Russian Language and Culture Notes

January 16, 2008

I recently went back to listening to my Russian language lessons while walking the dogs at night. I had gone through pretty many before our last trip to Russia (55 of 90 lessons), and while it was definitely helpful, the actual Russians speak way too quickly for me to understand even the occasional word or phrase that sounded familiar to my ear. But I think it would be cool to speak Russian to my Russian kid, so I'll keep trying.

There are two words that strike me as funny. The first I learned was the word for "Red Square." It's Кра�на� площадь in Russian, pronounced something like, "Grassnaya Bloshit." If I think about what neighbors think if they happen to observe me waking the streets at night, clad in jacket and pajama pants, mumbling "bloshit" over and over -- well, it just breaks me up. It was several times through this lesson before I could get through without hysterical laughter, which probably made me look even more insane.

The other word that cracks me up is the word for the number sixteen. It's pronounced almost exactly like the sentence in English, "She snots it." Say it quickly, and you can say ше�тнадцать (sixteen) in Russian.

There are a few funny things about Russia itself that I don't remember posting before. If it's in my travel blog, please forgive the repetition.

  • Russians sunbathe standing up. I'm not sure why, but we observed it several times.
  • Russians are far more likely to be roaming the town with no shirt (men, at least) than to wear shorts on a warm day. Again, I don't know why.
  • Russian toilet bowls are much deeper and steeper than ours. This eliminates spalshback on the buttocks, but requires that a toilet brush be stationed by each commode, so you can clear the skid marks on the side after each use. This probably leads to cleaner bowls in general, but swishing ones on skid marks while traveling does get old.
  • When an airplane full of Russians lands, everyone applauds. How disturbing is that?
  • When an airplane full of Russians comes to a halt, many people jump up and sprint toward the front to try to get out as quickly as possible rather than file out in our orderly fashion. It makes flying Southwest feel quite civilized.