Category: "Medical conditions"


by Don  

The other day I was talking with my buddy Юрий when my brain rаn up against a linguistic wall: I didn't know how to say “I lost my voice” in Russian. Of course, a good language student never lets the lack of vocabulary stop him. He just improvises with words he does know. So I said “у меня исчез голос”, literally “at me the voice disappeared.” That made the communicative point and the conversation continued, but I was irked that I didn't really know the way a Russian would normally say it. So I started asking about that concept and here's what I came up with.

First of all, there is the verb хрипнуть/охрипнуть, which covers two concepts in English: “to have/get a hoarse voice” and “to lose one's voice.” The verb is conjugated like this:

Imperfective Perfective
Infinitive хрипнуть охрипнуть
Past хрип
Present хрипну
No such thing as
perfective present
in Russian.
Future буду хрипнуть
будешь хрипнуть
будет хрипнуть
будем хрипнуть
будете хрипнуть
будут хрипнуть
Imperative хрипни(те) охрипни(те)

Since this verb covers the meaning of two different phrases, sometimes it has two possible translations:

Весной она всегда хрипнет. In springtime her voice always gets hoarse. or
In springtime she always loses her voice.

That means that if you are translating something from Russian to English, you might have to pay close attention to context to see whether completely losing the voice or becoming hoarse is the point. Of course, there can't be that many contexts where it's important to distinguish between simply becoming hoarse (partially losing one's voice) and completely losing one's voice, so maybe the issue is mostly moot.

Here's another example:

Вчера моя жена так долго ругала меня, что совсем охрипла, и сегодня в доме господствует блаженная тишина. Yesterday my wife chewed me out for so long that she completely lost her voice, and today blessed silence reigns in our home.

There are a couple other phrases that mean the same thing. We can use the verb оседать/осесть “to sink” or терять/потерять “to lose.” For instance:

На прошлой неделе Витя так упорно болел за Спартак, что у него осел голос. Last week Victor cheered for Spartak so intensely that he lost his voice.
— В начале учебного года я всегда теряю голос. Школьники — это пакостные гады, которые заражают всех окружающих. “At the beginning of the school year I always lose my voice. Schoolchildren are nasty vermin that infect everybody around them.”
— Погоди! Я думал, что ты любишь работать учительницей. “Wait a minute! I thought you loved working as a school teacher.”
— Люблю, но это не значит, что дети не пакостные гады. “I do. But that doesn't mean that children aren't nasty vermin.”
Бабушка всегда хрипнет при влажной погоде. Grandma always gets hoarse/loses her voice in humid weather.


by Don  

Галитоз is a medical term that means “bad breath.” You may recognize it as meaning the same thing as the English word halitosis. When Russians borrows words based on Latin and Greek roots or words, they usually remove any grammatical ending from the word. Other examples:

артрит arthritis
бронхит bronchitis
музей museum
геолог geologist

Normally when Russians talk about bad breath, they don't use the medical term. Even educated native speakers might not know it. Instead they say «У него плохо пахнет изо рта», which in a word for word paraphrase comes out “At him it smells bad from the mouth.” Sample sentences:

Не подходи! Я только что съел банку анчоусов, и у меня плохо пахнет изо рта. Don't get too close! I just ate a tin of anhcovies, and I have bad breath.
— Фу, у тебя очень плохо пахнет изо рта! “Yuck, your breath stinks!”
— Да, ты что! Это не дурной запах, а просто чеснок. Я чеснок обожаю. “Oh, come on! That's not a bad smell; it's just garlic. I adore garlic.”
— А я не очень люблю. Если ты не бросишь есть чеснок, я с тобой не буду целоваться. Значит, ты сам сделай выбор: либо я, либо чеснок. “Well, I really don't like it. If you don't stop eating garlic, I'm not going to kiss you. So decide for yourself: it's either me or the garlic.”
— Я подумаю. “I'll think about it.”

My favorite bad breath phrase in Russian is «У меня во рту как будто эскадрон ночевал» “It's like an [entire] company [of cavalry] spent the night in my mouth.” But that's not the only one. The Russians love to play with language, and they can get quite creative when describing bad breath, for instance…

Warning! The following example contains English vulgarity and русский мат!

После вчерашнего проснулся - голова трещит, во рту как кошки насрали. After yesterday's binge I woke up with my head pounding, and my mouth stank like cats crapped in it.

There are a lot of versions of this phrase that vary in their degree of nastiness. I was curious which one was the most common, so I googled them all and came up with this hit count (15 May 2009):

Russian variant Google hits English equivalent
1. кошки написали 424 peed
2. кошки накакали 249 pooped
3. кошки нагадили 1,030 defecated
4. кошки нассали 239 pissed
5. кошки насрали 1,430 crapped

Versions 1 and 2 are kiddie talk. Adults may use them to avoid obscenity. #3 uses a fairly neutral word but still gets the point across. 4 and 5 are obscene. Do NOT use them in front of your instructors in Moscow or in front of your host mother.


by Don  

Every American college student should go to Russia. It's just such a great experience. Russian friendships are intense. The Russian countryside is gorgeous. Astonishing museums and architecture. There are beautiful churches in which to pray and contemplate what good works we might like to accomplish over the next year. Ah, such opportunities! So why is it that those American students always end up drinking obscene amounts of vodka, throwing up at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, singing “Rubber Ducky” with a German accent in the middle of Red Square at three in the morning in the company of some Russian ballet dancer they've been flirting with since eight in the evening at the Irish Bar on the Arbat? And in the morning they wake up with похмелье, a hangover.

A smarmy American might even suggest that we have a spiritual obligation to get at least one hangover in Russia since the Primary Chronicle quotes Vladimir the First as rejecting Islam because the Russians love to drink, and thus to really get into the spirit of Russian language study, you have to tie one on. Wow, a little education and we can justify just about anything.

“I have a hangover” in literary Russian is «У меня похмелье» or «Я с похмелья». Notice that с here is followed by the genitive case, not the instrumental. It is incorrect to say «Я с похмельем». You'll also hear the more conversational «Я с бодуна», which means the same thing. Here are a couple sample sentences:

Я по субботам работаю с похмелья.On Saturdays I work with a hangover.
Почему с похмелья люди сильно и много чихают?Why do people with hangovers sneeze so much and so strongly?

Actually, I doubt hangovers have anything to do with sneezing. Probably they just encountered a drunk with a cold.

You might think that people would battle hangovers with the obvious solution: sobriety. Nope. There is an incredible wealth of material out there discussing the question «Как опохмелиться наилучшим способом?» “What is the best method to cure a hangover?” More precisely, the verb опохмеляться-опохмелиться mostly means “to treat a hangover by using more alcohol,” or as some people say in English “to take a hair of the dog that bit you.”

Russians can discuss this question for hours and hours on weekends… weekends with bloodshot eyes and aching heads and the taste of dachsund fur and horseradish in their mouths. There is even a website devoted to the issue. Here is an actual answer to the question I found on the web:

Как опохмелиться наилучшим способом? What is the best method to cure a hangover?
хм....серьезную тему для обсуждения поднял товарисч....сложно даж так сразу ответить...скажу одно, что нажравшись в жопу, с дикого похмелья мало что поможет...сказки по типу выпить бутылку пива- полный бред...мне нравиццо кефиром, хотя уж не всегда помогает, я считаю лучше всего не доходить до похмелья, т.е. пить перед нажираловкой АНТИПОХМЕЛИН, 3 таблетки перед нажираловкой, и скоко ни пей будешь как огурчик... оч рекомендую, вещь реально действует (source) hm... the komrade raised a serious issue for discussion... it's hard to come up with a quick answer... i'll just say that once you've gotten drunk off your ass and have a raging hangover not much can help you... stories like “drink a bottle of beer” are complete fantasies... i like 2 use kefir, although it doesn't always help, and i think the best way is to not get all the way to the hangover, i.e. before getting down to the heavy boozing take Antipokhmelin, three tablets before saucing up, and no matter how much ya drink, you'll be fit as a fiddle... v m recommend, stuff actually works

The guy's spelling suggests he was actually writing with a hangover «он писал с похмелья». I thought he was making up the Антипохмелин, but apparently it's a real product. You can see a picture of it at the right.

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