Categories: "Body parts"


by Don  

Грудь is a feminine noun that means bosom in the sense of chest or breast(s). It's mostly used in the singular, even when talking about women's breasts. Although sometimes you'll hear people stress the word a bit differently in the singular, the most common stress pattern for the noun is:


Sample sentences:

Грудь у меня что-то болит. Страшно. А вдруг это инфаркт? My chest kind of hurts. Scary. What if it's a heart attack?
Не заметить её было трудно: при росте в 152 см. Долли обладала грудью феноменальных размеров и носила облегающие костюмы. (source) It was hard not to notice her: at a height of 5' 0" Dolly [Parton] had breasts of phenomenal dimensions and she wore skin-tight costumes.

Грудь is also used as a symbol of the center of one's feelings and desires just as heart is used in English:

Милый мой, ты у меня в груди. (Есенин) My beloved, you are [ever] in my heart.
Любовь в груди мне стала мукой. The love in my heart has become torment.


by Don  

The Russian word for leg is нога. Just as рука means both hand and arm in Russian, so also нога means both leg and foot. Interestingly enough, it's stress pattern is identical to that of рука:


My favorite idiom with this word is (с)делать ноги, which means to flee, run away, haul ass. Well, no, it's not as vulgar as “haul ass,” but you get the idea. Examples:

Я бы на его месте делал ноги, пока не поздно. (source) In his place I'd get out of there before it's too late.
Говорят, что каждого нового ухажёра Наоми быстро начинала звать своим "мужем", строить планы на будущее, говорить о детях… И вскоре после этого мужчина обычно делал ноги. (source) They say that Naomi [Campbell] would quickly start calling each new suitor her “husband” and start planning for the future, talking about children… And right after that the man would take to his heels.
Недавно жили две мышки домашние в клетке. Одна умерла, а вторая сделала ноги куда-то к соседям. Теперь я совсем одинокая :( . (source) Not long ago [I had] two pet mice living in a cage. One died, and the other ran off to some neighbors' house. Now I'm all alone.
Сама же Германия с конца 1944 года лишь делала ноги, панически отступая от Красной Армии. (source) Germany itself began to flee at the end of 1944, retreating before the Red Army in a panic.

Левша, правша

by Don  

The words левша and правша mean leftie (a left-handed person) and rightie (a right-handed person) respectively. The former declines like this:

Sing Pl
Nom левша левши
Acc левшу левшей
Gen левши левшей
Pre левше левшах
Dat левше левшам
Ins левшой левшами

The word правша declines precisely the same way. A few example sentences:

Если вы правша, то большую часть пищи вы пережёвываете на правой стороне челюсти, и наоборот, если вы левша, то на левой. (source) If you are right-handed, then you chew the majority of your food on the right side of your mouth, and conversely if you are left-handed, then [you chew] on the left side.
Исследования указывают, что левшами чаще являются мужчины чем женщины. (Russian Wikipedia) Research shows that men are left-handed more often than women.
Почему левши зарабатывают больше правшей? Why do lefties earn more than righties?
Электросудорожная терапия превращает правшей в левшей. Electroshock therapy turns righies into lefties.

Though every beginning student of Russian knows that there are masculine nouns and feminine nouns, not every student knows that there are common gender nouns as well, and among them are левша and правша. A common gender noun is one that takes masculine adjectives if referring to a man and feminine adjectives if referring to a woman. Thus one could theoretically say:

Юлия — легкомысленная левша. Julie is an air-headed leftie.
Иван — нахальный левша. John is a cocky leftie.

Simlarly if a common gender noun is the subject of a sentence, it induces masculine agreement in the verb if the noun refers to a man and feminine agreement if the noun refers to a woman. Thus, though not a common thing to say, one could theoretically say:

В комнату вошла правша. A right-handed woman entered the room.
В комнату вошёл правша. A right-handed man entered the room.


by Don  

The word for jaw in Russian is челюсть, which is a feminine noun. Not too surprisingly, the movie “Jaws” was translated into Russian as «Челюсти».

Doubtless the most famous historical incident involving a jaw is Samson's slaying of the Philistines:

Нашёл он свежую ослиную челюсть и, протянув руку свою, взял её, и убил ею тысячу человек. He found the fresh jaw of an ass and, having stretched forth his hand, he took it and killed a thousand people with it.
Книга Судей израилевых 15:15 Judges 15:15

Sometimes your neck and head can hold a lot of tension, in which case you should take the following advice:

Зевните один раз как можно шире, потом пошевелите челюсть чуточку налево и направо, и потом спокойно закройте рот. Yawn once as wide as you can, then move your jaw a little left and a little right, and then calmly close your mouth.

When you combine челюсть with the adjective вставная “insertable” or съёмная “removable,” it means denture:

У Жанны Фриске вставная челюсть Zhana Friske has dentures
В своём блоге Александр доложил о том, что в бизнес-классе одного из рейсов, который перевозил целую плеяду отечественных звёзд, через приоткрытую дверь туалета он стал очевидцем следующей картины: Жанна Фриске стоит у раковины, а в руках съёмная челюсть (!) и зубная щётка… Это шокирующее открытие имело подтверждение на днях. (source) In his blog Alexander reported that in the business class section of a flight that carried the entire Pleiades of Russian stars, through a slightly open restroom door he became witness to the following picture: Zhanna Friske stood at the sink, and in her hands was a set of dentures (!) and a toothbrush… This shocking discovery was confirmed a few days later.

Oh, the horror! Oh, the humanity! Actually, when I read things like this in Russian, I'm encouraged: it proves that not it's not just we Americans who can be shallow beyond words.

Рука, часть четвёртая

by Don  

As mentioned in previous entries, the most common word for arm/hand in Russian is рука. What if you want to be more specific?

First off, the actual hand is called кисть, which is a feminine noun. It includes запястье the wrist, пястье (the area from the wrist to the first knuckle of each finger, which is also called пясть... heck, do we even have a word for that in English?), and пальцы “the digits.” I say “digits” here because the word палец can mean either finger or toe. If you want to specify fingers, then you say пальцы рук, and if you want to specify the toes, you say пальцы ног.

Next we have the forearm предплечье, in which the major bones are the radius лучевая кость (literally “the ray bone”), which is the bone on the same side of the arm as the thumb, and the ulna локтевая кость (literally “the elbow bone”). I think the average American doesn't know the words radius and ulna. The Russian phrases are a bit more descriptive than the Latinate English equivalents. I wonder if the average Russian knows the names of those bones in Russian? Maybe we'll be fortunate and a native will add a comment about that to this post.

Moving on up we have the elbow локоть, a masculine word, whose second о is a fleeting vowel, thus genitive локтя.

Moving farther up we have плечо, which can mean either the shoulder itself, or it can mean collectively both the shoulder and the upper arm. The bone in the upper arm is плечевая кость, literally “the shoulder bone.” That sounds funny to us Americans. Although the proper name of the bone is “the humerus,” there is a song called “Dry Bones” that contains a line “the arm bone's connected to the shoulder bone;” it sounds amusingly folksy. Even humorous… pun intended.

Last but not least, the English word palm means the front side of what the Russians call пястье. Isn't that curious? We have a word in English that describes the area from the wrist to the first knuckles of the fingers as understood from the front side of the hand, but we don't have a word that describes it from the back side. The Russian word for palm is ладонь, which is a feminine noun. Isn't that curious? Both languages have a word for that part of the hand as considered from the front side. Russian has two words (пястье & пясть) for that part of the hand as considered from either side, but English has no such word. And both languages (as far as I know, correct me if I'm wrong) do not have a single word describing that part of the hand as considered solely from the back side.

Finally, Russian has a conversational term they use sometimes, пятерня, which means “the palm and the fingers,” i.e. what we English speakers usually call the hand, but пятерня is used much, much less often than рука.

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