by Olga  

The Russian word for perfume is духи while the word for cologne is одеколон. The variety of different perfume and cologne scents are endless and each person chooses the scent that is individual to them.

25 years ago, when my father dated my mom, he bought her a small bottle of very expensive perfume called Magie noire. This was a very popular perfume in Russia and many women gave it a nickname of Чёрная Магия Black Magic. My mother loved this perfume and every time she put it on, she said «Это мои самые любимые духи! Я их просто обожаю!» “This is my favorite perfume! I just adore it!” As a child I remember that she constantly wore the crisp scent. Today she still has the perfume, and it smells just as crisp as it did 25 years ago. For the purposes of preserving the perfume as long as possible, my mom wears it only on very special occasions. Occasionally I will ask my mom if I can wear it. «Мама, можно я намажусь Черной Магией сегодня?» “Mama, can I wear Black Magic today?”, and she always answered «Только если это необходимо» “Оnly if it is a necessity.” To me, my mother’s perfume is a bottle of treasure because it carries so much family history with it. Of course, I could buy another bottle of the same perfume, but the contents of the bottle would not carry the same meaning anymore so I plan to preserve this family treasure for as long as possible.

Don's additional notes: the word духи belongs to a class of words we call pluralia tantum, which means words that only have plural forms and not singular forms. English has such words as well, like the word “jeans.” If a plurale tantum is the subject of a sentence, then the verb must appear in the plural: “My jeans are on the ironing board,” not “My jeans is on the ironing board.” The same is true in Russian, though of course you can see it in the adjectives as well, as in «Мои джинсы новые» “My jeans are new,” where новые is in the plural. Likewise in both languages pronouns that refer to pluralia tantum occur in the plural: “They are on the ironing board,” where “they” is plural, and «Они новые» “They are new,” where они is plural. That's why when Olga's mother said that she adored her perfume, she put said not “it” but “them”: «Я их просто обожаю!»

When you deal with pluralia tantum, you can't guess the gender from the singular since there is never a singular. Instead you have to look up the gender (and the genitive plural) in the dictionary. Here is the complete declinsion of духи perfume:


Finally, there is potentially confusion when reading this word because the word for spirit (supernatural being) is дух, which declines like this:


Notice that the word духи perfume is end-stressed, whereas the word дух spirit is stem-stressed. In speech, theoretically, one should never confuse them since the stress patterns are different, but in writing you will have to use context to distinguish them.

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