Привет, чао

by Don  

In English we have some little rhyming phrases that people occasionally throw in conversations for cutesy effect. For instance, when saying goodbye, you might hear:

“See you later, alligator.”
“After while, crocodile.”

Russian is not bereft of its cutesy moments as well:

Здорово, корова! Hi, Cow!
Привет-буфет. Hello-snackbar.
Чао-какао. Ciao-cocoa.

«Привет-буфет» is a relatively recent phrase. Older Russians may not know it. «Здорово, корова» has been around a long time.


Comment from: Edgar [Visitor]

Yes, Don, you are 100% correct. I lived in Stavropol’ in 1989 and there are expressions and cultural tidbits there which are totally unheard of in Moscow. I compare it to the differences in speech and customs in Vermont vs. Alabama. The people I lived with would not eat black bread (only for paupers) and never drank vodka out of a bottle, only out of a carafe. Anyone who drank out of a bottle was considered uncouth. And there were many, many expressions that were unheard of in Moscow, as well.

05/16/09 @ 14:02
Comment from: apt [Visitor]

While the effort is appreciated, honestly, as a native Russian speaker (a non-old, non-young, 26 year old, well educated Russian speaker that grew up in the center of Moscow and has just spent a year there), I am at a complete loss as to who would ever use these phrases other than a grandparent/ parent talking to the kids. I can guarantee that these “cutesies” will get you tagged as someone whose “крыша поехала".

Actually, my strong recommendation would be to translate that one in the next go around.

Don responds: Thanks for the feedback! It was Russian native speakers who suggested those phrases to me. That’s a funny thing about language. Sometimes people use their native language in ways that other natives don’t expect. I was shocked two years ago to hear a native AmE speaker say that the phrase “midnight thirty” (for 12:30 a.m.) sounded normal to her. To me it sounds entirely ungrammatical and ignorant. Imagine my even greater shock when I heard someone say it on BBC Today. I can’t label those folks as ignorant, can I? The other day I discussed the phrase “ugly as a stick,” which is a widespread phrase. An American of my acquaintance said he had never heard it before.

And thanks for the suggestion about «крыша поехала». I think we’ll take you up on that!

05/15/09 @ 07:28

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