. Last Updated: 04/16/2014
Articles by Michele A. Berdy

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Understanding the Gopnik Culture

Insulting slang words seem to go in and out of fashion — or maybe I go in and out of periods of noticing them. Lately it seems that the word гопник and its various derivatives are the new popular pejorative. I thought I knew what гопник meant but did some research to clarify, just in case.

A Real Coming Out

Выступать/выступить is a verb pair that translators like to kvetch about. The basic meaning is to come out in some way, either literally or figuratively. All in all, these are not the hardest words to translate. The only problem is that sometimes your brain seizes up, and you find yourself writing the worst sort of translationese imaginable.

Lost in Lovely Looks

As spring slides into Moscow and the parks will soon go from boring black-and-white to blazing Technicolor, it is a good time to look at how Russians look at things.

Mister Rogers Takes Crimea

As is my wont, I watched President Vladimir Putin give his "Crimea speech" and then printed it out to study linguistically. At first I thought there was nothing to say. This is not the kind of speech you scour for hints of mood or intention. It telegraphs mood and intention.

When in Ukraine, Never Say 'The Ukraine'

If you are having trouble understanding Russian-Ukrainian relations, take a look at Russian discussions about prepositions used with Украина (Ukraine). They will tell you everything you need to know.

Redefining Territorial Integrity

In Moscow, I have lived through two ideologies, two Olympics, two revolutions and several economic crises. I have wept through terrorist attacks. I have lost all my savings a couple of times.

How to Interpret Ukraine's Turmoil

As I've been reading the news and blogs on events in Ukraine, I came across quite a few words that I didn't understand. So I thought a little primer on Ukraine news might be useful.

How to Shout Like Crazy at Sochi Hockey Matches

I am always uncomfortable when the Olympics come around. Most Russians like sports. They know sports. They get excited about sports.

A Little Bit of This, a Little Bit of That

We'll pause in our round-the-clock pre-Olympic, "is-Sochi-ready?" count-down to the Games for a small commercial break.

Putting It All Together

I love to read articles and books designed to help native Russian speakers negotiate the trickier aspects of the great and mighty Russian language.

My Resolutions for 2014

Every year, like millions of my compatriots, I make New Year's resolutions, and every year, like millions of my compatriots, I fail to achieve them. But I'm never the least bit disconcerted to write "lose weight and get fit" for the 35th year in a row.

Hitting New Lows, Like Always, in 2013

Now that 2013 is drawing to a close, I checked out my favorite word-obsessed Russian sites for the final tallies of слова года (words of the year).

Lawmakers Need to Brush Up on Their Russian

My heart did a little dance of joy last week when I read the text of proposed changes to the Russian law on state language that had, by one count, 26 grammatical and other errors. See, it is a difficult language!

A Look at the Word of the Year

Make some popcorn, pull out a six-pack, put on your team scarves and settle in for the exciting countdown to the competition. That's right, it's time for the annual Слово Года 2013 (Word of the Year, 2013) contest.

Why Louis Vuitton Gets the Last Laugh

I loved everything about the giant-suitcase-on-Red-Square story. I loved the way that officials and politicians expressed astonishment — Откуда же он? (Where did it come from?) — as if you could just put up a structure 30-meters long and nine-meters high a few steps from the Kremlin and no one would ask what you were doing.

Bumming Around

The other day I read an article about a draft law on homeless people being floated by the Moscow city government.

Knock on Wood

An attentive reader wondered how it was possible to write about пень (stump) and колода (log) without writing about дрова (cut wood, firewood). Easy! I've assiduously avoided writing about firewood for years. I'm afraid someone will ask what a cord of wood is.

Don't Get Stumped by Wooden Words

Every once in a while in our high-tech, multicultural and international life, Russian kicks out words and phrases that harken back to a pre-industrial, pre-urban and prehistoric existence.

In Good Shape

The other day as I drove around Moscow, I was shocked — in a good way.

How Are We Feeling Today?

Мы (we): first person plural pronoun, used for referring to yourself together with other people. Straightforward, right?

When Your Mobile Phone Has Zero Balance

When we talk about the "untranslatable" in texts, we mean words and concepts that do not have an equivalent in another language: cultural concepts, names of food or types of architecture, etc. But it turns out the untranslatable might also be associated with something as mundane as cell phone payment plans.

Negation Nation

As I was walking in the park the other day, a woman ran up to me and asked: Вы не видели маленькую собаку? This means: Have you seen a little dog? But she asked the question in the negative, something like: You haven't seen a little dog, have you?

Getting to the Meat of the Matter

As the days grow shorter and colder in Moscow, ambitious — or bored — expats often venture into the world of culinary experimentation. Burning with foodie ardor and armed with a two-page shopping list, off they go to the market. All is well until they approach the meat counter.

What Drives All Those Engines and Motors

Back from a short vacation and looking through the mailbag: Let's see. … "Is there a word to describe the colder-than-usual fall weather in Moscow?" Yes, dear reader, there are actually many words to describe the weather. Unfortunately, The Moscow Times is a family newspaper, and I can't share them with you.

Smack Dab in the Middle

After dipping into the rich pools of много (a lot) and мало (a little), I had the bright idea of looking at what's in between them. So I peered into the Russian middle ground — and discovered that it's pretty sparsely inhabited.

How Putin's Op-Ed Got Watered Down

On Sept. 11, when I opened up my virtual U.S. newspapers expecting to find 9/11 anniversary coverage, I found a letter from Vladimir Putin to the American people instead.

Much Ado About Much

Once upon a time, after the great lexicographer Vladimir Dal ate too many psychedelic mushrooms and went into a dream state, he announced to his charges — the words in his dictionary — that he was organizing a contest to see which words had the most synonyms.

A Bit Much

There is nothing worse than having a friend tell you the price of something when you have no idea if it's ridiculously expensive or the bargain of the century.

A Bee in My Bonnet

Ah, nature … the last halcyon — er, cold and stormy — days of summer, when nature is still at its peak — er, starting to fade — and you can enjoy a carefree afternoon tramping across a field with your dog.

Filtering Through Russian Elections

So you want to be mayor of Moscow? Join the crowd! But be prepared. Running for the highest office in the capital has some major stumbling blocks — linguistically, that is.
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