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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

Thursday, Jan. 29



Attend a master class on how to deal with complicated business negotiations today at the International Banking Institute, 6 Malaya Sadovaya Ulitsa. Running from 3 to 6 p.m., Vadim Sokolov, an assistant professor at the St. Petersburg State University of Economics, will introduce aspects of managing the negotiation process and increasing its effectiveness. Attendance is free with pre-registration by telephone on 909 3056 or online at www.ibispb.ru



Celebrate what would be writer Anton Chekhov's 155th birthday at the Bokvoed bookshop at 46 Nevsky Prospekt. Starting at 5 p.m., the legendary author will be feted with readings of his stories and short performances based on his plays by various St. Petersburg actors. Chekhov's books will also be offered at a 15% discount during the event.



Friday, Jan. 30



The Lermontov Central Library, 19 Liteyny Prospekt, will screen 'Almost Famous’ in English with Russian subtitles at 6:30 p.m. Cameron Crowe's Academy Award-winning comedy from 2000 stars Billy Crudup, Kate Hudson, and Patrick Fugit, and tells the story of a budding music journalist at Rolling Stone magazine in the 1970s. Admission is free.



Meet renowned Russian poet, journalist and writer Dmitry Bykov, famous for his biographies of Boris Pasternak, Bulat Okudzhava and Maxim Gorky, and winner of 2006 National Bestseller Award. Bykov will read old and new poems as well as answer questions about his works at the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Main Hall, at 7 p.m. Tickets start at 1,000 rubles and are available at city ticket offices and the from the Philharmonic website www.philharmonia.spb.ru.



A retrospective of the films of Roman Polanski starts today at Loft-Project Etagi, 74 Ligovsky Prospekt, with a screening of ‘Repulsion’ at 7 p.m. and ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ at 9:15 p.m. The series runs through Feb. 4 and will include Polanski's eminently creepy ‘The Tenant,’ the cult comedy ‘The Fearless Vampire Killers’ and ‘Cul-de-sac’ among others. Tickets are 150-200 rubles and the complete schedule is available at www.vk.com/artpokaz/



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