German language has had a great influence on Russian language ever since Peter the Great had obsession with everything European and invited Germans to work in St. Petersburg in the beginning of 18th century. Germanisms have stricken roots in Russian language and what is remarkable – many of them shifted their meaning in an unpredictable direction under the influence of Russian realia. Now my German friends just have a good laugh at them. So I gathered some of the most interesting cases in my list:
Бутерброд (das Butterbrot): we know that Germans love to eat everything with butter and bread with butter has become favorite Russian snack as well. But apparently we were too lazy to make up a word for bread with any other supplement and we kept this word instead. So in Russian you can call бутерброд any sandwich or belegtes Brot.
Парикмахер (der Perükenmacher): a wigmaker was a very popular profession back then and we still use the word for it for hairdresser or barber. We didn’t want this beautiful word to become archaic although I must admit that German Friseur sounds as much sophisticated and attractive.
Галстук (das Halstuch): Halstuch has transformed into a tie instead of a neck handkerchief. Probably because the German Krawatte was occupied by the similar-sounding Greek word Кровать which means bed.
Пить на брудершафт (die Bruderschaft): we have the tradition to drink for brotherhood. You should cross your hands with glasses and drink till the bottom: it marks the beginning of your friendship and you can call the other person «ты» («du»). Well, if you are drunk enough this moment comes very fast after you meet a person 🙂
Крендель (der Kringel): we decided to name the traditional German pastry Brezel in our own way borrowing the word Kringel wich means Curl. Germans also call round-shaped pastry Kringel but when we say Крендель we mean any kind of pastry that reminds us of Deutschland!
Рейтузы (die Reithose): initially rich people wore these pants or riding breeches for posh horse-riding and I have no idea how we jinxed this word into pejorative underwear name 🙂 We wear рейтузы mostly under the main pants for keeping more warmth.
Блат (das Blatt): we call блат a way of getting a prestigious position with the help of your relatives. It comes from Judeo German Blatt which means a list. But there are a couple of stories about its etimology. Some say that it came from Peter the Great time when noble people who bribed their way out of beard shaving and were listed in Blatt. The other version says that the word appeared in the beginning of the Soviet time. Expropriated goods were given by Germans on service only if your name was in Blatt.
Лох (das Loch): very popular Russian insult. It maybe not that strong as an asshole because it is just a hole (from German) and means a loser but I think we use it in every convenient or not convenient case.
Плацкарт (die Platzkarte): it is not just a train ticket as you may think it is a very special cheap ticket. You don’t have a door in your compartment and there are side places in front of a compartment. So my advice: watch out for bare feet hitting your face when you go to the toilet 🙂 It is a good way of money saving but if you have to go to the Far East for 2 weeks…well, think about it!
Share similar examples in your language and don’t forget to check our German-Russian dictionary page!