Рождество — 2010

by Don  

The Russian word for Christmas is Рождество, which comes from the verb родить “to give birth.” Here we have the text in which the Wise Men seek out Jesus (Matt 2:9-11). The text on the left is from the Russian Synodal Bible, which uses pre-revolutionary spelling. The text on the right is from the King James Bible.

Они, выслушавши царя, пошли. И — се, звѣзда, которую видѣли они на востокѣ, шла передъ ними, какъ наконецъ пришла, и остановилась надъ мѣстомъ, гдѣ былъ Младенецъ. Увидѣвши же звѣзду, они возрадовались радостью весьма великою, и вошедши въ домъ, увидѣли Младенца съ Маріею, Матерью Его и падши поклонились Ему; и открывши сокровища свои, принесли ему дары: золото, ладанъ и смирну. When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

С Рождеством Христовым!
Merry Christmas!


by Bella  

The word так has several uses. It can imply things like "eh, so-so," or "like so" or "as it is." Today I'm focusing on the ways to use it to mean that way or like that. It's almost like an invisible arrow that points something out.

Here are some examples:

Так не поднимают тяжелые коробки.
You shouldn't lift heavy boxes like that.

Маша, не надо спорить с профессором. Так нельзя ничего добиться.
Masha, don't argue with the professor. You won't achieve anything that way.

Так и случилось.
That's just how it happened.

— Как я могу носить эту шляпу?
— Вот так, как на манекене.

“How can I wear this hat?”
“Like that, like on the mannequin.”

Так тебе и надo!*
That's what you get!

*This is the Russian version of "Serves you right."


by Bella  

Nobody likes chores. And everyone has that one chore they despise above all others. I would rather be tied to a chair and forced to watch reruns of “Barney and Friends” than iron clothing. Thank goodness I live in the century of electric dryers. The Russian word гладить means to iron or press.

Imperfective Perfective
Infinitive гладить выгладить
Past гладил
Present глажу
No such thing
as perfective present
in Russian.
Future буду гладить
будешь гладить
будет гладить
будем гладить
будете гладить
будут гладить
Imperative гладь(те) выгладь(те)

Я ненавижу гладить одежду.
I hate to iron clothes.

Что вы гладите?
What are you ironing?

Я глажу мою юбку.
I am ironing my skirt.

Железный человек гладил рабочую униформу.
Iron Man was ironing his work uniform.


* Although гладить translates to iron it has nothing to do with the metal, iron. For that you would use железо.


by Don  

The Russian word for drugstore is аптека. Interestingly enough, it is related to the English word apothecary. The Ancient Greek prefix απο- meant ‘away’ and the root -θηκ- meant ‘put’, so αποθηκη meant a place you put something away, i.e., a storehouse. From Greek the word went into Latin as apothēca with that same meaning. Eventually the word went into German as Apotheke and into Baltic German as Apteke. Somewhere along the way its meaning specialized into a storehouse for spices (culinary and medicinal) and thence into medicinal spices, whence we get the modern meaning of pharmacy/drugstore. Incidentally, you can see a similar meaning to this day in the Finnish word apteekki and the Swedish and Norwegian word apotek. See how wonderful Russian is? It prepares you to be a tourist in Scandinava as well as Russia! The word declines like this:


Russian drugstores and American drugstores are very different. Russian drugstores primarily sell drugs and perhaps specialized infant formula. And for the most part you don't need a prescription. For instance, this last summer in Russia I came down with giardiasis. A doctor advised metronidazole. I went to the pharmacy, said the name of the drug, and they gave it to me. No prescription necessary. Despite the lack of written prescriptions for most drugs, the word pharmacy behaves pretty much like any other word, without any particular grammatical quirks:

Мой двоюродный брат работает в аптеке. My cousin works at a pharmacy.
Папа сходил в аптеку за кодеином. Dad went to the drugstore for some codeine.
Каждый раз, когда прохожу мимо аптеки, я благодарен за существование современных лекарств. Every time I pass by a drugstore, I am thankful for the existence of modern medicines.

American pharmacies nowadays are more like convenience stores than pharmacies, although of course they still sell medicine. But if I wake up at 2:00 a.m. with a craving for chocolate milk, where do I go? To the 24-hour pharmacy on the corner. When I need to quickly buy a couple batteries, where do I go? The pharmacy on the corner. A cheapo t-shirt? A birthday card? Perfume? A USB flash-drive? Yup, I go to the drugstore. Of course, that's not the cheapest place to go, but when you need a quick and dirty purchase, the pharmacy is even better than 7-11 or Circle K.


by Bella  

I am not a morning person. Heck, I'm not an anytime-before-noon person. So waking up this morning at 5 a.m. was not fun. But you know what made it better? I made сырники for breakfast. There is no real American name for them, so in English I would just write syrniki. These are a Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, and Polish staple. Basically they are little fried pancakes made of farmer's cheese. In fact, the root of our word is the Russian word for cheese-сыр. And like any good Russian dish, you can eat it with sour cream on top. Personally, I just sprinkle some sugar on the сырник and I'm good to go. Here's my simple recipe(there are variations)

  • Some farmer's cheese ¹
  • 1 or 2 eggs
  • Some flour
  • Sugar to taste
  • Dash of salt
  • A pinch of baking soda with a tiny bit of white vinegar, so it foams. (I swear it adds a lightness)

Mix all the ingredients to a cookie dough-like consistency. Roll about a tablespoon of the mixture in some flour and form thin patties. Fry in vegetable oil until golden.

It's the simplicity and low cost of this dish make it so popular.


Моя мама научила меня правильно готовить сырники.
My mom taught me the right way to make syrniki.

Я пожарила сырники, и их хватило на всех.
I fried up syrniki, and there were enough for everyone.

Ой! Этот сырник с изюмом!
Oh! This is a syrnik with raisins!

Что мне делать с оставшимися сырниками?
What should I do with the leftover syrniki?

¹ Don comments: Russian actually make сырники from творог, a milk product that resembles a soft cheese. Farmer's cheese is the closest equivalent in American grocery stores (if they have it at all). Творог is not considered a type of сыр, which is why the first time I saw someone make them in Russia, she said: «Мы их называем сырниками, хотя в них сыра нет» “We call them syrniki, although there isn't any syr in them.”

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