Articles by Michele A. Berdy
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24 July 14
Here at The Moscow Times language desk, I've been trawling the interwebs, looking for new Russian words and phrases. My latest haul comes largely from the comments sections of online media where folks "discuss" the Ukrainian and Russian conflict by flinging insults at each other. I got interested in the insults.
17 July 14
I have never made peace with Russian знаки препинания (punctuation marks). I persist in putting in запятые (commas) where they don't belong, dither over where the period goes with кавычки (quotes) and have resorted to the childish principle: When in doubt, use тире (dash).
03 July 14
Scene: an office in Moscow, some time in the future when the law banning use of foreign words in Russian has finally passed. An expat manager is preparing a speech to the city Duma with the help of a Russian coworker. It is not going well.
26 June 14
As someone deeply concerned with the protection of human rights — mine in particular — I have of course been very interested in the whole notion of русскоязычный человек (a Russian-speaking person) and Russia's eagerness to take such a person — possibly me — under her governmental wing.
19 June 14
For years I have been on a personal crusade to nail down the meaning of all Russian's "little words" — all those monosyllabic words like да (yes, and), что (what, that), как (how), так (so), ну (well) that each have 40 meanings and combine with other little words to give another dozen meanings. Lately I've been working on зато (but, however, on the other hand).
29 May 14
Not much makes me laugh these days, but President Vladimir Putin's use of the word уконтрапупить did.
22 May 14
Want to visit the barber? Need to ready your pooch for a dog show? Did badly on a math test? Or want to let your uncouth neighbor know that you do not want to socialize?
15 May 14
Back in the old days of Soviet rule, everyone needed one thing to survive: блат. This word, so satisfying to say — try it! — meant pull, an "in," connections.
07 May 14
День Победы (Victory Day) used to be my favorite Russian holiday. I would always tear up when I saw the veterans, some still slender in their old uniforms, covered from neck to waist in medals and ribbons, marching proudly across Red Square.
29 April 14
I've detected a slight buzz of panic among Moscow's expat community. It seems that a Russian work visa or residence permit will only be issued to those of us who can pass a test on Russian language, culture, history, and even legislation. Кошмар! (What a nightmare!)
24 April 14
If numbers can be said to have personalities, три (three) is deeply conflicted. It is highly spiritual but sometimes very naughty. It is a very small amount of something, unless it is more than you can imagine. It is average and in between, but at the same time it is exalted and magical.
21 April 14
Private education is a relatively new phenomenon in Russia. As the Soviet period drew to an end, more and more foreigners arrived to do business in Moscow at the same time that a few dedicated Russian pedagogues and parents wanted a different kind of education for their children.
17 April 14
It is Friday and you have to get seven signatures on 14 documents from three ministries situated at opposite ends of the city — all by the end of the day.
10 April 14
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.
04 April 14
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.
28 March 14
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.
21 March 14
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.
14 March 14
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.
07 March 14
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.
28 February 14
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.
21 February 14
I am always uncomfortable when the Olympics come around. Most Russians like sports. They know sports. They get excited about sports.
07 February 14
We'll pause in our round-the-clock pre-Olympic, "is-Sochi-ready?" count-down to the Games for a small commercial break.
24 January 14
I love to read articles and books designed to help native Russian speakers negotiate the trickier aspects of the great and mighty Russian language.
17 January 14
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.
27 December 13
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).
20 December 13
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!
13 December 13
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.
06 December 13
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.
29 November 13
The other day I read an article about a draft law on homeless people being floated by the Moscow city government.
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22 November 13
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.