Перец (часть первая)

by Don  

The Russian word for pepper is перец. It means table pepper, which is the ground fruit of piper negrum, a plant of the Indian subcontinent, and it also means peppers like the bell pepper, the jalapeño, and the poblano, which are cultivars of capsicum annum, a plant native to the Americas. The latter are sometimes called chiles (or chilis or chilies or chillies).

The second е in перец is a fleeting vowel. The declension of the noun turns out like this:


In English we might say "Do you like hot peppers?", but like most food items in Russian, you use перец in the singular when speaking abstractly: «Мама не любит острый перец, а я острое люблю» “Mom doesn't like hot peppers, but I love hot stuff."

The phrase “two peppers” nearly got me into trouble last week. I wanted to verify that one could use перец after numbers to count individual peppers, so I googled the phrase «два перца» “two peppers” and, lo and behold, «у меня на экране появилась всякая порнушка» “all sorts of porno appeared on my screen.” What the devil? It turns out that перец also has slang meanings of “hot guy” or “male reproductive organ.” Oh, dear. That means I accidentally used university resources to… “А вдруг меня уволят?» “What if they fire me?” If you think that's paranoid, you obviously haven't read Kafka's “The Trial.”

Sometimes the slang meaning of the word is simply “guy,” and the phrases "клёвый перец" and "классный перец" simply mean “cool guy.” Here's a non-pornographic joke that uses the word, along with a loose translation. [source]

Приехали два перца на рыбалку. Two guys went fishing.
Привезли с собой лодку, сети. They brought a boat and nets with them.
Разместились в рыбацком домике. They set themselves up in a fishing hut.
Решили перед процессом немного выпить, ну и … выпили. They decided to have a bit to drink before [starting] the process, and, well… they got drunk.
Один утром просыпается, выходит «до ветру», смотрит, а поле за их домиком всё сетями усыпано. One wakes up in the morning, goes outside to take a leak, looks around, and the field behind the hut has their nets strewn all over it.
Разозлился и побежал будить второго. He got mad and ran to wake up the second.
- Ты что ж, придурок, сети-то по полю раскидал?! "You idiot, what the heck did you thow the nets all over the place for?!"
- А где ты грёб — там я и кидал… "Wherever you rowed, that's where I threw them…"

So why is this funny? It's funny because the first was so drunk he rowed the boat on land, plus he couldn't remember doing so the next morning, plus the second was so drunk he threw fishing nets on land without objection.

de(spice) der Pfeffer;
(vegetable) die Paprikaschote
es(spice) la pimienta;
(vegetable) el pimiento, el ají, el chile
fr(spice) le poivre;
(vegetable) le poivron

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