the wordĺs worth: It cuts both ways
Published: October 17, 2012 (Issue # 1731)
¤ˇ˛Ř: road, rails, path, way, route
Itĺs aároad! Itĺs aápath! No, itĺs super word: ´ˇ˛Ř!
OK, so I exaggerate. But ´ˇ˛Ř is one ofáthose wonderful Russian nouns that requires aádozen English words toátranslate andáranges inámeaning fromáthe very concrete toáthe broadly metaphorical.
Atáthe concrete end ofáthings, ´ˇ˛Ř is aároad: ¤ˇ˛Ř ŔńŞ˛ ÔńţŰŘ ňŕŔ Ŕ šÓ˛ňý ÔÔň§ Ô Ńţű (The road goes along theáriver andáthen up intoáthe mountains).
Andáit can mean theárailroad used byátrams or trains: ¤ňň§ţńŔ˛Ř ˛ÓýÔÓÚÝűň ´ˇ˛Ŕ ńÓŠň Ô Óšň°ŞÝÝţý ýň˝˛ň Ś ţ´Ó˝Ýţ (Itĺs dangerous toácross theátram tracks even onáthe designated crosswalks.)
Or itĺs any kind ofároute, path or way, like °ňŰŕţÔűÚ ´ˇ˛Ř (silk route).
¤ˇ˛Ř is also aákind ofástand-in foráa voyage, so when someone is heading off somewhere, you can wish him ˝¸Ó˝˛ŰŔÔţŃţ ´ˇ˛Ŕ (have aágood trip), or theáslightly old-fashioned Ô ńţßűÚ ´ˇ˛Ř! (happy trails!)
Onáthe metaphorical end ofáthings, ´ˇ˛Ř is aápath inálife or aáway ofádoing something. ╬Ý ´ţ°ŞŰ ´ˇ˛Ř ţ˛ ´ţ˝˛ţŃţ ˝ţŰńÓ˛Ó ńţ ŃňÝňÓŰÓ (He worked his way up fromáa simple soldier toáa general).
Russians love toátalk about ´ˇ˛Ŕ ň°ňÝŔ ´ţßŰňý (literally ôways ofásolving problemsö), which ináEnglish are often rendered much more laconically. ├ŰţßÓŰŘÝűň ´ţßŰňýű ˝ţÔňýňÝÝţ˝˛Ŕ Ŕ ´ˇ˛Ŕ Ŕ§ ň°ňÝŔ might be rendered: Todayĺs Global Problems andáPossible Solutions.
There are lots ofá´ˇ˛Ř expressions andáidioms, like ÝÓý Ýň ´ţ ´ˇ˛Ŕ, which means ôweĺre not going theásame way,ö either literally or figuratively. Ináa car it means ôIĺm not going that way.ö Ináa divorce court, it means: ôItĺs time toásplit up.ö
When you run intoáa friend unexpectedly onáthe street, you might exclaim: ╩ÓŕŔýŔ ´ˇ˛ ýŔ! (What are you doing here!)
If youĺre inábusiness andáyour strongest competitor ináwidget production has just gone bankrupt, you can rub your hands together andáshout: ¤ˇ˛Ř ˝ÔţßţńňÝ! (Smooth sailing ahead; literally ôthe path is freeö).
When youĺve either messed up or taken aácareer detour, you can say: Đţ°ŞŰ ˝ ´ˇ˛Ŕ (I got side-tracked, I went off base).
But if you are moving ináthe right direction, you can announce: ▀ ÝÓ ´ˇ˛Ŕ (Iĺm onámy way!).
¤ˇ˛Ř is used ináthe instrumental case ´ˇ˛Şý toádescribe theáway something is done: ýű ň°ŔŰŔ ´ţßŰňýˇ ŰňŃÓŰŘÝűý/ýŔÝűý ´ˇ˛Şý (We resolved theáproblem legally/peacefully). ┬˝Ş ´ˇ˛Şý is aánice philosophy ofálife.
It can mean doing things properly, theáway they should be done: ╠ű ˝ ÝňÔň˝˛ţÚ ň°ŔŰŔ ÔňÝ¸Ó˛Ř˝ . ┬˝Ş ´ˇ˛Şý! (My fiancee andáI have decided toáhave aáchurch wedding Ś do it up right.)
Or it can just be aáslangy way ofásaying that things are going great: ╩Óŕ ńňŰÓ? ┬˝Ş ´ˇ˛Şý! (How are things? Fabulous!)
¤ˇ˛ňÔţÚ is theáadjective fromá´ˇ˛Ř andárefers toáanything related toáa trip or road, like ´ˇ˛ňÔűň Ó˝§ţńű (travel expenses). Theávariant ´ˇ˛ŞÔűÚ is slang forásomething cool or fabulous, like ´ˇ˛ŞÔűÚ ´ÓňÝŘ (cool guy). Theánegative form, Ýň´ˇ˛ŞÔűÚ, is said ofásomeone who is aágoof-off or screw-up. ═ň šÝÓ■, ¸˛ţ ńňŰÓ˛Ř Ś ńţ¸Ř Ôű§ţńŔ˛ šÓýˇŠ šÓ ˛ÓŕţŃţ Ýň´ˇ˛ŞÔţŃţ ´ÓÝ ! (I donĺt know what toádo Ś my daughter is engaged toásuch aábum!)
But you never know: ´ˇ˛Ŕ Ńţ˝´ţńÝŔ ÝňŔ˝´ţÔňńŔýű (God moves inámysterious ways).
Michele A. Berdy, a Moscow-based translator and interpreter, is author of ôThe Russian Wordĺs Worthö (Glas), a collection of her columns.