Friday, October 31, 2014
 
Follow sptimesonline on Facebook Follow sptimesonline on Twitter Follow sptimesonline on RSS Download APP
MOST READ



PARTNER NEWS



BLOGS



OPINION



WHERE TO GO?

19th Century Portraits

History of St. Petersburg Museum: Rumyantsev Mansion

 

Перевести на русский Перевести на русский Print this article Print this article

Don’t Quote Me In Russian on That

Published: July 23, 2014 (Issue # 1821)


I have never made peace with Russian знаки препинания (punctuation marks). I persist in putting in запятые (commas) where they don’t belong, dither over where the period goes with кавычки (quotes) and have resorted to the childish principle: When in doubt, use тире (dash).

But when I started learning what these symbols are called in Russian and how they are discussed, punctuation got, well, interesting. Кто бы мог подумать? (Who’d a thunk it?)

Take, for example, кавычки (quotation marks). First fun fact: There is no singular form of the word. This is good news for us foreigners: You don’t have wonder if it’s один кавычек or одна кавычка (one quotation mark) like you do about other words used mostly in the plural, like носки (socks) — носок or носка?

Second fun fact: The «» style of Russian quotation marks is called ёлочки (herringbone, literally little firs), which in English are called French quotation marks, guillemots, chevrons, angle quotation marks or duck-foot quotes. How cool is that? I wish English had duck-foot quotes.

Like in English, Russian quotation marks indicate direct speech, but they are also used to convey that something is так называемый (so-called): Её считают «русской красавицей» (She’s considered a “Russian beauty”).

Those quotes mean: “I don’t think so.” In spoken Russian, people use the phrases в кавычках (in quotes) and без кавычек (without quotes) to indicate their attitude to a word or phrase. В кавычках means “I don’t share this view,” while без кавычек means “I’m dead serious about this.” Here are two examples from discussions about Ukraine: Свобода для Украины оказалась в кавычках (In Ukraine, freedom is in name only). Украинцы не любят своего соседа-братского (без кавычек) народа (Ukrainians don’t like their neighbor, a fraternal — no irony intended — nation).

The gesture of air quotes is not very widespread in Russia. In a highly unscientific survey of Russians aged 25 to 85, the older generations said they never made air quotes, and only a few of the younger generations said they did. One respondent said that after someone said something he disagreed with — Её считают русской красавицей, for instance — he might raise one hand and flex the index and middle fingers as a jokey way of conveying: “So-called Russian beauty, you mean.”

Скобки (parentheses) are also cited in Russian spoken speech: Заметим в скобках, что ничего от дома не сохранилось (We should mention parenthetically that nothing of the house was preserved). Скобки are also part of a useful expression: оставлять за скобками (to leave aside).

Даже если оставить за скобками богатую Москву, цены на жилье намного опережают инфляцию (Even if we take rich Moscow out of the equation, housing prices are rising much faster than inflation). And then there’s #, the punctuation mark with a dozen names in every language. In English it is most commonly called the pound sign, crosshatch, number sign, sharp, hash and hashtag.

In Russian it used to be most commonly called решётка (grate) or диез (sharp) in the musical world, but now it is sometimes called хеш (hash) or even знак номера (number sign). If you speak Russian and don’t use Twitter, you probably know # from the telephone and call it решётка. I know it from calling card instructions: Наберите номер и затем нажмите решётку(Type in the number and then press the pound key).

Oh, and by the way — замечу в скобках, что правильно: один носок.

Michele A. Berdy, a Moscow-based translator and interpreter, is the author of ‘The Russian Word’s Worth’ (Glas), a collection of her columns.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Oct. 31


Put your grammar and logical thinking to the test in a fun and friendly environment during the British Book Center’s Board Game Evening starting at 5 p.m. today. The event is free and all are welcome to attend.



Saturday, Nov. 1


The men and women who dedicate their lives to fitness get their chance to compete for the title of best body in Russia at today’s Grand Prix Fitness House PRO, the nation’s premier bodybuilding competition. Not only will men and women be competing for thousands of dollars in prizes and a trip to represent their nation at Mr. Olympia but sporting goods and nutritional supplements will also be available for sale. Learn more about the culture of the Indian subcontinent during Diwali, the annual festival of lights that will be celebrated in St. Petersburg this weekend at the Culture Palace on Tambovskaya Ul. For 100 rubles ($2.40), festival-goers listen to Indian music, try on traditional Indian outfits and sample dishes highlighting the culinary diversity of the billion-plus people in the South Asian superpower.



Sunday, Nov. 2


Check out the latest video and interactive games at the Gaming Festival at the Mayakovsky Library ending today. Meet with the developers of the popular and learn more about their work, or learn how to play one of their creations with the opportunity to ask the creators themselves about the exact rules.



Monday, Nov. 3


Non-athletes can get feed their need for competition without breaking a sweat at the Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament this evening at the Cube Bar at Lomonosova 1. Referees will judge the validity of each matchup award points to winners while the city’s elite fight for the chance to be called the best of the best. Those hoping to play must arrange a team beforehand and pay 200 rubles ($4.80) to enter.



Tuesday, Nov. 4


Attend the premiere of Canadian director Xavier Dolan’s latest film “Mommy” at the Avrora theater this evening. The fifth picture from the 25-year-old, it is the story of an unruly teenager but the most alluring (or unappealing) aspect is the way the film was shot: in a 1:1 format that is more reminiscent of Instagram videos than cinematic art. Tickets cost 400 rubles ($9.60) and snacks and drinks will be available.



Times Talk