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Food Sanctions, Really?

It is a word whose meaning shifts dramatically depending on context and intonation.

Published: August 13, 2014 (Issue # 1824)


: indeed, after all, really, since

Ive always thought ofthe word as theverbal equivalent ofa fist hitting thetable, aword you use toemphasize your message andpound it home. As anintensifier its agreat little word tospit out inphrases like: ! (I told you so!)

But , like all little Russian words, is more than just anintensifier. It can show cause andeffect. It can show juxtaposition. Ina question, it can indicate doubt.

That is, it is one ofthe Russian languages multipurpose words, with ameaning that shifts dramatically with context andintonation, giving us hapless foreigners myriad opportunities tomisuse, misunderstand or mistranslate it.

Much ofthe time it does intensify thesense ofa phrase. Because English doesnt have anequivalent little word, you need tobe creative toconvey themessage of. ! (Come on its not hard atall!) ! (It really is thetruth!) , (We have tohelp her get ready forthe move; she certainly cant handle it byherself). , , (Im just not going todo it thats forsure. I know myself andmy character.)

Sometimes draws attention toa particular word ina sentence. , . . (Of course, Ill help her. Shes my wife, after all.) ! (Thats him!) , ! (Thats thevery book Ive spent thelast three hours looking for!) , (You were theone who wanted togo tothe movies, not me). , , (Its theanticipation as much as theholiday itself thats so marvelous).

Inother contexts, brings together two contrasting ideas: ! (He performed brilliantly despite being totally inexperienced).  ? . (Are you already here! But we werent expecting you today!)

Inother contexts, it can be translated as since: , ! (Its easier foreveryone totally up their failures, since every organization has people who have made mistakes.) Or as but then again: , (It was quite hard towork with him, but then Im used toworking with difficult personalities).

Thegrammar books say that insome contexts is aconjunction that indicates thereason forthe preceding assertion. Got that? I didnt, but it makes more sense inthis example: . ! (Translate theletter. You can do it you know English!)

But thestrange thing about is how all theintensity disappears when it is used ina question. Here it expresses doubt, not certainty: ? (Thats not true, is it?) ? (You do want togo tothe dacha, dont you?)

? (You do want toforget all about , dont you?)

Michele A. Berdy, aMoscow-based translator andinterpreter, is the author ofThe Russian Words Worth (Glas), acollection ofher columns.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Jan. 30 through Wednesday, Feb. 4



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 Rosemarys 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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