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January 13, 2012 8:50 AM   Subscribe

Every once in a while you just want to know an obscure word in a foreign language just to show off to your friends, so today's word is вымя, which means udder.

Russian Word of the Day is an instructive blog for beginning and intermediate students of Russian and their sympathizers. It is maintained by Donald Livingston, an instructor at Arizona State University's School of International Letters & Cultures and a lifelong student of Russian. Don divides his time between Arizona and Kazan, Tatarstan, where he supervises students in the Russian immersion program (PDF brochure).

The majority of the blog entries feature a vocabulary item or phrase (some useful and some less so), provide the appropriate table of case endings or conjugated forms, make note of peculiarities of usage, supply necessary cultural background, and round things out with some sort of humorous anecdote. The bundled usage examples are pretty entertaining, too.

With Don as your seasoned guide, learn about:…and some 130 further pages of methodical, informative educational content.

Also wik: How to Learn Swedish in 1000 Difficult Lessons.

(via Russian Dinosaur)
posted by Nomyte (26 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
A bit brutal for those who don't read cyrillic.
posted by eugenen at 9:03 AM on January 13, 2012


For such folks: Learn to Read Cyrillic
1. These letters are pronounced like similar English words: А Е О К М С Т
2. Тhese letters look like English letters but have different sounds: Р Н В У Х
3. Letters that still resemble their Greek letter original models. Г Д Л П Ф
4. Letters borrowed from the Hebrew alphabet. Ш Ц
5. Letters unique to Russian. Ч Щ Б Ж З И Й Э Ю Я Ы Ё Ь Ъ
The site has pronunciation keys and such, but that's the short of it, if the site is accurate
posted by filthy light thief at 9:07 AM on January 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


previously, related
posted by nonane at 9:13 AM on January 13, 2012


1. These letters are pronounced like similar English words: А Е О К М С Т

"C" is always an English "S" sound, never "c" as in "cup." The Russian "K" does all of that work.

"Ь" and "Ъ" don't actually have sounds associated with them. "Ь" modifies the preceding consonant to "soften" it. This is probably the toughest thing about spoken Russian for English speakers, who often can't tell the difference. "Ъ" is mostly obsolete now and just an artifact of the way certain words are spelled.

Fun facts!
posted by eugenen at 9:14 AM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Heh, the other day I was in a cab with my puggle, and my cab company as Russian (and I am too) and the driver and I got into a conversation about my dog. Unfortunately, my vocabulary doesn't extend to dog breeds so I had to explain that my dog was a half-pug half-beagle using the English words with a Russian accent -- a general strategy. The driver had no idea what either were so I held the dog with one hand and iPhone'd a translation. It turns out the word for "pug" is "мопс" pronounced "mops."

They have silly names in every language.
posted by griphus at 9:16 AM on January 13, 2012 [9 favorites]


"Ъ" is mostly obsolete now and just an artifact of the way certain words are spelled.

Heh, I remember wondering as a kid why I knew a letter I never saw outside of old religious paintings in museums.
posted by griphus at 9:19 AM on January 13, 2012


It turns out the word for "pug" is "мопс" pronounced "mops."

"Mops" is also the German word for "pug". I assume that one language or the other acquired it during the war from the other.
posted by cmonkey at 9:22 AM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, MetaFilter, you've finally come full circle; I took one of Prof. Livingston's classes last spring. He's a fantastically nice guy and really knowledgeable, too.
posted by reductiondesign at 9:23 AM on January 13, 2012


BOOBS!
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 9:26 AM on January 13, 2012


Oh it was probably long, long before the war. Catherine the Great was German -- well, Prussian if you want to get technical -- and then there's the whole long history of the Lithuanian/German/Russian overlap and yeah. Off the top of my head, I think the only language with more of an influence than German on Russian is French.
posted by griphus at 9:27 AM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I realize that the blog is of interest to a fairly niche audience. I hope that's all right by Metafilter.

Readers with more than a passing interest shouldn't have much trouble learning the letters of the Russian Cyrillic alphabet. It only has 33 letters, most of which closely resemble the corresponding Roman and Greek letters. It's part of the same European alphabetic tradition.

Looking at the above list, Russian Р, р is obviously related to the Greek rho Ρ, ρ. Russian З, з is inspired by the lowercase Greek zeta ζ. The letter И, и is actually supposed to be the Greek eta Η, η.

Heh, I remember wondering as a kid why I knew a letter I never saw outside of old religious paintings in museums.

I suspect you're thinking of the pre-revolutionary letter Ѣ, ѣ. It was eliminated at the same time as і, ѵ, and ѳ. The letter ъ is still going strong in its somewhat limited role of separating unpalatalized prefixes from stems that start with iotated vowels (in words like объезд).
posted by Nomyte at 9:29 AM on January 13, 2012


The Russian alphabet changed after the revolution? Interesting.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:35 AM on January 13, 2012


"Mops" is also the German word for "pug". I assume that one language or the other acquired it during the war from the other.

I can't imagine any Eastern Front solider ever needing the word for "pug", except, just maybe, if they followed it with the word for "lunch".
posted by Leon at 9:35 AM on January 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh it was probably long, long before the war

Yeah, I then went and read the etymology, and it dates to the 16th century in German. The More You Know.
posted by cmonkey at 9:38 AM on January 13, 2012


For those of you who don't care about Russian, there is

the Dutch Word of the Day,

or the joyfully obscene

Effective Swearing in D.F.

(D.F. is Districto Federal, the Mexican state that the capital is in.)
posted by benito.strauss at 9:39 AM on January 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


There's been a bunch of orthographic changes to the Russian alphabet, whether organically or by edict. The thing is that the oldest known Slavic alphabet dates to the 9th century, making it pretty young as far as these things go (compared to, say, the Roman/Latin alphabet dating back to 700 BC.)
posted by griphus at 9:43 AM on January 13, 2012


Oh, and here's a joke I've been waiting to use the next time I meet someone who's learning Russian. I haven't run into any such person in a while, so I might as well throw it out here.

A; Oh, so you're learning Russian? Okay then, how do you say "I want" in Russian?
B: That's easy! я хочу.
A: Gesundheit!
posted by benito.strauss at 9:43 AM on January 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


> "Mops" is also the German word for "pug". I assume that one language or the other acquired it during the war from the other.

Vasmer (the standard Russian etymologist) says it could have come from either German Mops or Dutch mops; it may be related to Dutch mopperen 'to make an involuntary grimace' and English mop 'to grimace' (cf. Golding's translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses: "Too moppe and mowe, but not too speake").

And I second the recommendation for Livingston's excellent site.
posted by languagehat at 10:26 AM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Worth nothing: the ten Russian words ending in -мя all refer to very old concepts: crown of the head, stirrup, seed, tribe, flame, name, flag/banner, udder, time, burden. A couple of these (имя and семя) look a lot like their Latin counterparts (nomen and semen).

It's also part of the same declension that includes path (the only masculine noun left like this, apparently), mother, daughter, night, etc.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 10:38 AM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I realize that the blog is of interest to a fairly niche audience. I hope that's all right by Metafilter.

You'd be surprised at how many linguists and other folks with a passionate (not to say ardent) interest in languages are on metafilter.
posted by blucevalo at 11:08 AM on January 13, 2012


Look at you, Metafilter, all speaking a foreign language and everything. Next thing you know, you'll be speaking French.
posted by tamitang at 11:20 AM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


you just want to know an obscure word in a foreign language just to show off to your friends

Not really. But if so, I would definitely employ Filthy Light Thief's advice and learn to pronounce them. Which brings up the question: how often do non-English speakers show off a new English word?
posted by klausman at 12:29 PM on January 13, 2012


вымя, which means udder

Watch out when you're in church:
вымя отца и сына и святого духа.....!?
posted by Kabanos at 12:45 PM on January 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Kabanos, that is hilarious.

For everyone who doesn't speak/read Russian: "вымя" which, as we all have learned, means "udder" and "в имя" which means "in the name of" are homophonic. So that says "the udder of the father and the son and the holy ghost."
posted by griphus at 12:52 PM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Will I earn any MeFi cred if I say that I've had lunch with the inimitable Francis Strand of "How To Learn Swedish.."? No? It was worth a shot.

But thanks for the Russian language links. I did Russian for two years in secondary school and have always regretted not taking it beyond "Hello, my name is" and "You are kinda hot for a capitalist".
posted by kariebookish at 12:56 PM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


One of my favorite differences between Russian and English is that where and English speaker would exclaim "incredible!" (literally: unbelievable) a Russian speaker exclaims "neveroyatno!" (literally: improbable).
posted by prefpara at 3:44 PM on January 13, 2012


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