by Don  

The Russian word for mushroom is гриб, a perfectly regular end-stressed noun:


There is a huge cultural difference between Russians and Americans in regards to mushrooms. An American looks at a mushroom in the forest and thinks, “Careful! It might be poisonous!” A Russian looks at a mushroom in the forest and thinks, “My little forest friend! I shall pickle you in oil and spices and consume you with friends in the company of vodka and bliny!”

Photo of mushroom
Белый гриб — porcini
Picture courtesy of Wikipedia

I never used to eat mushrooms. After all, why would a sane human being deliberately put a fungus that grows in the dirt into his mouth? But then I was served home-preserved mushrooms in Russia. Heaven! The Russians know how to spice, bake, can, wrap, and fry mushrooms better than anyone else on the planet. Now it's a rare day that I don't eat mushrooms, or at least do a little interpretive dance in honor of mushrooms after my morning shower.

В России растёт свыше двухсот видов съедобных грибов. More than two hundred varieties of edible mushrooms grow in Russia.
Вчера в ресторане нам подали блюдо из грибов с сыром. Yesterday at the restaurant we were served a dish made of mushrooms and cheese.
Под грибом отдыхала улитка. A snail rested beneath the mushroom.
— Какой гриб любят русские больше всего?
— Наверно, белый гриб.
“What mushroom do the Russians like best of all.”
“Probably porcini.”

In English everbody knows the phrase “mushroom cloud.” The Russian equivalent is «ядерный гриб» “nuclear mushroom.” That's not particularly surprising. What would surprise an English speaker is that the phrase is used in Russian phrases that mean “really ugly”:

Лайл Ловетт отличный музыкант, но он страшен как ядерный гриб! Lyle Lovett is a great musician, but he's as ugly as a mushroom cloud!

Photo of mushroom cloud


Comment from: Vit [Visitor]

I would agree with Vladimir here about “as ugly as a mushroom cloud” thing. Never heard of this one. Nevertheless, if you succeed to find the right moment to use it, you will sound really witty and original in a good way, so go ahead and use it. I am thinking of maybe using it myself, despite me considering an image of a mushroom cloud as rather breathtaking and strangely beautiful. :)

01/25/10 @ 08:27
Comment from: Vladimir [Visitor]

About being “as ugly as a mushroom cloud” - that should be some kind of a local slang phrase because I have never heard such a comparison, and it does sound really weird to me. I wouldn’t recommend using it :)

Don responds: The use of «атомная война» and the related phrase «ядерный гриб» came from a Muscovite who is particularly picky in her use of Russian, so I am quite confident that it is currently a living phrase in parts of Russia. Still, your point is well-taken. It is much more common to say something like «Он просто урод» or «Он такой урод, каких мало».

01/13/10 @ 07:54
Comment from: Andrey [Visitor]

The last sentence is not completely correct. You can say about a woman that she is “страшная, как ядерная война", but it has nothing to do with ядерными грибами. So I guess you heard that phrase but its meaning distorted over time :)

01/13/10 @ 05:32

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