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Head for the Woods, Russians

Published: August 20, 2014 (Issue # 1825)


: dense, virgin forest

Ah, August. August is usually thescary month inRussia, themonth when bad things happen, themonth ofmourning, themonth when political history is remade bytanks or peat fires. But this year, things have been so scary andso awful forso long, what difference could one month make?

-- (sound ofspitting over my shoulder three times toward off bad luck).

Since scary things will happen no matter what, it is much better tospend themonth out ofthe city heat, taking long walks inthe woods.

TheRussian language is rich onthe subject offorests. Thegeneric word fora forest is , but there are plenty ofmore specific terms. Forexample, you might choose theword todescribe adense, virgin forest if you know what avirgin forest looks like, that is. Themost famous one is , where theU.S.S.R. was officially dissolved, usually simply transliterated as Belovezhskaya Pushcha.

Afew trees are called (grove, copse), andthe most famous kind inRussia is (birch grove). Astand ofpine trees is called (pine grove). InMoscow themost famous one is (literally, Silver Pine Grove).

Animpenetrable part ofthe forest is called (thicket), or (deep inthe forest): , (Through my binoculars I saw him come out ofthe thicket).

Andif its areally old forest that has miraculously been untouched bycivilization, it is (primeval or old-growth forest). This is also adescription ofsomeones unknowable soul, as expressed insaying ࠗ (literally, apersons soul is adeep forest).

Folks who know their forests might refer toeither (coniferous forest) or (deciduous forest). Forexample: , , , - (I dont mean that coniferous forests are worse, but aspen forests are lovely, too, when they seem tobe lit bypale green light). is black () fora reason all those leafy trees block thelight: , (When we went intothe broad-leafed forest, thetrain car went dark.)

Andfolks who can tell one tree fromanother might be very specific, if old-fashioned, when they talk about thewoods: (oak forest); (aspen forest); (elm forest); (linden forest); (fir forest); (cedar forest); (pine forest).

Not surprisingly, theforest figures inseveral common Russian expressions. Ҹ (a dark forest) is theEnglish speakers Its Greek tome something incomprehensible.

Andwhere there are forests, there are wolves. , (literally, if youre scared ofwolves, dont go intothe woods). Inother words, if you cant stand theheat, get out ofthe kitchen. , (literally, work isnt awolf that will run away inthe woods). That is tosay: Work isnt going anywhere (so have some fun). Andfinally: , (literally, no matter how much you feed awolf, he keeps looking atthe woods). Today this is usually abbreviated to toyearn forsomething better.

Like anice, dark, cool forest ona hot day.

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





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Tuesday, Oct. 21


The Environment, Health and Safety Committee of AmCham convenes this morning at 9 a.m. in the organizations office.


Take the opportunity to pick the brains of Dmitry V. Krivenok, the deputy director of the Economic Development Agency of the Leningrad region, and Mikhail D. Sergeev, the head of the Investment Projects Department, during the meeting with them this morning hosted by SPIBA. RSVP for the event by emailing office@spiba.ru before Oct. 17 if you wish to attend.


Improve your English at Interactive English, the British Book Centers series of lessons on vocabulary and grammar in an informal atmosphere. Starting at 6 p.m., each month draws attention to different topics in English, with the topic for this months lessons being visual arts.



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