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Cutting to the Chase

Published: May 25, 2014 (Issue # 1812)



Photo: Wikimedia Commons

В обрез: just barely enough

Want to visit the barber? Need to ready your pooch for a dog show? Did badly on a math test? Or want to let your uncouth neighbor know that you do not want to socialize? No problem. Just reach for the verb резать (to cut) and its prefixed derivatives.

The basic imperfective резать is a verb you probably use every day in the kitchen, where you might complain: Нож не режет! (The knife is dull, literally "doesn't cut"). If you are a doctor, you probably use it in the hospital, where it is a slightly slangy way of saying "to operate": Его завтра режут (He is going under the knife tomorrow).

But you might use it in other circumstances to describe something that stings, cuts or burns. For example, резать is used to describe any sound that you find unpleasant, like an irritating voice: Его исполнение песни режет слух (His rendition of the song grates on me). Резать can also be used with the cold: Ветер резал лицо (the wind stung my face). Or heat: Солнце режет глаза (the sun is glaring right in my eyes). Or a dark nightclub in a city without anti-­smoking laws: В этом клубе хорошая музыка, но дым так режет глаза, что не могу там долго находиться (That club has good music, but the smoke stings my eyes so much that I cannot stay there for long).

When you add the prefix под-, you get a verb that means to cut a bit off, to trim. Use подрезать at the barber's so that you do not walk out with a buzz cut. Хочу, чтобы вы только подрезали волосы чуть-чуть — буквально один сантиметр! (I want you to just trim my hair a tiny bit — literally one centimeter!).

This verb can be used with wings to give the figurative meaning of holding someone back from success or fulfillment: Он хороший певец, но ему всё время подрезают крылья и не дают раскрыться (He is a good singer, but they are clipping his wings and not letting him develop his talent).

But clipping can occur down on earth, too: Вот этот гад резко повернул направо и чуть не подрезал меня (That creep made a sharp right turn and almost clipped me).

If you add the prefix об- you get a verb that means to trim around or all over. Обрезать волосы is to cut your hair all over — to get a major haircut. Обрезать ногти or когти is to cut your nails — or claws: До выставки надо помыть собаку и аккуратно обрезать ей когти (Before the show you have to wash your dog and carefully trim her nails).

But if something is в обрез, it means you are short of it. This expression is usually used with the two things there is never enough of — money and time. У меня денег в обрез (I am down to my last dime). Времени в обрез — сеанс начинается через минут пять (We are cutting it close — the showing begins in about five minutes.)

Срезать is used for cutting things completely, like срезать цветы (to cut the flowers). It can be used figuratively in high society: Генерала срезала баронесса (The baroness snubbed the general). Or it can be used slangily in school: Срезали его по математике (They flunked him in math).

A good cutting response to being flunked or snubbed? Орать как резаный (to scream bloody murder, literally "like someone cut").

Michele A. Berdy is the author of "The Russian Word's Worth" (Glas), a collection of her columns.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Wednesday, Nov. 26


AmCham’s Public Relations Committee will meet this afternoon in their office in the New St. Isaac’s Office Center on Ulitsa Yakubovicha at 4 p.m.


Zoosphere, an international exhibition focusing on the pet industry, opens today at the Lenexpo convention center on Vasilievsky Island. Not only will items such as toys, terrariums and accessories be available for purchase, but animal enthusiasts can also learn about the latest in veterinary medicine and behavioral training thanks to the conferences and presentations that are part of the event.



Thursday, Nov. 27


The Customs and Transportation Committee for AmCham meets this morning at 9 a.m. in their office on Ulitsa Yakubovicha.


Tickets are still available for local KHL team SKA St. Petersburg’s showdown with Siberian club Metallurg Novokuznetsk tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the Ice Palace outside the Prospekt Bolshevikov metro station. Tickets can be purchased on the team’s website, at the arena box office or in their merchandise store on Nevsky Prospekt.


Celebrate one of Russian literature’s most tragic figures during Blok Days, a two-day celebration of the 134th anniversary of the poet’s birthday. The tragic tenor’s work, which led to writer Maxim Gorky to hail him as Russia’s greatest living poet before his death in 1921, will be recited and meetings and discussions about his contributions to the Silver Age of literature in St. Petersburg will be discussed in the confines of his former residence.



Friday, Nov. 28


Strategically dominate your foes at the British Book Center’s Board Game Evening. Held every Friday at 5 p.m., aficionados and amateurs alike can come take part in a variety of different games that test one’s intellect and cunning.



Saturday, Nov. 29


Cats, dogs, birds, rodents and reptiles are just some of the things that will walk and crawl at Lenexpo convention center this weekend as part of Zooshow, a two-day exhibition featuring not only man’s best friends but a four-legged fashion show, as well as a food fair that will help pet owners find out more about which kibbles are best for their hungry pets.



Sunday, Nov. 30


Honor the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Russo-Finnish war in 1939 during today’s reenactment titled “Winter War: How it Was.” More than 200 people will take part in recreating the opening salvoes of the battle for the north in Kamenka, a small village situated between Vyborg and St. Petersburg, using authentic equipment and vintage vehicles from the era. The faux battle begins at 2 p.m.



Monday, Dec. 1


Serbia filmmaker Emir Kusturica is the featured guest this evening at the Lensovet Culture Palace on Petrograd. Fans of the director will get the chance to watch his movie “Black Cat, White Cat,” as well as ask questions about his award-winning filmography. Tickets for the event, which starts at 7 p.m., start at 2,000 rubles ($42.50).



Tuesday, Dec. 2


Today is the final day of “Takoy Festival,” a three-week program of plays based on the works of Dostoevsky, Remarque and other famed European writers, whose work is transcribed for theatrical performances. Tonight’s festival finale is “Fathers and Sons,” a two-act drama staged by the Novosibirsk Academic Drama Theater based on Turgenev’s classic about familial relations.



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