutely adores chocolate cake ?????????? ???? so I decided that would be the best one to make. I was so excited to make this cake for her that I decided to call her and say ? ????? ???? ????, ?? ? ?? ????? ?????! ?I am making you a cake but I will not tell you what kind!?. My sister became very excited on the phone because she knows that I always make yummy cakes. I worked on the cake for several days and was very excited to present it at the birthday.

Just before leaving for my sister?s birthday party, I carefully placed the beautiful creation in a protective dome and set it flat inside the vehicle. As I was driving, the car in front of me came to a quick stop and I slammed on my brakes. I immediately turned to see if my cake was okay and to my disappointment, I saw that the beautiful design on the side of the cake had been smashed during the impact. The cake was damaged and I was crushed inside even more than the cake. I felt my body temperature rising as I began yelling at the guy in front of me ?? ?????! ?? ???????? ??? ????! ??????, ???? ?? ?????! ?You idiot! You ruined my cake! Watch where you?re going!?. I wanted everything to be perfect for my sister and now I had to present her with a broken cake. I was so upset that tears just started to run down my face and I wanted to get out of my car and hit ??????? the guy who had ruined my sister?s birthday cake. When I arrived, I showed my sister the ruined cake and to my surprise, she began laughing and saying ?? ????????! ???? ???? ????????????! ?Don?t worry! This cake is wonderful!?. "I truly have a wonderful sister!" ? ???? ????????????? ???????????? ??????.

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November 12th, 2008 ? posted by Olga

The Russian word for turkey is ?????. Even though Thanksgiving is not a holiday that is celebrated in Russia, Russians still like to eat turkey all throughout the year and many Russian recipes include this tasty meat.

Last Thanksgiving, I was planning on making a large turkey for my family and friends. There were going to be approximately fifteen people at this dinner and I wanted to make sure that the turkey was going to be one of the tastiest dishes that day! I went to the grocery store and picked out the biggest turkey I could find. At home, I was about to start on my recipe when my little sister approached me and asked ????? ? ?????? ???? ??????????? ??????? ?Can I help you cook the turkey?? She looked so cute when she was asking me, and gladly I allowed her to help me stir the stuffing ingredients together.

I had fun making the stuffing with my sister and was very excited about the big Thanksgiving dinner because the stuffing was turning out delicious! After I assembled the turkey, I set it into the oven to bake. A few hours went by and the turkey still looked raw despite what the instructions indicated. I panicked and said ??? ??????????? ? ?? ???????, ?????? ????? ??? ?????! ?What's happening? I do not understand why the turkey is still raw!? Suddenly I felt like this was going to be a Thanksgiving disaster, but luckily my mother came and told me that I simply needed to be patient and wait a bit longer. Thankfully my mother was correct and I finished the turkey just before the big dinner.


Don's additional notes: the word ????? can be used to indicate a male turkey, or when cooking the word can be used generically to refer to an entire bird without really specifying the gender of the bird. ??????? is an even more generic word for the animal, but can also mean the meat of the animal, or it can mean a dish prepared from that flesh. ??????? can mean the same thing as ???????; that is, it means either the animal generically or the meat of the animal. ?????????? means the meat of the animal or a dish prepared from the meat. Finally, when Russians in Russia discuss the American Thanksgiving celebration, they usually use the stock phrase ??????? ??????? ?they cook turkey? to describe it.

Although Olga is correct that Russians in America may eat turkey and that Russian recipes may use turkey, in Russia itself turkey is not a particularly popular meat.

????? (????? ??????)

November 11th, 2008 ? posted by Olga

The Russian word for shoes is ?????. Many women enjoy owning many pairs of shoes because they like to have a wide range of choices when picking an outfit. I find that it is important for me to own a few nice and comfortable shoes instead hundreds of shoes that I may never wear. The word ????? is also another word for shoes and is used interchangeably by Russian people.

One day, as I was driving to the airport, I realized I was late and could possibly miss the flight. I rushed through the security lines as fast as I could so that I would have a better chance of making my flight. The security guard told me ??????????, ??????? ???? ????? ?Please take off your shoes.? I quickly took them off and placed them through the scanner. I was so focused on getting through that last security check point that I quickly put my shoes back on without even tying the shoelaces ??????. As I was running, I tripped over the dangling laces and fell hard on the floor. I scraped my knee, and a police officer ran up to me and asked ? ???? ??? ? ???????? ?Are you okay?? I said ??, ? ?????? ?????, ?????? ??? ? ?????? ???????? ?????? ?Yes, I just fell because I forgot to tie the laces.? I got up and made the flight just in time, but I learned that when leaving for a flight, it is better to leave earlier to avoid chaos.

?????? (????? ??????)

November 10th, 2008 ? posted by Don

The Russian noun for ?a smile? is ??????, and the verb is ?????????/??????????.

? ??? ????? ???????? ??????!She has such a pretty smile!
? ?? ??????? ????? ??????: ??????? ??? ?????????? ???!I couldn't believe my eyes: Zoya smiled at me today!
?????? ?????????? ????????? ??????????Why do Americans constantly smile?

In Russia smiling is not required to be polite. A store clerk can walk up to you, look you in the eye, and not say a thing. If you ask her for something and she gives it to you without a word, then she has been perfectly polite: you got what you wanted without a hassle. This lack of smiling creates a very bad impression on Americans who go to Russia; they come away with the feeling that everyone in the country is rude. They are wrong. It's simply a different social standard. Russians smile when they are happy, and I don't mean happy in the sense of "Oh, here comes my 78th customer of the day, what a joy, I'll smile because I'm really interested in him as a human being!" That's an American delusion. Russians smile when they are actually happy. A Russian man smiles when he hasn't seen his girlfriend in three weeks and she shows up at the door, flings herself into his arms and offers to make dinner. A Russian woman smiles when she finds three hundred dollars on the ground and no one else is around so she gets to keep it. That's what smiling is about in Russia: actual specific happiness. It's never smiling just to be polite.

The Russians label the American smile as ???????? ?????? ?a business smile,? the kind of smile you put on your face just because that's what Americans are in the habit of doing. That kind of smiling creates an impression of insincerity and falsehood in the Russian mind and makes people wonder, "What the heck is so-and-so up to?? There's a story of an American business coach teaching the employees of a Russian company to constantly smile at each other and say, ?Have a nice day.? Three weeks after the consultant left, everyone in the office thought everyone else was out to get them. The American smiles caused mutual suspicion, a sense of falsehood; it was completely the wrong thing to teach a company in a Russian environment.

It's funny: we Americans tend to think that our smiles are a spontaneous expression that springs simply from emotion. Not so. A smile is a learned behavior which is used to mean different things in different places. I remember back in the 2001 World Series there was a game where Byung-Hyun Kim made a series of bad pitches that could have lost the game. He stood in the middle of the field staring at the ground and grinning like an idiot. The American audience totally misunderstood his smile. Some thought he was being overconfident. Some thought he was thinking it just didn't matter. But Koreans may use a smile to mask negative feelings, and in this case the feeling was shame. The guy wasn't overconfident. He wasn't making light of the situation. He was feeling like a complete failure and was thinking about how his wife and all his friends and countrymen would be ashamed of him.

The lesson to draw is this: when we first go to Russia, our American intuition will tell us that the Russians are always being rude. That intuition is false. You will have to train yourself to remember that those intuitions you have are based on American expectations of body language. Russian body language is different. Use your mind to teach your emotions how to reinterpret things.


You can find an interesting article about Russian and American smiles here. The section contrasting how Russians and Americans smile at children and pets strikes me as being slightly exagerrated, but on the whole I think there is some truth there.


PS. On October 21st, 2008 Russian singing duo ???? (t.A.T.u. in English releases) released a new album called ??????? ?????? "Happy Smiles."


2013-12-06: I just came across another neat article on Russian smiles at Russia Beyond the Headlines (mirror). You can find the original of the article at adeptis.ru (mirror).


2014-01-09: A former student of mine, Graeme Fox, pointed out this new addition (mirror) to the discussion of Russian smiles. Point #11 is quite good; I had never thought of that aspect.