by Laura  

Russians often use the word мясо to mean “red meat,” so if you say «Я не ем мясо» or «Я не ем мяса», you may still be served chicken or fish. “Vegetarian” is вегетарианец or вегетарианка.

Вегетарианцы не употребляют в пищу мясо, птицу, рыбу и морепродукты животного происхождения. Vegetarians don’t eat meat, poultry, fish or seafood of animal origin.
Я не ем ни мяса, ни рыбы, ни птицы уже почти 9 лет. I haven’t eaten meat, fish or poultry for almost nine years now.

When talking about мясо, Russian usually distinguishes between the live animal and the meat on your plate by adding the suffix -ина. Here are some common ones:

Animal Животное Мясо Meat
cow говядо * говядина beef
pig свинья свинина pork
ram баран баранина mutton
calf телёнок телятина veal
deer олень оленина venison

The word for “ham” is ветчина, from the adjective ветхий “old,” the opposite of свежий “fresh.”

The suffix –ина is productive, which means you can use it to make interesting meat out of just about any mammal.

Из-за Олимпиады китайцам временно запретят готовить собачину. Because of the Olympics, the Chinese are being temporarily forbidden from preparing dog meat.
А вот если добавить к мясу кусок конины, бульон будет намного вкуснее. (source) If you add a piece of horse meat to the meat, the bouillon will be much tastier.
При посещении страны, где мясо слона в том или ином виде фигурирует в ресторанных меню, вы можете попробовать и тушеную слонину. If you visit a country where the meat of the elephant appears on restaurant menus in one form or other, you might try stewed elephant meat.
Когда-то было прогрессивным есть человечину, потому что в ней полно белка. (source) At one time it was considered progressive to eat human meat because it has a lot of protein.


* Говядо is the Old Russian word for cow. Nowadays we say корова.


by Don  

One interesting word in Russian is кинология. The -логия ending corresponds to -logy in English and means "the study of." Every first semester Russian student knows that кино means the movies, so one could be forgiven if one thought that the word meant "film studies." Wrong! Кинология is the study of dogs and how to breed and care for them. The stem is borrowed from the Greek root cyn- which means dog. (The cee in Greek stems was always pronounced like the hard cee in cat, which is why it is represented by к in Russian. Nowadays in English we pronounce it with an ess sound, which misrepresents the original pronunciation.) We have a similar word in English, cynology, but it is uncommon.

We have another word in English that also derives from that stem, which is Cynic. The Cynics were a group of philosophers who rejected material wealth and social conventions. The most famous of them was Diogenes, who is often pictured as carrying a lamp around the earth looking for an honest man. Since they lived on the streets without homes or possessions like dogs, they were called Cynics κυνικόι, which means “doglike ones.”


by Don  

Y'know, you just never stop learning when you study a foreign language, and last month for the first time I encountered the word псина. The primary meaning of the word is dog meat:

В 1984-ом году в Корее запретили продажу псины. The sale of dog meat was prohibited in Korea in 1984.
В Вьетнаме суп варят из псины. In Vietnam they make soup out of dog meat.

The word is also commonly used to just mean dog as well. If you search for псина on youtube.com, you will find all sorts of videos of people and their dogs doing all sorts of odd tricks, like singing to Gwen Stefani tunes.

Псина also means the smell of a dog or of dog fur:

Почему здесь пахнет псиной? Why does it smell like dog fur in here?
Фу, здесь воняет псиной! Ugh, it reeks like a nasty ol' dog here.
Знаешь, я недавно нашёл прекрасные духи, которые пахнут мокрой псиной. Они меня спасли. Раньше девушки ко мне постоянно приставали, а теперь я могу появляться в общественных местах совершенно спокойно. You know, I recently found a marvelous cologne that smells like a wet dog. It has saved me. Women used to hound me constantly, but now I can appear in public in complete peace.

It seems like all words connected with dogs can be used as general terms of abuse, and псина is no exception, and it can be used of either men or women. If used of a man, it can have masculine gender, and if used of a woman, it has feminine gender:

Маша, псина ты некультурная, ты опять обидела клиента! Удивлюсь, если тебя не рассчитают. Mary, you rude idiot, you've offended a client again. I'll be surprised if they don't fire you.
Боря, псина ты идиотский, я сказала, чтобы ты купил два кило сахара и пачку соли, а не два кило соли и пачку сахара! Boris, you complete idiot, I told you to buy four pounds of sugar and a packet of salt, not four pounds of salt and a packet of sugar.

Note: see discussion of the last sample sentence in the comments section.


by Don  

The Russian word дог is a false cognate: it doesn't mean dog. It means Great Dane. Although regular nominative plurals often end in -ы, here spelling rule 1 interferes so that the plural is доги. The three Russian spelling rules are:

Spelling rule 1:

After г, к, х, and ж, ч, ш, щ — never write ы, instead use и.

Spelling rule 2:

After ж, ч, ш, щ, and ц — never write an unstressed о, instead use е.

Spelling rule 3:

After ж, ч, ш, щ, ц, and г, к, х, — never write я or ю, instead use а and у.


by Don  

Another word for dog in Russian is пёс, which specifically means a male dog. The ё in the latter is a fleeting vowel, so the word declines like this:

Singular Plural
Nom пёс псы
Acc пса псов
Gen пса псов
Pre псе псах
Dat псу псам
Ins псом псами

There are two well-known созвездия constellations that contain this word, and they are Большой Пёс and Малый Пёс, which mean the Big Dog and the Little Dog respectively. In English we mostly use the Latin names for constellations, and the Latin word for dog was canis; thus we call those constellations Canis major and Canis minor.

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