Articles by Michele A. Berdy



Russia Discovers America, Snarkily

Most of the time when America comes up in the Russian news or conversations these days, it's not in a nice way. There is an accusation, a slur, or a wild claim. I mean, these days if a cat got hit by a KamAZ in Kazan, it's Barack Obama's fault.

Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered by Russian, in Russian

Language acquisition is a weird process. Sometimes I understand a phrase and even use it and then suddenly realize that I don't have any idea what the actual words in the phrase mean.

Foot-in-Mouth Syndrome In English and Russian

Here's a good question: "My neighbor keeps calling me пиндос. Is that good or bad?" It's good if you're a pony. But if you're an American — not so much.

Office Affairs and Chit-Chat Around the Russian Water Cooler

Imagine that you are a foreigner who has been studying English. You've mastered most of the grammar Ч except those pesky articles and absurd tenses Ч and your listening comprehension is pretty good.

At the Russian Root of the Matter: Fun with Etymology

Of all the many things I love about Russian†is etymology: tracing a word from its origins to its present meaning and usage.

Trump to Putin: What'd You Call Me?

Now that we know a little bit about Barack Obama's views on the Russian president, what does Vladimir Putin think about the possible next American president?

Putin: Not Completely Stupid or Completely Not Stupid? Or Neither?

I feel a rant coming on. Actually, I've been working up to a rant ever since the Russian press got hold of Jeffrey Goldberg's enormous piece called "The Obama Doctrine" that was published in the Atlantic magazine.

Mark and Lev: Local, Innovative and Delicious

Recently opened in Gorki 2 about 15 kilometers out Rublyovo-Uspenskoye Shosse, Mark and Lev brings farm-fresh food and Russian cuisine to a new level.

The Fine Art of Drinking to Your Health, the Russian Way

On various recent holidays, did you raise your glass and pronounce “на здоровье,” proud in the certainty — buttressed by films, books, your own ears and a number of your Russian friends — that you’ve just made the classic Russian toast “to your health”?

How to End Arguments in Russian the Slangy Way

Let's take a pause in our analysis of the language of treaties, propaganda and diplomacy for something useful for a change Ч like a couple of Russian slang words that every foreigner should know.

How to Discuss a Syria Cease-Fire in Russian

I haven't been very hopeful about the negotiations in Syria, particularly last week when Syrian President Bashar Assad was quoted as saying, "Regarding a cease-fire, a halt to operations, if it happens, it doesn't mean that each party will stop using weapons." I mean, isn't the definition of a cease-fire when each party stops using weapons?

He Who Speaks Bad Russian, Stays Long

How hard is Russian? Really hard. So hard that a kid who is гуманитарий (someone interested in the humanities) almost flunks his school Russian test. He now has репетитор по русскому (Russian language tutor).

Moscow Demolition: A Primer in Russian Propaganda

If you've been on a 36-hour flight or locked in a cabin in the woods, you might have missed the news that almost 100 buildings were destroyed in Moscow overnight. But it wasn't a war or terrorist attack. It was the Moscow government putting your tax rubles to work.

Russia's Long Romance with Patriotism

Love of one's land, people and way of life has certainly existed in Russia for as long as there have been Russians. Patriotism, however, is a relatively new word.

All the Russian Words You Need to Talk About Icy Roads

The official Russian response to the report on the Litvinenko inquiry released last week was, predictably, offhand and dismissive, referring to it as "некое расследование" (so-called investigation ).

All the Russian Words You Need to Discuss the Litvinenko Inquiry

The official Russian response to the report on the Litvinenko inquiry released last week was, predictably, offhand and dismissive, referring to it as "некое расследование" (so-called investigation ).

Rush for Moscow Exhibition Sparks Serov Jokes

This Saturday in frigid weather, lines to an exhibition of paintings by Russian artist Valentin Serov in Moscow were several kilometers long and people were literally breaking down the doors to get in.

Shifting Gears, Russian-Style

Last week German Gref, the head of Sberbank, created a sensation at the Gaidar Economic Forum Ч and not by scaring the pants off everyone in the audience with his scathing picture of the state of the Russian economy.

What to Call Russia's Last Man Standing

The holidays are over, and you are hoping that the price of vegetables has fallen from their are-you-out-of-your-flipping-mind peak on Dec. 31, when eggplants hovered around the 1000-ruble per kilo mark and cucumbers cost as much as platinum. You stop in a grocery shop.

Russia's Winning Words Of the Year 2015

Every year linguists, academics and lovers of language vote on several categories of words of the year: слово года.

Russia's Law and Language on ISIS and Daesh

In Russia, there are Good Organizations and Bad Organizations. Of course, that's true of every country on earth, but recently the words used to describe some Bad Organizations are changing in Russia, perhaps to the confusion of readers.

Russian Media Hysteria Yields New Turkey-Related Vocabulary

The last few weeks have been extremely fraught here in Russia, and fraught means media hysteria, and media hysteria means a rich harvest of newly coined words — horrible, ridiculous, and unbelievable.

Remembering Eldar Ryazanov Ц in His Own Words

This week in Russia has been colored by sorrow: Eldar Ryazanov, one of the country's most famous and beloved film directors, died at the age of 88.

Every Creeping Thing of the Earth

Here's a new bit of folk etymology going around: Way back in some undefined olden days of Russia, executions were performed in the winter by tying someone to a pole and pouring water over him until he was covered with a thick layer of ice and froze to death.

When the Cure is Worse Than the Disease

There you are in the office, sniffing, sneezing, blowing your nose and coughing. Your nose is red, your eyes are dripping and you can barely talk.

Figuring Out Russian Riddles

A couple of weeks ago I stumbled across a newspaper article that led, eventually, to an astonishing discovery. It was like finding out that the Russian alphabet had a letter I'd never heard of.

We're Talking a Big Difference

–ознь (discord, division) is my Russian Word of the Week. Not because it's a word with happy associations.

Hanging Around on Facebook

There is nothing quite so humiliating for an adult as stumbling badly in a foreign language.

A Cookbook to Rehabilitate Soviet Cuisine

If you think of the Soviet period in Russia as a culinary desert, a new book in English by the country's most prominent food historians, Olga and Pavel Syutkin, may change your mind.

Nothing Worth Knowing Can Be Taught

One of my favorite pastimes Ч well, other than eating, drinking and talking Ч is to find the key words of Russian culture Ч those special words that capture the essence of the culture, values, or habits of the country.