Everyday Russian language paradoxes or how to drive foreigners crazy

In my article about Russian language I shed some light on the expressiveness of our language which sometimes gives troubles not only for foreigners but also for us, native speakers. We actually use a bunch of such examples every single day without even realizing it. But just stop and think about where they come from and you will rack your brains with its absurdity forever. So here are some of them: just have a good laugh and don’t get confused in Russia ;).

1. Ресторан Макдональдс (Restaurant McDonald’s). Oxymoron of all the oxymorons. How on earth can it be a restaurant? Some people might avoid McDonald’s as a matter of principle now but when the first Mc opened in Moscow in 1990 citizens were ready to queue for hours. It didn’t make it really “fast” food if you could die out of hunger there!

2. Старый Новый год (Old New year). Apparently 10 days off during the New Year holidays are not enough for us. We had to come up with the idea to prolong it and celebrate the New Year one more time in Julian calendar style on the 14th of January. Typically Russian behavior:)

3. 2 градуса тепла (2 degrees of warmth). If the temperature is above zero it will always be warmth in Russian. It doesn’t matter that it is almost summer and I am wearing a sweater and a jacket in Hamburg now. It is warmth and if we keep pronouncing it maybe the God will hear us and give us a normal summer as a blessing.

4. Убить насмерть (to kill to death). Can you imagine the way somebody can be killed the other way? I don’t. It is possible its etymology roots back to the cruel medieval times where a person could be quartered, beheaded, burned and shot out of a cannon but… we’d better not go there.

5. Истинная правда (Genuine truth). It seems like genuine battology but we keep repeating this after every meaningful story we have to tell. Does it mean we are born liars? Let’s blame trickiness of our language that can get us strayed and let us come out of any situation with clean hands.

6. Сделай огонь тише (Make the fire quieter). The expression has no sense at all because we use it not for the bonfire in the forest but for the stove – even for glassceramic electrical one where there is no fire. It may go back to ancient times though.

7. Федеральная служба по контролю за оборотом наркотиков (Literally Federal Drug Circulation Control Service). Who included the word circulation here? Isn’t the service responsible for not letting the circulation exist in the first place? That’s how you can spoil your reputation with the language.

Bonus. One more puzzle for your brain. When Lewis Carrol visited Russia he wrote down the amazing Russian word «защищающихся» (those who protect themselves) in English transcription as “zаshtshееshtshауоushtshееkhsуа”. Are you able to read this tongue-twister?

Of course, there are lots and lots of other expressions made up by people nutty as a fruitcake. I shared the most useful and hilarious ones. Do you have the same in your language? Write in the comments below! And don’t forget to vote for your favourite blog in the the Top 100 Language Lover competition!

Переводчики в Германии, Берлине, Мюнхене, Ганновере


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