Saturday, August 24, 2013

The 5 useful words I learned this summer

I've been off work for the past two weeks, which means a chance to escape the English bubble and really concentrate on Russian. Here are my "official words of the summer", things that either really stood out or keep cropping up over and over again.

1) сарафан (summer dress)

yes, it's me, and then me again expertly photoshopped onto a tree, hooray!
It's hard to find a woman who doesn't have at least one of these stashed away in her closet for the summertime. The term seems to work for any loose-fitting dress worn at this time of the year. I've got several sarafans to make it through the hot weather we're going through now.

According to the indisputable Wikipedia, sarafans go waaaay back in Russian culture to 1376. Read more about the traditional sarafans here.

Weirdly enough, the phrase сарафанное радио (sarafan radio) translates as word of mouth, probably because it's those who wear sarafans- women!- who do most of the talking ; )

2) душевая кабина (shower cabinet)

Ugh, my nemisis! Before the most recent round of apartment-hunting, I'd never had any cause to associate with these horrid little shower cabinets. Let the record stand that I stand 100% in support of bathtubs and outrageously long bubble baths. Come to think of it, if we'd never stooped to considering an apartment with a shower cabinet, we never would have ended up at that scammy agency.
although if forced at gunpoint to sell the bathtub and use a душевая кабина instead, this is definitely the one I'd go for...

3) лоджия (a large or extended balcony)


This was another word I ran into over and over while scouring the rental ads. Almost everyone here has a balcony (балкон) in order to air-dry laundry, store junk, flick cigarette butts out of, and ponder the general meaning of life, but some lucky folks get to do all of the above on a larger-than-average-sized balcony, aka a "lodzhiya". Here's an exterior picture of our former apartment building showcasing many, many lodzhii and to the right, a picture of ours:

I guess not even native Russian-speakers always know the difference between a balcony and a lodzhiya. Here's an article (in Russian) explaining what sets the two apart and showing photos of each. In fact, balcony and lodzhiya seem like interchangeable terms for the most part. It's only in the classifieds, when people really want to attract attention, that I've seen this word used. Anyway, we have a lodzhiya again in this new apartment but it's rather boring at the moment. We saw photos of another apartment with an amazing lodzhiya, something similar to this-
... but it came with a hefty rent, so boring lodzhiya it was.

(PS: more creative examples of what people might choose to do with their lodzhiya)

a funny internet meme that's been going around: What do you need a balcony for? Left: regular people. Right: people who live in Russia.

4) Мажор (the Paris Hilton type)

A friend and I were walking in the park when a gleaming black BWM pulled up and two kids who looked about 23 years old stepped out. She was dressed to kill in high heels and a tight dress. He was dressed in a wealthy-casual style. I asked my friend how they got the car, why they weren't at work in the middle of the weekday, and how they could get away with parking next to a no-parking sign. My friend just sighed and said "Мажоры. If they get a ticket, their parents will get them out of trouble."
Dad is punishing me for bad behavior, I have to spend the summer in Turkey
(I'll admit maybe that couple were hardworking young-adults who asked their bosses for the day off and saved up money for a fancy date. Maybe.)

Here's an interesting choice in translation, by the way; this video has been circulating the internet for the past few years, titled "Crashed Lexus with Beautiful Driver Girl".
And the first time I saw this video (sometime last year), I thought "Duh, look at those shoes, no wonder she ran into a pole! She's giving us girls a bad name!"

But what isn't shown in the video (although one of the guys in the background mentions it) is that it wasn't just Miss Thigh-highs and Miss Vest who were involved in the scene. Here's what actually happened, in a video titled Харьковские мажорки, or roughly A couple of мажоры in Kharkov.
You can also see several more examples in this video, in which a task force goes around the streets of Kharkov sticking giant "I don't care about anyone, I park wherever I want to" stickers on windshields.

5) чифир (the really, really strong black tea favored by prisoners)

So, Odin (the redheaded, reindeer-herding, Russian-speaking friend from Alaska) camped out on our couch for a week. He asks right away for some чифир and of course I have no idea what he's asking for. Seriously, Odin knows the strangest words sometimes! In this case, though, he not only knew the word but also turned out to be a hardcore чифир drinker. Pay attention, kids, this is what reindeer herding will do to you :p Every morning Odin would make himself a pot of strooong black tea, no sugar. "It gives you a little high", he explained. And if you don't believe him, check out this freaky guy or watch the YouTube video below:
don't need to sleep for 3 days after this!

Alright, there's my proof of study for the summer. Recently I've been trying to get as much Russian practice as possible, buying contact lens solution solo for the first time (zhidkost' dla kontaktnikh lenz, please) and always saying yes to those people on the street doing opinion polls. There have only been a couple of awkward moments in recent memory, like confusing grams and kilos and accidentally asking for astronomical amounts of carrot salad.

Now it's your turn! What new words have you learned this summer? Teach me something new! : )

PS: Don't forget our Street Russian page if you like Russian humor and already говорить по-русски немного! I like to share funny things over there.


  1. Hmm, never heard of "лоджий" -- I can't say I really see any big difference, anyway.

    I am also terrible at ordering things in kilos -- I still don't have any real conception of it.

    I've been terrible with my Russian this summer, though I did read through a Russian language textbook from 1962 and laugh at the formalized style.

    1. Oh yes, the old textbooks are the best ones : )

  2. Класс! Мне понравилась статейка))) Так держать!!!

    1. Рада, что тебе понравилось, Ольга! И спасибо за помощ вчера в русском языке : )

  3. Odin likes чефир in the morning?!!! This guy had real fun in Russia! :)

  4. Lodzhii has nothing in common with size, they just means, that it is "half-external" room (usually has 3 walls and from 1 side only there are open-air or glass "hole" to the outside). Since Balcony are external rooms and usually has 3 "no-walls" sides or glass-coated ones. Let's see 4 types of stuff with the same square 10 sq.meters.
    If it is glass-coated lodzhiia, you have 10 sq.meters of extra-square for your flat (and you have to pay bills for it!).
    If it's just "open-side" lodzhiia, you have only 7 sq.m. extra for your flat.
    If it's glass-coated balcony - 5 sq.m
    If it's open-balcony - 3 sq.m
    And real square for all of that will be the same - 10 sq.m