by Don  

One of the words I love in Russian is дно, which means bottom in the sense of the bottom of a glass or the bottom of the ocean or the bottom of a barrell. I love it because words just don't start with 'dn' in English, so it's a complete shock when students first encounter it. We English speakers want to put a vowel between the д and the н, but the Russians don't do that at all. Insteaad they start making the д sound, and the air that builds up in the mouth behind the tongue is released through the nose. The singular of the word is perfectly regular, but it has an irregular plural:


The place American students of Russian are most likely to first encounter this word is when they go to Russia for their first study-abroad program. The first week of class they diligently do their homework every day, and then Friday night rolls around and their new Russian friends invite them home for dinner and vodka, and once the vodka starts flowing they learn the phrase «до дна» "to the bottom," which essentially means their buddies don't want them to sip the vodka like a sensible human being, but to do the shot all at once and then follow it with beer, wine, or more vodka. Thus «до дна» is about the equivalent of the phrase "bottoms up" in English. (And of course in the morning the students wake up with похмелье and swear they will never drink again, which of course doesn't work because they are in Russia. To really refuse alcohol in Russia you need a nice solid religious mooring, so I recommend that all my readers immediately become Baptists.)

But of course the word has a thousand other uses that have nothing to do with alcohol:

Президент Монголии опустился на дно Байкала. (source) The President of Mongolia has traveled to the bottom of Lake Baikal.
На дне Мексиканского залива найдено "ужасающее" количество нефти. (source) A horrifying amount of oil has been found on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.
Со дна Балтийского моря подняли самое старое в мире шампанское. (source) The world's oldest champaigne has been raised from the bottom of the Baltic Sea.
Европейский авторынок идет ко дну. (source) The European auto market is tanking. [lit. "going to the bottom"]

1 comment

Comment from: Andrey [Visitor]

Wow. Although Russian is my native language, I was not aware of those plurals. It’s correct I guess, but we just don’t use it in normal life. Maybe in diminutive case only: донышки.

07/22/10 @ 02:06

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